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Third Sunday in Advent
Formula for a Joyful Christmas"
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rev. Wayne Dobratz, M.Div.
There's a shopping
mall near my home. There are always a few empty stores that find temporary
tenants as Christmas draws near. One of them sells Christmas decorations of
every description. Many shoppers will go through the store, looking for that
unique decoration that will make this Christmas even more special. Paul has some
guidance for this coming Christmas and for
the rest of our lives. (Note: the word for "rejoice" [chara] is closely related to the word for "grace" [charis].)
1) BE GLAD IN THE
LORD--Lk 2:10, 10:20; Phil 4:4 (See Thayer's Lexicon or Strong's G5463)
CONTINUALLY--Eph 6:18; Col 4:2; 1 Pet 4:7
3) BE THANKFUL IN ALL
CIRCUMSTANCES--Eph 5:19-20; Phil 4:6-7; Col 3:17; Ps 34:1-4; Heb 13:15-16
Holman Bible Dictionary: JOY--the happy state that results from knowing and serving God. The words joy and rejoice are the words used most often to translate the Hebrew and Greek words into English. Joy is found over 150 times in the Bible. If such
words as "joyous" and "joyful" are included, the number comes to over 200. The verb rejoice appears well over 200 times.
Joy is the fruit of a right relation with God. It is not something people can create by their own efforts. The Bible distinguishes joy from pleasure.
The Greek word for
pleasure is the word from which we get our word hedonism, the philosophy of
self-centered pleasure-seeking. Paul referred to false teachers as "lovers
of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Tim 3:4). The Bible warns that
self-indulgent pleasure-seeking does not lead to happiness and fulfillment.
Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 records the sad testimony of one who sought to build his
life on pleasure-seeking. The search left him empty and disillusioned. Many
people think that God is the great Kill-Joy. Nothing could be a bigger lie. God
Himself knows joy, and He wants His people to know joy. Psalm 104:31 speaks of
God Himself rejoicing in His creative works. Isaiah 65:18 speaks of God
rejoicing over His redeemed people who will be to Him "a joy."
The joy of God came to focus in human history in Jesus Christ. The note of joy and exultation runs through the entire biblical account of the coming of Christ (Luke 1:14, 44; Matt 2:10). The most familiar passage is the angel's announcement of "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people" (Luke 2:10). Jesus spoke of His own joy and of the full joy He had come to
bring to others (John 15:11; 17:13). He illustrated the kingdom of heaven by telling of the joy of a man who found treasure (Matt 13:44). Zacchaeus was in a tree when Jesus called him, but he quickly climbed down and received Jesus joyfully (Luke 19:6). He had found life's ultimate treasure in Christ.
As Jesus' death
approached, He told His followers that soon they would be like a woman in labor,
whose sorrow would be turned into joy (John 16:20-22). Later they
understood, when the dark sorrow of the cross gave way to the joy of the
resurrection (Luke 24:41). Viewed from this perspective, eventually they came to
see that the cross itself was necessary for the joy to become real (Heb 12:2).
Because of His victory and the promise of His abiding presence, the disciples
could rejoice even after the Lord's ascension (Luke 24:52).
The Book of Acts
tells how joy continued to characterize those who followed Jesus. After Philip
preached in Samaria, the people believed and "there was great joy in that
city" (Acts 8:8). After the work of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia,
"the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost" (Acts
13:52). Paul and Barnabas reported such conversions to other believers,
"and they caused great joy unto all the brethren" (Acts 15:3). After
the conversion of the Philippian jailer, he "rejoiced, believing in God
with all his house" (Acts 16:34).
Joy in the Christian
life is in direct proportion as believers walk with the Lord. They can rejoice
because they are in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). Joy is a fruit of a Spirit-led life
(Gal 5:22). Sin in a believer's life robs the person of joy (Ps 51:8, 12). When
a person walks with the Lord, the person can continue to rejoice even when
troubles come. Jesus spoke of those who could rejoice even when
persecuted and killed (Matt 5:12). Paul wrote of rejoicing in suffering because of the final fruit that would result (Rom 5:3-5). Both Peter and James also echoed the Lord's teachings about rejoicing in troubles (1 Pet 1:6-8; Jas 1:2).
Joy in the Lord
enables people to enjoy all that God has given. They rejoice in family (Prov
5:18), food (1 Tim 4:4-5), celebrations (Deut 16:13-15), fellowship (Phil 4:1).
They share with other believers the joys and sorrows of life: "Rejoice with
them that do rejoice, weep with them that weep" (Rom 12:15). (Robert J.
Kelly Bedard is on vacation.
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This page was revised on: Friday, January 20, 2006 12:10:32 PM