Joy at Christmas: Advent Series Part Three

joytotheworldAs soon as we finish eating the Thanksgiving turkey, we seem to rush right into Christmas. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with starting the celebration of our Savior’s birth a little early! But, does it feel like a celebration?

For many of us the Christmas season is not one filled with celebration and joy.

Instead, it’s often a season of unmet expectations, disappointments, and way too much busyness.

In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, we tend to lose sight of what’s important.

This third week of advent is a reminder of why we celebrate Christmas.

Here’s a quick hint: Joy to the world! The Lord has come!  

Third Sunday of Advent – JOY!

The first week of advent focused on the prophets and how the birth of Jesus fulfilled prophecy.

Week two focused on Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.

This week we look at the flock of shepherds who first heard the good news.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”

– Luke 2:8-10

Can you imagine what the shepherds felt on that glorious evening? Shock, fear, excitement?

Even if they were fearful at the angels’ arrival, their fear dissipated when they heard the good news – a savior has been born!

Their joy and excitement made them move.

Luke 2:15-16 says, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”

When they heard the news, “They hurried off!”

As we inch closer to the celebration of Jesus’ birth, I pray you are filled with the same joyful anticipation as the shepherds.

Why the Angels Appearing Should Make Us Joyful

You’ve probably grown up knowing there were shepherds who visited the manger. In fact, they appear in most nativity sets, but there is more to this story.

What you may not have realized is God chose to announce the birth of the Savior to shepherds for a good reason.

You see, shepherds were not “anything special” during these times. They were poor, dirty, and not respected.

Yet, God chose to announce the arrival of the Messiah to them first!

Plus, the shepherds were among the first to share the good news of Jesus’ arrival with the rest of the world! This is good news for the rest of us.

We don’t have to be “anything special” by the world’s standards to receive the gift of Jesus either.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

-- 1 Corinthians 1:26-27

Jesus Brought Great Joy for All People

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

– Luke 2:10-12

The good news was the Savior of the world.

He came to rescue us from the penalty of sin’s death. Through Jesus, God has given all people a chance to be forgiven and loved eternally.

This alone is why Christians experience joy no matter what’s happening in their lives.

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

The famous Christmas hymn “Joy to the World” begins, “Joy to the world! The Lord has come! Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room.”

Have you ever given thought to those words as you sing them?

Since Advent is a season for anticipating the coming of the Savior, this song is a wonderful reminder of what we should be doing during this time of anticipation.

We should prepare our hearts for the Savior!

If you have never given your heart to Jesus, let this advent season be the most important one of your life by preparing room in your heart for Christ.

Ways to Continue Celebrating Advent Beyond the Blog

As Jesus’ birthday draws near, we hope you are filled with joyful anticipation and your joy spills over to your friends and family this Christmas.

Here are a few more ways to embrace joy during this advent season:

  • Read Luke 2. If you have not made a tradition of reading the Biblical story of Jesus’ birth, now is the time to begin. Find a Bible version you understand and read Luke 2:1-40. If you have children, read the story together.

  • Spread joy. One of the best ways to experience joy yourself is to spread joy to others. Look for opportunities to spread joy, such as giving compliments or leaving cookies on your neighbor’s doorstep.

  • Go caroling. Make a list of the most joyful, celebratory songs about Jesus’ birth and go caroling with your church, family, or neighbors. Encourage others to join you as you move through the streets. Make a joyful noise!

    At our church, we go caroling every year around our neighborhoods.
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  • Visit a live nativity. If a nearby church offers a live nativity, take time to visit it. This is a wonderful way to remember why we are celebrating and to imagine what it must have been like for the shepherds. If there is not a live nativity nearby, consider starting one in your community next year.