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Dec 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Advent Sunday 12/11/2022–Joy



Welcome and Prayer: Jo Daxon

The Lord be with you.

The third Advent Candle represents Joy. It is also referred to as the Shepherd’s Candle, because in Luke chapter 2, the angel told the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy for all the people! Get ready! The child is coming–Messiah, Savior. He will be all that He is, for all the people, of all generations. All are included.” 

This third candle offers more light for us, on our path of hope, peace, joy and love. 
This season offers lots of distractions, to-dos, but the path is in place and I can always breathe and return to it.

My grandson asked my daughter if they could attend a concert next week featuring carols, liturgy, candles, “You know mom, the Christmas stuff.” We each experience joy differently, circumstantially and he wanted to get in a place where he could feel it.
But our shared joy is Jesus, and it is in Him that we’ll find the sacred moments during Advent. 

“Jesus, you are the consistent joy in our lives. 
When we make a place for you–in worship, in a shared experience, in spending time in your creation–you meet us there and that moment is enriched with joy. 
We get to know you more, even as we are known. 
Abiding in you, your joy in us, and our joy, is made full. 
Jesus, the most holy one of God, heavenly,
 beyond our understanding . . . .
Jesus is here in our town, here with us. 
Jesus, you are the joy given to us, we are the joy you considered as you endured the cross, the example to look to heaven in our pain and rely on your Spirit for comfort. Another kind of joy in that faith transaction of beauty for ashes. 
Help us in our hearts and in our living to be receivers and sharers of joy. 
Jesus, our Emmanuel, our joy. 
Amen. “

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. . . .
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth
Zechariah 9:9-10

Intro: ADVENT is a season of travel

We are on the road to Bethlehem
– we are like Israel when they made pilgrimage to Jerusalem
• they sang while hiking up to the peak of Mount Zion
◦ there is a beautiful description of this journey in Psalm 84
Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise!
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion (Psa. 84:4-7)
• like them, we make our way toward Christmas day,
◦ and as we go, we sing Carols celebrating our hope of what awaits us
– besides living in a different time and a different world,
• their journey was different from ours
◦ theirs was geographical; they traveled through space
◦ ours is a journey through time
• their travel included desert and oasis; valley and mountain; meeting strangers and fellow worshipers
◦ our travel brings encounters with hope, peace, joy, and love
◦ today we make our way to joy

God gave Zechariah a message regarding the future

For seventy years the LORD had abandoned Israel
– his people had suffered the hardship and oppression of living in exile
• but now, Zechariah makes the announcement:
Thus says the LORD: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem (Zec. 8:3)
• he promises to eliminate their immediate threats,
◦ to the north, Syria and Tyre and Sidon; to the south the five kingdom cities of the Philistines
◦ and from there, to the ends of the earth (v. 10)
On that day the LORD their God will save them,
as the flock of his people;
for like the jewels of a crown
they shall shine on his land.
For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty!
Grain shall make the young men flourish,
and new wine the young women (Zec. 9:16-17)
– so they are to rejoice in anticipation of their hero’s arrival
• surprisingly, their hero does not look like a proud champion; he is
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey
• but he is the one who will bring peace to Jerusalem and to the world
◦ when the crowds welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem with shouting,
◦ both Matthew and John witnessed it as a fulfillment of Zechariah’s announcement

Advent joy is inspired by what it sees on the horizon

Is there enough of the child still in you, to remember how exciting it was to look forward to Christmas?
– when C. S. Lewis wrote the magical fairytale, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,
• one of his characters described the curse that had been placed on Narnia
The White Witch “’has got all Narnia under her thumb. It’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!’
‘How awful!’ said Lucy.
• Christmas is what makes winter bearable
◦ light in the darkness, warmth in the freezing cold
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you
– we are on the road to Christmas
• and at the same time, Christmas is coming to us

I admit that I’m the last person to teach anything about joy

I should have asked my sister Cheryl to speak this morning
– I know Christians who live in a constant state of joy
• they have all these bright sayings, optimistic slogans, and positive ways to interpret everything
• they pick up the Bible, read, “Rejoice in the Lord always,” and say, “Oh, that’s easy!”
– I am not one of “them” – and, I’ve never appreciated their attempts to cheer me
• “Hey, Mr. Sad-face, where’s your smile?”
◦ “I locked it in the cellar” – it’s all I can think to say

