Christmas! A Good Time For Good Times

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Today we are talking about having a good time. Many people think the more cynical and skeptical someone is, the smarter and wiser they are. Yet, the Bible depicts our God rejoicing over us with gladness, initiating festivals and celebrations.

The enemy is working overtime to suppress our joy. He doesn’t want us laughing when we’re supposed to be laughing. He doesn’t want us walking in joy when we’re supposed to be joyful. 

He gives us an imitation. He gives us something that wouldn’t really give fulfillment. We’re hanging our life on a hook that will never really help us or bring a sustaining joy. The enemy works every day through addiction, through pain, through grumpiness, through problems, through stress relational conflicts, he works to suppress our joy.

You hear his voice enter in, “Should you really be this happy right now?” This is why we celebrate Christmas every year. To remind ourselves of this joy and good news. That’s why it’s a great tradition to read through the Christmas story every year.

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.” Luke 2:8-12 NLT

When the birth of a king happened it was happening in a manger and a pasture. There’s an interesting point of history here. It was these fields outside of Bethlehem where the temple flocks were kept.

These were the flocks of sheep that would be sacrificed in the temple, as an offering for the sins of the people. Here are the shepherds hearing about the savior who will be a final perfect ultimate sacrifice for our sins. The angels are essentially telling them that they’re going to be put out of a job. Because no longer will we need a sacrifice for our sins.

Every sheep that was sacrificed that was pointing to this ultimate sacrifice, the death of Jesus. How beautiful that this was who the announcement was to. This is the birth announcement.

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.” 16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.  Luke 2:13-20 NLT

There is so much joy and celebration. Something changed in the shepherds and it can change in us, too. When Jesus was older, he had a word for shepherds and people who understand that occupation.

Jesus: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:9-10 NIV

The word thief means like a pick pocket. The thief who is coming to steal our life and joy, he’s not wearing thief on the front of his shirt. Sometimes we can’t tell that he’s there in those situations.

He sneaks up in our life, marriage, work, dream or hope and he begins to take things from us, but Jesus said I came to stop the thief of joy. I’ve come to stop him and give you full joy.

If that’s going to happen there’s got to be new decisions and choices. There is some divine order to JOY.


Divine Order of JOY

Joy doesn’t just come from anywhere. There’s a divine order to it. We want to be on the right pathway, the right order in how to find it, sustain it and express it to other people. There was even a divine order to Christ’s joy, so there can be a divine order to our life.

When Jesus went to the cross, scripture says it was the joy that was set before him, there was joy on the other side of the cross. One of the reasons He could endure the pain and the problems and hurt and rejection is that He knew there was a joy on the other side.

Not all the time are we going to feel joy. We have to make decisions to walk in obedience and step into that commitment. Joy is right on the other side of that commitment.

The manger wasn’t pretty. The cross was not a happy place it was a place of death and sacrifice. Jesus went through with it because of the joy set before Him.

Jesus knew that if He went through the cross and there was resurrection power on the other side of it, He would pay the price so that He could purchase us in our pain so that we could go to heaven with him and experience eternal life.

There was a prize. There was something on the other side that was salvation. There’s a divine order to joy and you can find that order in the word joy itself.

J — Jesus

It begins with Him. Jesus first. If Jesus is not first, then you’re out of the divine order, and we need divine joy. All of our joy can’t be based on the here and now. Seek ye first the kingdom of God. Jesus at the center.

Joy is in Jesus at the center of our life.

O — Others

It is more blessed to give than to receive. We must help the weak and notice others. Our whole life can not revolve around me, myself and I. You won’t find joy when it’s all about you.

There’s no other way to find joy on the pathway or me, myself and I. You’ll discover joy when you put yourself down on the list. When we live to get, God changes our life to live to give.

Y — Yourself

So you’re not first, guess what, you’re not even second. You’re third on the list. If you want real purpose and real joy, put yourself after God and others.

He’ll take care of us. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. He’ll take care of everything you need. This order is actually how your needs are met.

You can experience real joy this Christmas. In this verse in Isaiah speaks to everyone no matter what place in life you are in.

Israel going through a hard time here. Most news was bad news, one thing after another. Have you ever lived a day where you thought, “I don’t think anything could be worse.” This kept happening to Israel. Sometimes we feel that way in our life that things keep getting worse.

