HEBREW BIBLE LESSON Isaiah 35:1-10
GOSPEL LESSON Luke 1:39-56
SERMON: “Countdown to Christmas: Looking for Joy”
“Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot . . .
But the Grinch who lived just north of Whoville did not.
The Grinch hated Christmas, the whole Christmas season.
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”1
He hated Christmas! Why? Because when he was little he brought a Christmas gift for this girl. It was homemade and from the heart but all the other kids ridiculed him and made fun of him and belittled his gift. He became so angry and hurt that he began to despise the gift of giving. He chose to hate, and bitterness robbed him of his joy.
He takes away all the Christmas gifts from the Who’s. But he observes that instead of crying and being bitter they still gather outside to sing because they are very joy filled Who’s.
For some people Christmas joy is dependent on what gifts are under the tree. For others it’s the holiday feasts and parties. For some it is about gathering with family, especially when we have family who live great distances. For Christians that joy is rooted and found in the message of Jesus’ birth. His birth tells us that God is with us personally. This reality – this message when embraced brings with it joy!
We have taken a close look at ourselves over the past couple of years, and no comment about NKPC went straight to my heart more than whoever said that there wasn’t joy in worship. I have thought and thought and thought about that. And here’s what I’ve learned: We can sing the most up-beat of hymns, Micki can play the most exciting music at the piano, the choir can give us anthems that are meaningful and well performed, the sermon can be short enough to please those who want it so, and still joy can be missing for some. All of those elements are like the gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. None of them are what worship is about or what makes worship joy-filled. For Christians joy is rooted in the message of Jesus’ birth, life, teachings, sacrificial death and vindicating resurrection. The Grinch’s heart is changed when he hears the Who’s sing songs of joy after waking up to no presents. No one can take away the joy we have found in the gospel.
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary declares that she is bursting with God-news and is dancing the song of Her Savior. Mary understands God is Almighty. God is merciful. Holy is His name.
These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.
These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill.
Imagine, if you will, that you’ve been convicted of a serious crime. The police have caught you and prosecuted you. The judge hears your case, finds you guilty and applies the law. You have two choices, pay a $5 billion debt, or go to jail for life. Many of us would be hard pressed to pay a $5,000 fine, or even a $500 fine, let alone a $5 billion fine. We would have no choice but to accept the sentence of a life-long prison sentence.
Imagine now, if you will, that on the way to the prison, a stranger appears, someone that you’ve never met, and that he pays the $5 million fine, no questions asked. You are now free to go about your business and enjoy life. What type of joy would you experience if something like this were to happen to you? If all of your life-long debt were paid off in one big sweeping motion, how would you feel? Relieved? Grateful? Happy?
Jesus’ entry into this world is much like that scenario. As sinners, we are all condemned to pay for our sins. The problem is, the sentence is always the same. The crime may vary from person to person, but sin is sin. God does not differentiate between sins. Sin separates us from God and separated is separated. All sinners are condemned to eternal separation from God because human beings are all at some point, or many points in time, disobedient to God’s Word.
But, the debt has been paid. Jesus came into this world and paid the fine with no questions asked. God sent Him into the world to suffer on our behalf. He suffered for many who will never recognize that he’s even there. It is not our own actions that have blessed us with a forgiving savior, it is the grace of God and by that grace alone that we are able to share in this blessing. Ain’t Grace amazing?