At Gateway Church in Austin we celebrated Christmas as we concluded our series: Make Room.
In order to fully grasp what God wants to do in your life, you must break the box in which you limit Him.
Merry Christmas! And Joy to the World!
That word Joy is such a weird one. What do you think of when you hear the word “joy”?
My first thought is our good friend in Los Angeles named Joy Yamamoto.
My second thought is that that joy feels really connected to Christmas to me. Sure the song joy to the world is part of it, but so is Linus in the Peanuts Christmas special saying quoting the angels on the night Jesus was born when says: “Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10-11
Joy actually permeates the Scriptures.
In fact, joy as described in the Scriptures means “to be content and full of peace, an enduring attitude of the heart and spirit.”
The difference between joy and happiness is that joy is not dependent on circumstances. Happiness often is all about our circumstances.
Are you feeling content? Are you feeling full of peace?
I hope so!
Maybe you are feeling good right now because you are with family today or with friends who are like family.
Maybe you are feeling good because you get some extra time off work.
Maybe you are feeling good because your fantasy football team is peaking at just the right time.
Now that’s not the same as joy because those are all circumstantial.
But how will you be feeling when you are soon with the part of the family that stresses you out or you are back at work or the football season is over.
No, joy is something we can experience that endures and lasts beyond our circumstances.
As a pastor we have two great emotions around momentous days like Christmas Eve:
One emotion is pure excitement to see so many of our faith community join in worshiping Jesus together. It’s an excitement brought on by seeing seats filled and parking lots overflowing. Feeling the energy of a room bustling with anticipation.
Then there’s the joy of knowing that everyone who is sitting under the sound of our voice will be able to experience the presence of God and hear a message that clearly proclaims God’s intent towards all of humanity. The leaning on God’s truth and that everyone has the ability to be a part of God’s family.
The first emotion is pure happiness because all of the difficult work is paying off…a set of circumstances has aligned that makes every pastor happy.
The second is an overwhelming joy that has nothing to do with the circumstances of attendance, parking lots, or the feel of a room. It’s totally relying on God’s sovereignty and desire that all should know him. The Greek work for this in Scripture is Chara.
What does Chara look like in your life this Christmas season?
“A deep and abiding inner rejoicing which was promised to those who abide in Christ (Jn 15:11). It does not depend on circumstances because it rests in God’s sovereign control of all things.”– Dr. Donald Campbell (Dallas Theological Seminary)
This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that tells us to ignore things that do not make us happy. That if something is too difficult, or the odds are against us, then we must be doing something wrong, or people are wronging us.
It’s incumbent on us to break the box of conventional wisdom, and to seek out biblical wisdom.
Scripture acknowledges that you may be wronged, or that the odds may be stacked against you, but that we can still find a deep sense of joy and happiness that supersedes the circumstances surrounding us.
In a weird set of circumstances (Mary pregnant by the holy spirit, in a town that has no room for her and Jesus, in a cave/stable to deliver the savior of the world, protected by a man who wanted to leave her, and all witnessed by a group of strange men who had angels appear to them)…we find Chara alive and well in the Luke’s telling of the Christmas story.
Luke 2:6-20: 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 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.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
This Christmas season let’s be reminded that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
The announcement of the King came to shepherds. People that no one would’ve picked. It didn’t come to the noble, the royal, or the well-to-do. It came to those who were of low status but open in their heart
A teenage girl who carried favor in the eyes of God carried Jesus in her womb.
A carpenter was charged with caring and raising the son of God.
The shepherds were just showing up day after day, doing what they knew. And one day Heaven broke open.
The wisemen were in a far off land minding their business when heaven invaded their world, and a start garnered their attention…so much so that they felt compelled to leave everything behind to follow it.
Break the box that wants to limit God and what He can do with YOUR “ordinary” life.
You never know what God can do when you simply show up with excellence in what He’s calling you to do.
How do you view God?
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”– A.W Tozer
I grew up going to church. Grateful for the foundation my parents gave me, but there were many things that didn’t make sense to me once I went off to college.
In my early 20s I went through my own version of deconstruction, but unlike some of my friends I didn’t throw the baby Jesus out with the bath water. And through the reconstruction of my faith, I found a Heavenly Father more real and more loving than I could have ever imagined.
You see, as a kid I grew up seeing God more like Santa Claus. I felt like I better watch out and better not cry, I better not pout and I’m telling you why…
You see, I thought God’s love for me was contingent on whether I was naughty or nice.