God spoke a truth and God saw some things they were not able to see. God saw that there could be joy even though there were pain and problems in their current situation and he could speak above and beyond that.


Where is Joy this Christmas?

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.  Isaiah 9:2-3 NIV

The only way a warrior gets a victory is to go through a battle.

God gives hope to the people of Israel. So often we think the battle is the problem, it’s how we’re dealing with the battle is the problem. If God is there for us tellin us He will increase our joy. That when we go through the battle we will bring something out of it. He tells us we won’t come out of hte battle empty-handed, we will have increased joy.

That’s encouraging because if we’re going through the valley, we certainly want to come out of it with a victory. If we’re going through pain, let it have some purpose. If we’re going through a battle let it bring joy to someone else’s life.

Increase our joy, Lord!

Could there be more joy than what we’re experiencing in our life, our marriage, our parenting?

Lord, let there be a victory, increased joy!

Let’s be people that pray that the longer we’re married, the more joyful we become. That the older the kids get, the more joy we experience.

Lord, help us be the people that the longer we’re in church the more joyful we are. The longer we lead a small group the more excited we become. Let us be people that the longer and more we give money to God, the more joy we experience.

Let there be an increase in joy, not less.

There’s always more joy in God than in anything else. Are you looking for more joy in all the wrong places? Where is more joy to be found?

1. Joy is beyond circumstances

More joy is not going to be found in good things happening in your life. We see it in Jesus, the manger, the cross, he still had joy set before him.

Joy is found in the Holy Spirit inside of us. The fruit of the Spirit is joy. It’s love, joy, peace… See how joy is tethered by love and peace?

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. Psalm 16:11 NLT

Joy is not going to be found in your circumstance this Christmas. It’s going to be found in the Holy Spirit beyond your circumstances.

2. Joy is with others

It’s why we constantly encourage you to get others in your life. Joy is not found on the pathway of living for ourselves.

Serving together, giving together, making a difference… we find life-changing joy in others. There’s fullness of joy. Joy is meant to be full.

In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells three stories. One is the most famous parable in the Bible, the prodigal son. A father gives his two sons their inheritance, one son stays with him, the prodigal son leaves, sins against him and blows the money and ends up eating with pigs.

Eventually he comes to his senses, and when he comes home the father runs out to meet him and throws a big celebration. That was a good time!

Another of the three stories is of a woman who loses a very valuable coin and she drops everything to look for it. As soon as she finds it, she calls all of her friends to throw a party.

The third a story about a shepherd who has 100 sheep, but one has left the fold, and is lost. Instead of being content with the 99, he leaves the 99 found sheep to find the one that is lost.

Have you ever noticed what sparks Jesus to tell the stories? There’s the salvation part which is very beautiful, and Jesus is making a big point about salvation and that He cares about the lost. But the reason he starts telling the story is because the Pharisees and teachers of religious law were complaining, being grumpy and rebuking Jesus for celebrating, having a good time and eating with sinners.

So, what Jesus does in these stories is rebuke them for their mindset. Each story ended with a celebration in what was found. Joy is the fruit of maturity. Not skepticism, not doubt, not cynicism, not grumpiness, but joy.

“When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’” Luke 15:6 NLT

3. Joy is in repentance

Repentance is when we turn our mind and our actions back toward God. When the prodigal son came to his senses in that pig sty, he got up and went home. That’s repentance.

But not everybody likes the joy. The brother who stayed with his dad became very cynical, and actually didn’t like that they were throwing a big party for the son who came home. But his dad said, God says,

“‘We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” Luke 15:32 NLT

When we live for just ourselves, we fall short. There’s got to be more joy than that. There’s got to be more joy than just me! All of the sudden if we’re not careful, we just start living for the next thing or the fun things in the world. We only get excited about the fun stuff happening.

A new pair of shoes we can’t wait to have and then six months later you’re cutting grass in them. If we could just have that person, that thing… and we begin to build our joy on more stuff. More things.

There’s go to be more joy than that because it’s so fleeting. How many of us are basing their joy on that? Could there be more?

