Reading Rev 21:1 – 7 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying – look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said – I am making everything new. Then He said – write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. He said to me – it is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
Today is our fourth Advent – Advent being the leading up to a special event, the preparation for something. Christmas Advent is preparing our hearts to receive the King of kings, the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior – it’s just not so much about giving gifts, as it is about receiving the greatest Gift ever given – Emmanuel, God with us.
This year we are celebrating a truly Zimbabwe Christmas. Look around you – isn’t this just awesome. There is so much for us to truly appreciate and enJOY in this special land. Everything you will see this Christmas is Zimbabweans expressing their creativity, their hearts of JOY right here, right now. There is so much we can do with so little with the right heart – is that not the heart of Christmas.
Our theme for this Christmas is JOY! JOY, rejoice, be glad!
So what really is JOY? That is what we have been learning this advent.
We sing – JOY to the world.
We sing it. Do we believe it? Is this really, truly where our hearts are – fully focused on God and His Truth and Grace and Righteousness and Love! JOY to the world, hearts open to God, singing, Heaven and nature joining in – singing of the wonders of God!
Our God is the God of JOY! We would declare that in order to have all JOY you need Him. To know JOY you need to know Him. You need to receive Him. You need to prepare room in your heart for Him.
Jesus was announced by an Angel to some shepherds;
Luke 2:10 – 11 But the Angel said to them – do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great JOY that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.
The Good News about Jesus is that He comes for all and everyone. He comes to anyone with a heart humble enough to accept Him. Whoever you are, whatever you do, you can have Jesus in your life. Do not think you need extraordinary qualifications – He accepts you as you are. This is the Good News of Great JOY! He accepts you as you are – but you will never be the same again!
Our definition for JOY this Christmas is from the author and preacher John Piper;
Christian JOY is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world – [and in us].
I want to add – as you see the beauty of Jesus in you.
This JOY in my Soul is produced by the Holy Spirit in me – by God in me. God being in very nature JOY, then with God in me there just has to be JOY.
The Holy Spirit does this work by helping me to see the Glory and Beauty of Jesus – in everything – but most especially in me?
I want us to look at our reading from this morning. In Revelation – JOY is defined a different way, the greatest of all JOY is;
Rev 21:3 God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.
Have you ever wondered what eternity will be like? The Holy City? The New Jerusalem? Why everyone is fighting over the Old Jerusalem is just crazy – there’s going to be a new one – made by God Himself. Streets of Gold!
Heaven is described as a place where God will personally wipe away every tear. There will be no more death, pain, sorrow or crying. What a wonderful Truth. No matter what you are going through, it is not the last word – God has written the final chapter, and it is about true fulfillment and eternal JOY for those who love Him. We do not know much about Heaven, but enough to know our eternity with God will be more JOYfully wonderful than anything we could ever imagine.
But when does this all start? Two thousand years ago! God is with us – Immanuel. He is your God, you are His people! One day that will be fully perfect in Heaven – but that eternity starts now, today.
Rev 21:4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.
If there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain – what does that leave?
I was wondering – if I find no JOY in God right now – will I be ready for the JOY of Heaven? Or will I just crack?
Sadly I often meet “Christians” – who just have no JOY. And I know in my own life, there have been times when JOY would certainly not describe me – but, as I turn to God, focusing on Him, I turn back to JOY. When I set my eyes on the God of Heaven, I see so much more than the here and now. God never promised us a better life, He promised us a better hope. And in the JOY of that hope, every day is better.
But yes, we do appreciate that death and mourning and tears and pain are a part of our lives here and now. But Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full. He was born to die – that we may bring Him all our suffering and sorrow and lay it at the foot of the Cross – and then to no longer be defined by our circumstances, but defined by Him – He came to mend the broken hearted. We can bring Him our suffering and in return we can receive Him, that we might have full JOY in our hearts.
And so we have made a special place for you on the veranda this Advent. In that place is a Cross and some other things, that today you might lay your burdens down and receive the JOY of Christ. So please after the service if you would like – go across to the verandah – acknowledge your pain before God, and give it to Him. That is the miracle of Christmas – God gave us His Son to save us and give us life and life in abundance – and in return, He takes everything that kills and destroys. Trade your sorrow for JOY this Christmas.
Yes one day in Heaven we will be with God and everything will be perfect. But God is with us right now. And you are not defined by your past – you are defined by your future.
The Bible begins with the majestic story of God creating the universe, and it concludes with His creation of a new Heaven and a new Earth. This is a tremendous hope and encouragement to every believer. When we are with God, with our sinfulness completely gone forever, and our future secure – we will be made perfect in Him and will know all JOY. But that starts now.
God finished the work of creation and said it was very good. Jesus finished the work of redemption on the Cross – so the Trinity will finish the entire plan of salvation by inviting the redeemed into a new creation and relationship with Him. And it is going to be the fulfillment of all JOY. But why not let that JOY start right now, today? It is why Jesus came – that we might know JOY now and forever.
God is with us and we are His people.
As a true believer, if JOY does not describe your life then something is wrong, something is missing – and it breaks Jesus’ heart for you to stay that way.
Phil 3:1 Rejoice in the Lord.
How do you rejoice in the Lord if you do not know the Lord? And if you do know the Lord – then there can only be rejoicing. How do you rejoice in the Lord if you do not see things about the Lord that cause JOY to rise up in your heart?
How do you rejoice in true JOY if you do not have the Holy Spirit – if you do not see just how beautiful Jesus is, in the Word, in the world, and in you? You need to know Him, you need to Encounter Him, you need to receive Him.
But here’s the beautiful truth for us today – we’ve seen how our JOY is only true JOY in God. Well, God’s JOY is in you. He is a God of JOY, and His greatest JOY is you! We are preparing to receive Him. He longs to receive you!
He longs to be your God and for you to be His people. And that comes with JOY.
And so I want to say again – as a true believer, if JOY does not describe your life then something is wrong, something is missing. And I bet you it’s because you are focusing on a circumstance, or a someone – rather than focusing on Jesus. You can have JOY with sadness. But you can not have JOY with bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, or a judgmental critical heart. God is not going to understand you explaining your lack of JOY by blaming it on anything or anyone in your life – when you can have Him. So trade your sorrow for JOY this Christmas.
He is worthy of all praise and love, He is worthy to live for and be fully alive.
For JOY is of Heaven, but JOY has come to us – the Gift of Christmas.