Joy is found in celebrating the Lord, not in things. Joy is found in knowing that he always accompanies, sustains, protects, and upholds and celebrates us. How can we not rejoice? God loves you and me so much he emptied heaven of his greatest treasure so we could join him in glory. Joy is ours because of his grace.
Philippians 4:4-5 The Message
4-5 Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen
Let us just go ahead and declare it right here and right now before another breath escapes our body and is wasted in our not giving glory unto our God.
It is Always Good to be Joyful!
It is always good and joyful thing to be celebrating something!
It is always a good and blessed thing to be celebrating someone special.
It is always and forever our very greatest privilege to be celebrating God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit for all that which we have.
Psalm 103:1-5 The Message
103 1-2 O my soul, bless God.
From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
don’t forget a single blessing!
3-5 He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.
Christmastime is supposed to be a joyful celebration. It is a season for mirth and family gatherings and Christmas parties at our places of employment. It is a time for buying, giving and receiving gifts to show your love and respect.
It is a time we sing “Joy to the World” and other Christmas Carols. It is a time of expectation of a better future. However, in many ways, the secular celebration of Christmas can be very disappointing. we feel this when we realize some one, we loved will not be sharing meal at the table with us this year. We feel isolated by the Coronavirus. Fear and uncertainty of the times adds immensely into our discouragement. Is there anything which can be more painful than to feel that we have to “take it” “fake it” so we can somehow “make it” and go along with the crowd with the celebration of Christmas lest our vulnerabilities be exposed.
You should notice that I said the “secular” celebration of Christmas. There is, indeed, little to cheer about the current world situation and our economies.
Christmas buying is likely to be diminished. there are those who want to replace “Christmas” with a secular winter holiday. So, what is the Christian supposed to make of this season of Christmas? Will we hear another sermon criticizing those who have an entirely materialistic view of Christmas, who have replaced Jesus with Santa Claus? These types of inevitably sermons get preached every year, and yet, next year we will find them again and recycle them. So perhaps it is time to re-evaluate our strategy and thinking about celebrating Christmas.
The first thing the Christian has to do is to realize the season of Advent is not about Christmas at all. It is about the return of King Jesus in glory rather than the arrival of a baby Jesus in Bethlehem. We do remember that He was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem a little more than 2,000 years ago. There would be no Advent apart from the fact that He became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. We do celebrate this on Christmas Day. But this is not Advent.
The season of Advent is the time we prepare for the final event in world history, the return of Savior Jesus Christ. this Jesus, who is the Word, become flesh came into this world. He performed signs and miracles. He taught us about Himself and the Kingdom of God. He died on the cross for our sin and was raised from the dead on the third day. He ascended back to the Father on the 40th day with the promise that He would return in the same way He left, with great glory.
All of these events are in history past. In history present, He is seated at the Father’s right hand to make intercession for us all. In History future, He is returning to receive us unto Himself. It is in this we hope. We shall know the fullness of everlasting peace in the Kingdom. We know that we will rejoice there forevermore. We shall love perfectly and feel love perfectly. These are the four themes of Advent we reflect upon. Today, we shall reflect on the theme of joy.
We read our devotional text from the Epistle to the Philippians written by the Apostle Paul. It would be helpful to relate the circumstances of the writing of the epistle. First of all, it was written at the very end of Paul’s life. Next to 2 Timothy, it may well be the next to last epistle he wrote before his execution.
He is in prison in Rome, guarded by the Praetorian Guard awaiting an appeal to Caesar Nero. whether or not he was released from imprisonment for a short time and rearrested we don’t know. But the context seems to indicate that the possibility of his execution was a very real possibility deep inside Paul’s soul.
The Apostle Paul had probably spent his earlier imprisonment under as decent conditions as could be hoped. He was allowed visitors. but he was still in prison. He had spent a night in prison in Philippi which was not at all very pleasant. The Philippian followers could remember very vividly the beating he received there.
By this time, Paul’s newest confinement was probably under much more dismal circumstances. There was little to be joyful about, as far reaching as this world would consider even minimally joyful. On top of this, there seems to have been some disagreement within the Philippian church. It was strife in the church which considered Paul more than the many wounds he suffered for the sake of the Gospel or even his impending death. So, Paul had every reason to be gloomy. But he was not, he was celebratory. This epistle has a very joyful mood to it.
The text we read from chapter four begins with the words: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say rejoice. By Paul repeating the command to rejoice, he is here putting extra emphasis that we should be joyful. Paul tells us too always be very joyful. This means that our season of joy and celebration is not just confined to Christmastide, but the entire year. We are not just to be joyful when things are going well for us, but we are to likewise rejoice in the middle of our tribulations.