Jesus didn’t die on the cross and rise from the dead for us to have one moment. He didn’t come for us to base our life on the experiences of this world. Jesus died and rose so we could have joy that could be sustained through the storms and the troubles and the valleys. There is a sustaining joy in Jesus! There’s more joy in Jesus! It’s in Him we live, move and have our being.

Jesus said, every time someone chooses Jesus as their Lord, all of heaven throws a party.

Jesus: “Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.” Luke 15:10 MSG

When someone says, “I no longer depend on me, myself and I. I no longer depend on the things of this world. I may have a past or a hurt but I find my identity in Christ and the joy I find in Jesus.” We celebrate!

The thing we celebrate the most here at Rock Brook is when we get into these moments and someone says, I believe in Jesus and they get baptized. It’s fun.


Maybe you’re going from one fake celebration to another, trying to be cheered up by things that actually bring consequences, not joy. 

Maybe you’re walking with a spirit of heaviness, and feel far from God. Do you feel broken on the inside? This can be your prayer:

Heavenly Father, free me and restore joy into my life through Jesus. You are the best part of my life. There is nothing like you anywhere. No author could fully express it, no inventor could ever imagine, no sculptor could ever create, no poet could ever capture your wonder, your strength and your beauty. We fall short. Just one glimpse of you could change everything. Help me see glimpses of you all around me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week, a good time for giving. Have you noticed God opening any doors of generosity in your life? Have you taken any risks of generosity?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

Many people think the more cynical and skeptical someone is, the smarter and wiser they are. Yet, the Bible depicts our God rejoicing over us with gladness, initiating celebrations and sending angels to bring us good news of great joy.

Therefore, abundant joy is a by-product of putting God first. While the world binge-hunts for the ever-elusive joy, we can have it every minute of every day because we have Jesus. It’s not circumstantial joy either. It’s a lasting joy which pushes through and prevails, regardless of what’s happening around us. We are free. We are liberated into biblical joy and a clear conscience, which frees us from past hurts, guilt, and shame.

Read: Luke 2 & 15

Jesus: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:9-10 NIV

Application

  1. What stood out to you in this message?
  2. Describe a time you remember laughing really hard.
  3. In what areas of your life might you be losing your joy and your laughter?
  4. What does it mean to have abundant joy? How do you define joy?
  5. “Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.” Luke 15:10 (MSG) What is something you need to turn over to God this Christmas?

Prayer Focus: Thank God for his good news that causes great joy. Ask God to give you a fresh sense of love, joy and peace this Christmas.

Tell Someone Else

Share with the group who you’re praying will respond to invite to a Christmas service at Rock Brook this year. 

RockBrook.org/Christmas

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Restoring Joy

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Robbers are on the loose. Your gifts and deliveries may make it out untouched, but what about your joy? Has your joy being stolen from you this Christmas?

This is a season of joy. The word Joy is mentioned 8 times in the Christmas story. It’s a celebration, a birthday. What comes to mind when you think of the word joy? Do you know joy is far more than just an emotion? Do you know the difference between happiness and joy?

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Happiness is not a bad thing, but joy is deeper. You can be joyful even in the middle of grief, even in the middle of a depressing situation.


 

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There are joy robbers. We protect our things, we must protect our joy as well. Now, if you want to restore joy, first thing you have to do is you have to know what steals it. So here are three things that want to steal your joy.


Three Choices That Will Restore Your Joy

The 1st Robber of Joy: Anxiety

You cannot be joyful and fearful at the same time.

The first Christmas was incredibly anxiety-producing for everyone involved. Mary was a teenager and she’s engaged to be married to Joseph. Then she has what’s called a “virgin birth.” How do you explain that to your family and friends? 

Then, just a few days before she gives birth, she has to take two or three-day trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census. Then, when she gets to Bethlehem, all the rooms are booked and she has to deliver with no midwife, no doctor. Here’s the choice Mary had to make.

  • When Mary was afraid, she chose to trust God and accept his plan.

In the first story of Christmas, the word afraid is used seven times. Every time an angel shows up, the first thing the angel has to say is, “Don’t be afraid.” Why? Because anxiety robs your joy.

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’ ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’”  Luke 1:26-37

What are you anxious about this Christmas? No matter what you’re worried about, the antidote is trusting God and accepting His plan. Just take everything you’re worried about and you put it in God’s hands.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”  Luke 1:38

Have you ever told God that you are willing and accept His plan? At some point in your life, you have to come and say, “I don’t get it all, but I’m going to trust God. He made me and loves me. I’m going to accept His plan even though I don’t understand it.” 