I thought that if I was good then I would get good gifts.
God is not like that at all. Whether we are naughty or nice, He loves us.
Even when we were naughty He gave us the greatest gift of all – relationship with Him through Jesus our source of Joy, Hope, Life, and Love.
And out of gratitude for what He’s done for us and with His help we can live a new life!
Here are some of the other differences I found in an article by Bill Schroeder.
- Santa lives in the North Pole – Jesus is everywhere.
- Santa comes once a year – Jesus is a present help, every day.
- Santa fills our stockings with goodies – Jesus supplies all of our needs.
- Santa comes down the chimney unannounced – Jesus stands at our door and knocks and then enters our hearts.
- You wait in line to see Santa – Jesus is as close as the mention of his name.
- Santa doesn’t know our name for all he can say is “Hi, little boy” or “Hello, little girl” or asks our name – Jesus knows our name and our future.
- Santa says, “You better not cry” – Jesus says, “Cast your cares upon me for I care for you.”
- Santa’s helper makes toys – Jesus makes new lives, mends wounded hearts and has created a beautiful mansion that he promises to be ours.
- And while Santa puts gifts under our tree – Jesus became our gift and died ON a tree.
There are more differences, but don’t worry we don’t have time for that.
God desires for you to know Him for who he really is.
You see we discover in Jesus that God is a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6
You see, some of us are looking to God to make us happy and to change our circumstances. He wants to do so much more for us. He wants to transform us so that we may have a faith bigger than our circumstances, and He promises to be with us in the midst of the challenging times in life. He doesn’t promise a life without challenges but to be with us.
Another attribute of Jesus is that we would know Him as “Emmanuel” which means “God with us”
And the name Jesus or “Yeshua” in Hebrew means “God saves”
Through Jesus we can experience new life, forgiveness, a transformed heart, unconditional love, and discover our purpose and meaning in life and so much more!
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Make room for the King! He’s not just the baby Jesus, or the miracle worker, or the Genie in a bottle, or the Crucifix you pray to when you’re in trouble. He is the king!
And His Kingdom is not of this world! He reigns over the Kingdom of God which we bring with us wherever we go. His Kingdom has no borders. All are welcome. His Kingdom does not expand through weapons of war but through faith, love, and hope! And you and I are invited to be part of His Kingdom! And we are invited to bring His invisible but very real Kingdom of light and love everywhere we go!
Jesus came as a humble baby to a lowly family and showed us that He is always at work in ways that we can’t see or don’t understand.
Could it be possible that the path God chose for Jesus to enter into the world, to grow up in our world, and to make a difference in our world, was all to show us who he really is?
What a welcome he received in Bethlehem that evening…no place for him and his family, no fanfare, no triumphant announcement to the public square.
But a welcome sight he was, and continues to be.
Such a tiny gift we celebrate…and yet a gift that came to redeem all of mankind. But in order for him to do so The King must first take his rightful place in our hearts.
19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
What is occupying the space that God desires to dwell in? Is it a relationship, an incessant desire to climb your career, your investment portfolio?
What are you treasuring?
- Do you know what God treasures? YOU.
- Scripture says in John 3:16-17: 16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
- You only know the value of SOMETHING to SOMEONE by what they are willing to pay for it. And God took the most prized thing in the universe- HIMSELF; His Son. And sent Jesus as a willing sacrifice for a chance at relationship with you.
- What does that say about you and I? It says God looked at us outside of the box of our sin and brokenness. He saw us as worth dying for.
I want to invite you to make room in your heart right now. Whether for the first time or to restart your relationship or as the daily rhythm for a follower of Jesus.
Just pray this in your heart right now: “Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me.
I receive the gift of life through Jesus you offer me. I need what Jesus did on the cross to count for me. Forgive me. Lead me. Guide me so that I can experience the fullness of life you have for me. Amen.”
If you have prayed that prayer, you have that relationship with Jesus. Now seek to grow with Him and we can help you do that. If this is your first time to choose to follow Jesus, let our prayer team know. They will be just to the right of the stage.
And there is joy in heaven for what is happening in our hearts.
Let me remind you of these lyrics:
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come / Let Earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room / And Heaven and nature sing”
We only receive the King when we make room. Not give him a corner or a slice of the pie; it’s when we give him our whole heart today and every day!