Well as you know, we are smack-dab in the middle of the Advent season— and for these past few weeks, we have been lighting these Advent candles – which kinda act like a countdown for Christmas. Not only do these Advent candles build a sense of anticipation for Christmas, but each one also reminds us of a different aspect of the Christmas story – Hope, Faith, Joy, Peace, and Love.
We started two weeks ago with Hope – and we saw that throughout the Scriptures God has continually offered his people Promises of Hope – a hope that is found in His Son, Jesus Christ, who died and rose again from the grave. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we can have the hope of eternal life with our Creator.
And this hope isn’t just wishful thinking. We were reminded by the second candle – the candle of faith – that our hope is assured and guaranteed by God himself. As we read from Hebrews 11:1…
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 ESV
God’s track record of keeping promises is 100%! We can rest assured that the Word of God will never fail! And so, our hope in Christ is guaranteed through our faith in the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God of the Universe!
And because of that, we can experience true and lasting joy – which of course, brings us now to the third candle.
As Jesse & Mikayla have just told us, today’s candle is the Shepherd’s Candle – or the Candle of Joy.
This candle reminds us, not only of the joy of the shepherds when the angels announced to them that the Saviour had been born in Bethlehem, but it also reminds us of the joy we can have every day of the year – no matter what our circumstances – because of that little baby born and laid in a manger some 2000 years ago.
Now today, I’m actually not going to be preaching from that passage in Luke chapter 2 that talks about the angels and the shepherds, but I do want to read through that before we begin because it does set the stage for what we’re going to talk about. So if you have your Bibles, you can turn with me to Luke chapter 2 – starting at verse 8.
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”Luke 2:8-15
This is a very familiar passage for all of us. We probably read it multiple times every Christmas! According to the angels, this little baby boy, born in the Bethlehem some 2000 years ago would be the source of great joy to all the world – even for us here in Penhold in 2022.
And so I want to spend some time today looking a little more in depth at the nature of that joy. What kind of joy are we talking about here? Is this the warm fuzzy feeling that we get as we sit around the Christmas tree, enjoying family and friends? Is this joy an emotion that wells up within us and spills out in joyful song – or is it more of a personal choice that we each have to make? Like mom always told you, “You can choose to be happy.” Or perhaps it’s neither of those things? Maybe joy is something different all together.
But how do we understand joy? What exactly did the angels mean when they said that this good news would bring great joy to all people? And further more, how does the angel’s good news help you and I experience joy today?
And maybe that’s really the bottom line here – being filled with joy certainly sounds like a good thing – but what does that actually look like in our lives today?
Well, that’s what I want us to figure out this morning – and I think we might be surprise at the answer. When I started writing this message, I kinda expected this message on joy to go in a certain direction – primarily focusing on the Christmas message, but it really ended up in a different place all together. But it was a good place – so I really just want to share my journey of exploring joy with you this morning.