Until you do that, you’re not going to have lasting real joy in your life. What is the result of telling God you will trust Him completely? The result is always joy. After Mary got with Elizabeth, she sings this song of joy.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47 NKJV

What are you magnifying today? Your worries or your king? Where does your spirit rejoice today?

The 2nd Robber of Joy: Resentment

Everyone has been wounded. Our rebellion and sin against God causes us to hurt each other and we hurt each other, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. As a result, we’re all wounded.

Regardless of how you’ve been hurt, you have control over your response. Have you ever considered how wounded Joseph was when he gets this news? They were planning their wedding and they haven’t slept together, but Joseph’s soon-to-be wife is now saying, “I’m pregnant.”

How would you feel? You’d feel just like Joseph. He felt betrayed. Many of you know this feeling. You know what it’s like to be betrayed. The second truth is a choice you’re going to have to make with the hurts in your life.

  • When Joseph was hurt, he chose to offer grace and let it go.

God could have saved Joseph all this pain by telling them both at the same time. But God didn’t do it that way intentionally. He just tells Mary. Joseph has to go through all of this agony, thinking his fiancé’s been unfaithful to him.

Mary is struggling with fear at the first Christmas and Joseph is struggling with anger. These happen today in marriage after marriage. One spouse is dealing with fear and the other is dealing with anger. Yet, Joesph offers grace.

“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” Matthew 1:18-19

Are you still hanging on to a hurt? Resentment will never change the past. Bitterness doesn’t make you feel better. It only makes you feel worse. We think that holding on to that hurt, somehow, we’re getting even with them. We’re getting revenge. We’re not hurting them at all. We only hurt ourselves with resentment.

Maybe you don’t think they deserve forgiveness. Nobody deserves forgiveness. You forgive people because you don’t want to hold on to the pain anymore. You don’t forgive for their sake, you forgive for your sake. Now, fortunately, with Joseph, God didn’t keep him in the dark forever.

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’” Matthew 1:18-21

Because Joseph didn’t get bitter, God blessed him in an incredible way. He gets the blessing. He is given the privilege of raising the Son of God. Now, you’ve got to decide what you want in life. Do you want to be bitter or do you want to be blessed? Do you want to choose joy or choose resentment?

If you don’t think you have the strength to forgive, that’s why you need a Savior. That’s why you need the power of the cross. Because you can’t do this on your own.

The joy of the Lord can be your strength.

The 3rd Robber of Joy: Confusion

At the first Christmas, everybody is confused except the angels. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the innkeeper, the wise men, King Herod and all of Jerusalem was confused. The wise men’s confusion had to deal with what direction to take. 

The Bible tells us that they had come from the east, but we don’t actually know where they came from. They’re following a star, they’re astronomers and scholars. So they just take off, following the light they’re given. When they got to Jerusalem, they had to ask for directions. They said, “Where is this king of the Jews to be born?” Here’s the choice.

  • When the wise men were confused, they chose to follow God’s light one step at a time.

They didn’t have it all mapped out in front of them. It was one step at a time. If they’re coming from Persia or India, this is not a day trip. It took them months. They had invested time, money and energy to find Jesus. What are you willing to invest in time, money and energy to get to know your Creator?

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”  Matthew 2:1-3

When they showed up, it upset King Herod, because he thought he was the king of the Jews. This tells us that there’s a downside as well as the upside of seeking after Jesus. If you genuinely seek Jesus, somebody’s not going to like it. When some people try to get close to God, it makes other people very uncomfortable. Now, here’s how the story goes.

“King Herod sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’” Matthew 2:8

Herod’s not going to go worship this new Messiah. He’s going to go assassinate him. He doesn’t want any competition. The reason we know he wasn’t intending to go worship Jesus is because when the wise men did find Jesus, then in a dream they were warned not to go back through Jerusalem and not to go back to Herod, they went back another way.

Herod sent his army to Bethlehem and had every baby under two killed. He’s that paranoid. Now, Mary and Joseph had already been warned by God, and so they had already left and gone to Egypt. Jesus, in his early years, was in Egypt because of the attack on him. These wise men, they don’t give up in their search until they actually find Jesus. Don’t give up on your search either.