Paul was in prison, yet he rejoiced. We are to rejoice in the Lord. this is why we can rejoice even when we are suffering. Jesus, the captain of our salvation knew the greatest suffering anyone could endure on the cross. add to this the grave psychological pain of being betrayed not just by Judas, but by the entire nation of Israel.
Yet the Book of Hebrews tells us He still rejoiced, not for the suffering of the cross. He endured it. He despised the shame. But He saw that on the other side of the cross, there was joy (Hebrews 12:1-3) Peter admits to the suffering of his readers in 1 Peter. they were really suffering. He says it is necessary. But he also says that it is for a little while. (1 Peter 1:6)
This is nothing to be compared to the incorruptible and unfading glory (joy) which is reserved even now while we await the advent. We can now have joy unspeakable and full of glory. Paul here states the reason we have joy: “The Lord is at hand.” This can be understood two ways.
It can mean that we rejoice and celebrate because Jesus is with us in our suffering, or it could mean that we rejoice because the coming of the Lord is nearby. Both statements are true, and this gives us reason to feel comfort.
So instead of living a life full of fear and agitation, we can retain a calm spirit in our lives which shines like a beacon to a troubled world. We can think of John Wesley in his journey to or from (I can’t remember) Georgia that the ship he was on was caught in a terrible storm. John, who was already troubled about his soul was terrified as were many others, especially those who had never in their lives experienced life riding out the waves from a storm at sea. But on that ship were a group of Moravians who sang psalms and hymns of praise in the midst of the storm. this had a great and powerful influence on the life of John Wesley.
The Philippians could remember Paul and Silas who were beaten and fastened to the stocks in the inner prison at Philippi singing hymns at midnight. (Acts 16:25) Note that the prisoners heard them, and the jailor and his house were converted as a result. Peter and John who were beaten by the Sanhedrin went home rejoicing and celebrating that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. (Acts 5:41). Yes, we ourselves should rejoice in the Lord always!
Paul goes on to say that we should not be anxious but commit everything to the Lord in thankful prayer. God will give us His peace in the midst of our storm. We talked about peace last Sunday. It is also to be understood in the light of Advent.
This peace comes from Jesus Christ and surpasses all understanding. The world would believe such a response to suffering to be insanity, a kind of “escapism.”
However, an escapist tries their very hardest to deny reality even exists. The Christian affirms the reality of suffering. We do not play mind games to divert our attention from this fact. But we at the same time affirm a greater reality which the world denies. The Lord is coming. He is with us in our suffering. After a little while, our sorrow will be turned to joy. (John 16:20) We confess that all this will work out for good for those who believe in Jesus, because we love and are loved by God and are called to fulfill His eternal purpose (Romans 8:28)
We all need an attitude adjustment at times. We need to stop whining we are victims. We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. (Romans 8:37) We also read in Romans 8:38-9 “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul now tells us how we adjust this attitude in Philippians. Instead of being constantly being angered and fearful about what is really going on in this world, we should think about what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report.
All of these need to be defined in Jesus Christ. And what is of better report than the Gospel (Good News). We should seek after virtue. But this is not the same necessarily in accordance with worldly ideas of virtue.
“Virtue” comes from the Latin “vir” which means “male”. To be virtuous in this world is to play the man. In the Greek world, the virtuous man stood above the fray. He was indifferent to suffering. To the world the term “meekness” is “weakness”. Yet Paul uses the word “gentleness” in verse 5 which is a close synonym to meekness to describe the Christian.
Jesus reminds us that “the meek shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5). Our virtue is not that we are above the fray, but rather that we can maintain and celebrate our integrity within the fray, at least for the little while we must be troubled down here. Our rising above the storm will occur when Jesus returns. We can celebrate and praise him now, even in our trials while we strive to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (The Westminster Confession of Faith)
To sum it up, Apostle Paul reminds them that they had already been taught these things. They now need to put them into practice. Paul had modelled the proper behavior. Now the Philippians were to follow his example. If we would practice these things .01%, we will have peace in our hearts, now and forever.
It is this truly momentous joy which we celebrate at Advent as we prepare for His return. We do well to remember the implications of His first Advent to earth. We do this at Christmas. We also do this at Easter as well. We live in the hope of celebrating His second coming and prepare our souls accordingly.
Celebrate Yahweh the Father, Celebrating You!
Celebrate Yahweh the Son, Celebrating You!
Celebrate Yahweh, the Holy Spirit, Celebrating You!
Invite some family friends and neighbors to share in this wondrous celebration!
In the name of God, the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Precious Father, thank you for always being there and knowing what is on my heart and caring for me in ways that I cannot even imagine. I long to know you face to face and share in the unbridled joy of heaven with you. Until then, I truly rejoice and celebrate because I know with all assurances, my entire future is in your capable hands! Thank you in the name of Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.