There are different types of depression,
– but all of them block the feelings of joy
• for most people, it is temporary and resolves on its own
◦ for others, depression is a way of life
• for some, the brain’s chemistry for joy doesn’t work
◦ all of the color and music of the world has faded out
• the self-contempt of many depressed people is so strong,
◦ they can’t allow themselves to enjoy life–they’re certain they don’t deserve to enjoy it
– what I am saying is that some of us need healing before we can experience joy
• and some of us have to work at joy
• we have to force ourselves to remember a time of joy and what it felt like
◦ I tried to remember moments of joy from this past week
◦ at first, nothing came – then I remembered the cloud formations I saw on Tuesday and the joy I felt
◦ then other moments came to mind and it was, in fact, a joy-filled week
– I also realized, that each stab of joy brought me to God,
• that I recognized his hand in what I saw, heard, and felt
• then, the most natural response of joy was to thank him and praise him

We don’t have to worry if we lose joy for a moment

When God’s Spirit moves in our soul,
– to feel nothing is as normal as feeling something
• human emotion alternates with every new situation:
• difficulty and ease, fountains and dryness, sorrow and joy
◦ the wise teacher said:
In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God had made the one as well as the other, [and you never know what is going to happen next] (Ecc. 7:14)
– Pope Gregory the Great outlined three stages of Christian experience:
1. the struggle of our old self and our new self
2. by God’s grace, the new self wins and we’re filled with joy
3. then, so we won’t become conceited, he causes us to journey in the desert
◦ but God will always lead us back to joy
Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psa. 30:5)

Do we need to be reminded happiness is not the same as joy?

It seems rather cliché to go over this again
– still, the reminder may do us some good
• we should not think we are supposed to accept joy and reject happiness
◦ we will experienced both joy and happiness
◦ but there is a different quality to each of these feelings
• think about their opposites
◦ the opposite of happiness, unhappiness, is not getting what we want
◦ the opposite of joy, sorrow, is losing what we had (that was meaningful to us)
– I think that happiness is wrapped up in tangibles
• what joy involves is spiritual
◦ there’s a lot of happiness at Disneyland and birthday parties
◦ there’s joy when the children come to visit
– happiness is short-lived – it comes and goes quickly
• joy lodges itself in the soul
– happiness requires repetition of specific stimulation
• joy produces a lasting contentment
– I think that happiness stirs the shallow part of our soul
• joy moves in the depths of our being
– happiness typically involves having “fun” – getting our next fix
• joy is found in sharing relationships with others
– we find happiness in getting “things” or certain activities
• love is the most common source of joy–even a pet can bring joy
Keep you life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5)
◦ what brings contentment? A secure, loving relationship
◦ in this instance, it is God who tells us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”

Like faith and hope and love, joy is a challenge

Henri Nouwen, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep on choosing every day.”
“Some people become bitter as they grow old. Others grow old joyfully. That does not mean that the life of those who become biter was harder than the life of those who become joyful. It means that different choices were made, inner choices, choices of the heart.”
“It is important that at every moment of our life we have an opportunity to choose joy.”
– joy does not exist in the natural world–it is neither a substance or a force
• a rock, a leaf, a puddle of rain water may stir up feelings in us,
◦ but those emotions are not felt by or emitted from the rock, leaf, or puddle
◦ nature can be nourishing or brutal, either way it doesn’t care
• joy is our inner response to sky and mountains, rivers and trees
◦ William James said that joy is our gift to the universe
– so I begin to ask myself questions to take my next step on this Bethlehem road
• I have not mastered joy, but am I moving toward it?
• have I been living in a way that allows joy to come to me? Am I receptive to joy?

Conclusion: There was a moment of joy I recall vividly

And I’ve returned to that fountain many times. I was twenty-three years old and driving up north to share an apartment with my cousin. I stopped to visit friends in Lompoc, California and then again in Napa. From there I was going on to Yuba City. I was on a stretch of highway not far from Sacramento and it occurred to me that no one knew where I was–not my family, not my former neighbors, none of my friends; no one. GPS tracking was not available back then and it was long before cell phones. Suddenly, I had a profound feeling as if I were sucked into a vacuum of loneliness. On my car seat next to me was my Bible and a commentary on the book of Hosea I had been reading and enjoying. I glanced at it, and instantly my mood shot upward. I said out loud, “It’s just you and me, Jesus! Just you and me.” Since that time I’ve been thrown into situations I never expected–rejected, abandoned, alone. But before I could sink into my misery fully, I heard Jesus’ voice in my heart, “It’s just you and me–again. Just you and me.” And the joy was there again. I feel it now as I recall it.

Toward the end of John’s gospel, Jesus told his disciples,
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (Jn. 14:1-3)
Joy is the fruit of relationships and love
The prospect of Jesus coming for us so that we can be with him, brings us joy
because we know and love him
In the next chapter of John, Jesus told his disciples,|
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (Jn. 15:11)
Maybe fullness of joy isn’t about volume
Maybe it is the integration of our whole person,
joy in every part: our mind, heart, body, and spirit

Look again at what Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you”
Can you hear this? There is a place for you!
A place where you are wanted, loved, sheltered, and where you “belong”

Advent joy is what comes with Christmas–and Christmas is Jesus

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