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.”  Matthew 2:9-10

God didn’t give them a map. All he gave them was a guiding light and they eventually end up getting to where God wanted them to get. He gives you a compass and a guiding light too.

A compass just says, “Go that direction.” It doesn’t tell you all the things that are on the trail. What is the compass for your life? For Christians, it’s the Bible. The Bible gives you the direction to walk.

What’s the guiding light? God’s Spirit in your life. He’ll give you the nudges and guidance along the way.

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”  Matthew 2:11

The three gifts given to Jesus actually have symbolism relating to Jesus’ life and his death and his resurrection. The incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. Without those three things, there’s no Christmas to celebrate.

The incarnation: That he lived a perfect life that you and I or no one else could ever life. 

The crucifixion: That he went to the cross as a perfect sacrifice, carried our sin. 

The resurrection: That he proved he was who he said he was, he conquered death and the grave, he’s victorious and holds the keys to our future now.

If Jesus doesn’t nail those three things, the whole world isn’t celebrating Christmas. The wise men finally meet Jesus. Have you ever met Jesus? It’s not just in knowing about him or believing Jesus is the Son of God, it’s meeting Him personally.

How do you know if you’ve ever met Jesus personally? The two things that the wise men did when they finally personally encountered Jesus, are the same two things that happen when you personally encounter him.

First, it says they bowed down. The more you know Jesus the more humble you become. Have you ever fell to your knees before God and said, “God, I am so grateful for your love.” You may have gone to church your entire life. It’s the difference between knowing about God and knowing God personally.

These are magi, deep thinkers and analyzers. Bowing down isn’t just for the more emotional people. Worship isn’t just for the more expressive people. Joy isn’t just for the heart types on the personality scale. These guys are truly and humbly joyful and grateful. Why? Because he’s the king. Why do we worship him? Because He’s the king. Some of you know who Jesus is, but you haven’t ever had humble worship.

The second thing these guys did, it says, “They opened their treasure boxes and gave him gifts.” When you really know Jesus, you want to give him the best you’ve got. What do you give the guy who has everything. The only thing he doesn’t have. You.

Have you lost your joy this Christmas? Have you lost your joy from anxiety, resentment or confusion?

2,018 years ago, an angel came and announced this, “I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be for all people.” All people. There’s no sin that could exclude you from salvation, if you’ll choose Jesus today. 

This Christmas, you need to pray what David prayed after he had really messed up his life and committed some horrible sins. Look at what he said,

“Lord, restore to me the joy of your salvation.” Psalm 51:12


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts, questions or conclusions about the message on God’s Greatest Gift? Did you invite anyone to the Christmas services? Did they come?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear The Word

Read Luke 1 & Matthew 1-2

You know, robbers are on the loose. Your gifts and deliveries may make it out untouched, but what about your joy? Has your joy being stolen from you this Christmas? This is a season of joy. The word Joy is mentioned 8 times in the Christmas story.

The first robber of joy is anxiety. So, when Mary was afraid, she chose to trust God and accept his plan.

The second robber of joy is resentment. So, when Joseph was hurt, he chose to offer grace and let it go.

The third robber of joy is confusion. So, when the wise men were confused, they chose to follow God’s light one step at a time.

Application

  1. What stood out to you in the message?
  2. How has this Christmas season been for you? What has you nervous, grumpy or worried this season? How can you trust God and accept his plan?
  3. Is there a wound in your life that you’re still carrying resentment over? How can you offer grace and let it go?
  4. What has you confused this season? Are you confused about your life and direction? How can you follow God one step at a time?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you encourage with hope as a result of this message?

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God’s Greatest Gift

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Have you noticed that gift giving can get a little crazy and expensive sometimes? But giving gifts is a big part of what Christmas is all about. Christmas started with the giving of gifts.

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”  Matthew 2:11 NIV

The best part of Christmas is not the gifts that were given to Baby Jesus, but the gifts that God gives to us.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”  2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV

There are three things we do with gifts at Christmas. We give gifts, we receive gifts and, after Christmas, we exchange gifts. Let’s focus in on exchanging gifts, because God has this great gift exchange plan.

