The Second Sunday of Advent December 8, 2013
2 Peter 3:8-14
68, 89, 87, 70
Oh, sing to the LORD a new song!
For He has done marvelous things;
His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.
The LORD has made known His salvation;
His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth;
Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.
Sing to the LORD with the harp,
With the harp and the sound of a psalm,
With trumpets and the sound of a horn;
Shout joyfully before the LORD, the King.
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell in it;
Let the rivers clap their hands;
Let the hills be joyful together before the LORD,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
With righteousness He shall judge the world,
And the peoples with equity.
Our annual Christmas celebration is about 2½ weeks away. Are you happy Christmas is coming? As a child, I remember, it was the most anticipated day of the entire year. We couldn’t wait for those precious hours on Christmas Eve and into Christmas Day. Now, I must confess, the youthful gladness that filled my heart as a boy is sometimes overtaken and dampened by the hectic nature of the season. Get this ready…get that ready…church functions every other day and not enough time to prepare for them the way I would like—all at the same time trying to slow down and appreciate what is important about this holiday. I am sure you know the kind of thing I am talking about because it hits you in your lives too— knowing Christmas is rushing up and thinking, “I’m sure looking forward to December 26!” Sometimes, perhaps, we can forget the joy and gladness that Christ’s coming truly brings to our lives.
The second verse of the hymn, “Joy to the World” really emphasizes the happiness we Christians have as we look forward to Jesus’ arrival:
“Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.”
In writing this verse, Isaac Watts reflected the joy that we find throughout the 98th Psalm: “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music…shout for joy before the LORD, the King. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy.” [vv.4ff NIV]
The joy extends through all creation and to the ends of the earth. But it is especially to be found among us whom God loved with such an everlasting love that He sent His One and Only Son—that we might be glad in Him—both inwardly and outwardly. THE LORD IS COME: REJOICE! I. Inwardly: Find joy of heart in the Lord’s coming and II. Outwardly: Let that joy of heart express itself.
Inwardly, can we find our hearts filled with joy at the Lord’s coming? Maybe we can begin to consider that question by thinking about the kinds of things that make us glad:
Now let’s think about these things in connection with the Lord’s coming—let’s take His coming at Christmas, since we’re in the Advent season.
Does Jesus’ arrival at Bethlehem give us the opportunity to experience the joys of family? It most certainly does—in many different ways. The celebration of Christmas unites families around a special and important Scriptural event. You come together at this time of year because Jesus was born, so in a sense, He brings you together each December so that you can rejoice in each other’s presence and in Him together.
But it goes beyond this. Think about your wider family—your spiritual family. Your brothers and sisters in Christ in the congregation who share your beliefs and convictions about this Baby who comes. They are a valuable and important family. In some cases, perhaps even more important than your flesh and blood relatives. Jesus pointed that out once when His mother and brothers wanted to capture His attention, He explained that His true “mother and brothers” were those who did the will of the Father in Heaven, in other words, those who believed in Him.
Your church family can give you joy in ways that others cannot because they share a connection in Christ with you. Now extend that to the even wider spiritual family—the Holy Christian Church. You share with all believers a trust in a Savior from sin, the Lord Jesus Christ. With this family you will enjoy eternal gladness in Heaven! Those who are part of this family are part of the family of God, enjoying the blessings of forgiveness and salvation.
None of these special “family situations” would be possible had Jesus not been born in Bethlehem, born into our human family, to take every human sin upon Himself at the cross.
Does Jesus’ coming at Christmas allow us to experience the joys of friendship? “What a Friend We Have In Jesus.” How can a greater friendship be forged between anyone than the friendship Christ forges with us at His manger bed? This eternal God, who became flesh and blood, takes a manger for His throne while worlds on worlds are His alone! Is that not a Friend? Is that not what a friend does—gives up His own joy and privilege and happiness for the sake of those He loves?
You have a Friend who has taken upon Himself your humanity and also your suffering. You have a Friend who agreed to carry on His own shoulders the punishment for your wickedness and evil. He is a Friend who willingly placed Himself under the laws of God which bound you so that He could keep them in your place. Your Friend literally gave His life for your freedom—your eternal freedom from sin, death, and the Devil.
Having done this, is there any good thing that Christ will withhold from us? Of course not. Nothing that we need in this life, nothing that is important to our eternal life, will be kept from us. Jesus gives it freely according to His good will and pleasure. If it is good health that we need to see us safely through to glory, He will see that we have it. If it is a good job that we need, He will see to it that it comes our way. If the good things that we think we need to make us glad do not show up on our doorsteps, we can rest with every confidence that what we do need to make us glad has already been given.
Family, friends, good things—Jesus is all these things to us. Therefore, He Himself is the foundation of our inward happiness. It is He who makes our hearts glad by His coming. The psalm says “Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.” [v.1] We can surely be happy about that!
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Filled with gladness of heart in Christ, we cannot help but watch that happiness spill over outwardly in our words and actions.
“Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.”
When the exiles from Babylon returned to Jerusalem singing Psalm 98, they were filled with joy that the Lord had freed them. They were so filled with joy in heart that it was evident in the things they said and did.
Our songs too are filled with the gladness of Jesus. Especially this time of year, is it not more so than almost any other time? “O Come All Ye Faithful, “Silent Night,” “Come, O Long-Expected Jesus,” “The Advent of Our King,” “Joy To the World”—The singing during Advent and Christmas in the Christian church is without equal. The handful of carols that you and I know is a drop in the bucket when compared to the thousands upon thousands of hymns, poems, and spiritual songs that have flowed out of the hearts of so many who have been overwhelmed with joy at the Savior’s coming.
In 1849, John Byrom’s daughter Dolly asked him to write her a poem for a Christmas present. On that Christmas morning on her breakfast plate she found a sheet, containing a poem titled “Christmas Day. For Dolly.” That poem is Hymn 84 in your hymnals today. It begins, “Christians, awake, salute the happy morn whereon the Savior of the world was born.” This is just one example of one man shouting for joy to the LORD, bursting into jubilant song with music.
Remember as you sing the hymns and carols of Advent and Christmas that these are expressions of outward joy that flow from the happiness the Christ-child has given. As you look forward to His coming this Advent season, why not tune your own tongues to reflect the joy Christ brings to your own hearts? It may not be in the form of a published poem or a grand hymn, but it may well be in the form of a kind word to your neighbor, or a word of forgiveness to one who has wronged you, or a word of the real good news of Christmas to a poor soul who is searching for more meaning in the season than the hollow philosophy found on a television special. Open your mouth, live, and let others see and hear your happiness in Christ!
Outwardly we rejoice in Him. Raising our voices together in worship. Praising Him to others. We repeat the sounding joy over and over again, for it is truly a joy that has no end. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.