Enter Into Joy

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, December 6, 2017 0 comments

by David Odegard

Editor's note: Please enjoy this previously written post as David focuses on his pastoral ministry during this Advent season.

For God so loved the world that He gave us a gift. He wrapped it in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger. By this act He makes peace with the whole world and gives them each an opportunity to respond in faith and be justified.

But an un-opened gift is an unreceived gift.

Each Advent, we Christians celebrate a few recurring themes: hope, peace, joy, and love. These four themes correspond with all the expectations that the Messiah has fulfilled. In my church, we make these themes stand out the entire month before Christmas day, culminating in the grand epic of Christmas Eve candlelight service. id

Hope: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘til He appeared… a thrill of hope the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morning…” Immediately after the sin in the garden, God cursed the serpent (Satan) with THE promise that the offspring of the woman “will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

We must have hope in God’s promise, and all of the promises that He made after that first one, that He will rescue His people. When he brought Israel out of Egypt, it was a promise that He will deliver His people from the powerful dominance of this world and its structures, and nothing would stop Him from doing so. This is hope. God has not abandoned us to the evil world we created.

Peace: God made this child to be the atoning sacrifice for the whole world. Through His sinless life and His sacrificial death, Jesus Christ made peace with God available to each one. He is our peace.

Joy: After having witnessed our hope in God’s promise being justified through Jesus and having received the peace that God makes with us through Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, He “has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” So we “greatly rejoice, and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9).

Love: After you boil off all the lust and greed, all of the self-justification and personal empire-building, and all of the guilt and shame, do you know what remains? Love. Sacrificial, giving love. That is exactly how Jesus lived and died and rose from the dead. Consider two groups of people who heard of the birth of the Messiah: The Scribes and the Shepherds.

When the Magi finally arrive on the scene 2 years later, they go to Herod and ask where the King of the Jews is. Herod doesn’t say, “I am King!” Rather, he calls the scribes and asks them. They immediately answer, “In Bethlehem, in Judea.” They quote Micah 5:2, “But you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah… for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

But then the scribes don’t go running off to Bethlehem themselves to see if they can find the Messiah, even though it’s only a short distance. They just go back home—indifferent to whether the Messiah has come.

Although they should have hope that the Scripture is about to be fulfilled, they have long since given up actually expecting the Word to come to pass. These are hearers of the Word only, but they never do anything about it.

This is a quiet sort of death, and I see it too many times where people just give up believing even though they don’t admit it to themselves.

Contrast that to the attitude of the Shepherds in Luke 2:8-20:
“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. ‘This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”

What a difference in attitude; they immediately took off running for the place where Jesus might be found. When they found them they told Mary and Joseph all about what had happened with the angels. They were filled with joy.

The shepherds were available. They were interested. They were filled with joy at being the first to see the Messiah.

How excited will you be the day that you get to see Jesus Christ face to face? May the grace of God be with you.

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