Usually when we exchange gifts, we give back something we don’t want for something we do want. But in God’s gift exchange is far, far greater than that. Let’s look at five specific things from God’s great gift exchange.

We give God our worst and He gives us His best.


1. When we give God our worry, God gives us His peace

We all worry, especially at Christmas. The crazy, busyness of this time of year means there’s a lot to worry about. Our bodies were not designed to worry. Study after study shows the toll worry takes on our bodies; insomnia, stomachaches, headaches and even heart attacks. The number one day of the year for heart attacks is Christmas Eve. We literally worry ourselves sick. The way to stop worrying is by taking advantage of God’s gift exchange program.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about what happens to you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NLT

When you give God your worries, you recognize two things:

  • God is in control

We worry because we’re trying to control things. We’re trying to control the uncontrollable. When we can’t control things, we worry. Worrying then makes us think we’re controlling it. So instead of trying to control things by worrying about them, we need to recognize that God is in control.

  • God cares

No matter how big or small the worry is, God cares about it. God cares about you and what you care about. The reason why there’s Christmas is because God cares about you. Jesus came to earth because God cares about you. So take your worry, give it to God and then notice what God gives back in exchange.

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid”  John 14:27 TLB

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on this earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 NLT

Who do you know that’s worried or needs to take heart? Who do you know that needs to know you care about them? Think of someone and send them a message right now telling them you are thinking about them and praying for them. As you do that, you’re passing along the gift that God has given you.

2.  When we give God our hurt, God gives us His healing.

Everybody’s hurting; emotionally, spiritually, physically or financially.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3 NIV

God sees your hurt and He wants to heal the brokenhearted. The verse says, “He binds up their wounds.” When you get injured, they bind up the wound to give it time to heal. Hurts don’t heal in an instant, they take time to heal. So God binds up the wounded places in our broken hearts so they can begin to heal. 

God wants to do more than just heal us. He also wants us to use our healing to help other people who are hurting. When we receive God’s healing, we can then pass it on to someone else.

“He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

Some of our wounds are self-inflicted, but God never wastes a hurt. Who do you know that’s hurting with a broken heart? Take a second right now to send a message to someone you know who is hurting and tell them you are thinking about them. Invite them to come to small group or church this weekend with you. That simple invitation can change a person’s life.

Jesus Christ can make a difference in their life through you sharing what God’s done in your life. The great thing about God’s gift is it’s a gift that keeps on giving. Whenever you share the gift, your gift multiplies.

3. When we give God our grief, God gives us His joy.

We all grieve. The only way not to grieve in this world is not to love. In this world, people don’t last forever. So if you love someone you run the risk of losing them at some point, which means you will face grief.

Especially at Christmas, we think about the people that we’ve lost. As you encounter grief this Christmas, you may be tempted to just push it aside. There are three things you need to know about grief.

  • Grief often comes undeserved.
  • Grief usually goes unrecognized.
  • Grief often stays unresolved.

Christmas turns up the volume on whatever’s going on in your life. If good things are happening, Christmas turns up the volume on that. If you’re grieving, Christmas turns up the volume on grief. That’s why we need to give each other a lot of grace at Christmas. You don’t know what grief or confusing emotions people are experiencing.

The way to deal with your grief is not to deny it, but to give it to God. Only God is greater than your grief. When you give your grief to God, He gives you something even greater than comfort.

“You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”  John 16:20b NIV

We give Him our grief and He gives us His joy! That seems unbelievable that God would give us joy in the midst of grief. God gives us His joy when we recognize this world is not all there is. As we realize that the person that we’re grieving isn’t gone like we think they are gone, that if they are a beliver, we will see them again in heaven. There is hope when we know, in heaven, God will resolve the circumstances that didn’t work out like we wanted.

That terrible tragedy in your life, God’s going to turn that tragedy into a blessing in heaven. If you hang your hope on this world, of course you will grieve. But if you put your hope in heaven, God will turn your grief into joy. It doesn’t happen instantly, but over time God turns grief to joy.

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11 NIV

Christ is our Savior. The word “Savior” means Rescuer. Grief turns to joy when Jesus rescues us.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”  Romans 12:15 NASB

Who do you know that’s grieving? Here’s a chance to send a message to someone who could hear that you are praying for them. When we share somebody’s grief with them, we help them realize God is a part of their lives. Tell them they are not alone.

4. When we give God our fears, God gives us His love.

The way to deal with fear is to find something greater than the fear. God’s love is greater than any fear you’re facing. God’s love is greater than any problem. God’s love is greater than any illness. How does God deal with your fear?

With His love, He will calm all your fears.”  Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  1 John 4:18 NIV

Fear has to do with punishment. Often we’re afraid because we think we deserve what we’re getting. If you think that God is out to get you because of the wrong you’ve done, you don’t understand the message of the Bible. God is not out to get you, God is out to love you. God is not out to punish you, He’s out to forgive you. As you lean into that truth, the fears in your life are driven out by God’s love.

Who do you know who needs to hear the message of God’s love for them? Who do you know who needs the most famous verse in the Bible?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 NIV

To be part of the whoever, you need to believe in Christ. Think of the least likely person to accept an invitation to come to church with you and invite that person. Take the risk to let them know that you love them and God loves them. This might be the year when they really need that invitation. This might be the year when their heart’s ready to respond to God.

5. When we give God our sins, God gives us His forgiveness.

“When people sin, they earn what sin pays – death. But God gives us a free gift – life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 NCV

Sin promises so much, but in the end, the payoff for sin is always death. Jesus tells us that instead of death, I’m going to give you eternal life.

If you’ve never accepted that gift, you can accept it right now. You can pray, “Jesus Christ, I accept the gift of your forgiveness. I accept the gift of your eternal life. Thank you for dying on the cross to rescue me.” It’s a very simple prayer that changes everything, it changes your eternity.

Can you remember who first shared the message of God’s forgiveness with you? Who’s the person you need to share it with? God gave you the gift through someone else, who do you need to share the gift with?

“God was in Christ, offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world. And He has given us the work of sharing His message about peace.” 2 Corinthians 5:19 CEV

There’s no better time than Christmas for sharing this message. At the bottom of this post is a digital invitation you can download and text or email to a friend. Invite someone to come to a Christmas weekend service with you. You can also invite them to one of our three Christmas Eve services. These services will be different from the weekend services.

On Christmas Eve, we’re going to celebrate the message of Christmas using the popular Christmas movie, Home Alone. Jesus would do this, not with a movie, but He would use familiar stories to illustrate a spiritual truth. So, at the Christmas Eve services we’re going to examine the film Home Alone. Tucked amid the laughter and fun of that familiar Christmas movie is a message that many people struggle with at Christmas. On Christmas Eve we will use some clips from Home Alone to illustrate the sermon. 

God’s greatest gift is the gift of peace, healing, joy, love and forgiveness. Everyone needs these gifts. We all have people in our lives who need these gifts.

“As you share your faith with others, I pray that they may come to know all the blessings Christ has given us.”  Philemon 1:6  CEV


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts, questions or conclusions about the message on Ephesians 6:10-17? Have you been using your spiritual weapons to gain victory?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”  2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV

As we celebrate Christmas with the giving and receiving of gifts, let’s remember that God invites us to exchange our worry, hurts, grief, fears and sins for his peace, healing, joy, love and forgiveness. Each of these gifts are ours because Jesus came to earth and died for us. As Christmas nears, let us give up the things that bind us and receive what only God can give.

Application

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 NLT

1. Discuss a gift you have received in exchange for your worries and sorrows.

2. How can a sorrow on earth become worry free, allowing you to experience the gift of peace of mind and heart?

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I will bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11 NIV

3. How can grief keep people from fully experiencing God’s joy this Christmas season? Share a time when you were struggling with grief. Which one of God’s promises could help someone find joy in the midst of grief? How might helping someone walk through their grief bring them more quickly to joy?

“When people sin, they earn what sin pays – death. But God gives us a free gift – life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23 NCV

4. Reflect on a time when Jesus healed one of your hurts. What did you learn about God? What did you learn about yourself? How can the healing you experienced improve the way you help those around you who are suffering or struggling? Why is love the greatest gift we can give another person?

“With His love, He will calm all your fears.”  Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

Tell Someone Else

Who can you encourage to find God’s peace, healing, joy, love and forgiveness this Christmas?

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