Advent Week 3: Joy

This is the third week of Advent and we are about to Joy.  This is the 3rd week of the Advent season which means we are closer to Christmas than any of us probably think we are.  The 3rd Sunday of Advent is also called “Rose Sunday” by some denominations.  Others call it “Joy Sunday.”  During the time of Advent, the church was at one time directed to fast during the daylight hours for at least 3 days of the week throughout the entirety of Advent.  However, on Rose Sunday, the practice was lifted and there would be a great feast to celebrate the Joy that Christ brings.  Today we are going to talk about that Joy.  I know the scripture isn’t printed in the bulletin this week and that’s my fault.  If you’d like to follow along, we are going to go to John 15:8-11.  I’ll give you a moment to get there. 

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

We’ve spent some time these last few weeks talking about the Israelite people in the time leading up to Christ.  However, if you go back to the Old Testament and search for stories and lessons on Joy, you will discover that they are few and far between.  King David talked about Joy when he was within God’s will.  However, David also spent much time outside of God’s will and thus without Joy.  Adam walked in the garden with God in the time following creation prior to the Fall.  During that time, Adam experienced true Joy.  A few weeks back I told you of the prophet Habakkuk and the Joy that he found on the eve of a disaster.  The Israelite people, those that had Hope, and sought Peace, longed for a time that they could have true Joy.

However, they never considered that Joy cannot be found outside of the presence of God.  They looked to other gods.  They forgot their creator.  When they did remember God, they begged for earthly things.  They wanted a Savior from the people that hurt them.  They never once stopped to consider that what was hurting them the most, was their own sin. 

During the time of Isaiah, where we find many of the prophecies of the coming Messiah, the Israelite people were still searching for their Joy.  They didn’t know that within a couple hundred years, Jerusalem would fall and they would enter a time where they would fall into the deepest darkness in their people’s history.  From this they began to really search for Joy from God.  They believed that they could crawl their way out of the depths of that darkness, but it would require a Messiah to put their nation back on top.  That waiting lasted almost 600 years.

So we find ourselves in the New Testament this week.  We turn to a story of Jesus as he nears the end of his ministry and time on Earth.  The Last Supper has been taken.  Jesus has washed his disciples’ feet and here he delivers his final message to his followers.  He speaks about many things during this sermon, but this passage is about completion.  Jesus is telling these people that they can now find true Joy because they have now seen God’s plan completed in Jesus.

They are finally seeing the whole story; not just part of it.  The entire Old Testament is only the beginning of the story.  All that these disciples know has been backstory.  That has been the setup, now is the conclusion.  Jesus is about to go and be crucified.  Until that moment, when Jesus dies on that cross, Joy was never an option.  Now, because of that sacrifice, it finally is possible for the Jewish people.

Has anyone seen the Pixar movie Inside Out?  It’s a great story about a young girl as she begins to manage her emotions as she becomes a teenager and has to deal with some typical family trauma.  What xmakes this story great is that you get to see all of the characters and personalities that go on in your head.  There’s Anger, Fear, Disgust, Sadness and Joy.  Up until this time in the girl’s life, they’ve each handled various “situations” in life by themselves.  If the girl needed to respond in anger, Anger would handle it.  If she needed to be afraid, Fear handled it.  It isn’t until the end of the movie that the character of Joy learns that she needs Sadness with her to make the experience truly fulfilling.  You see, up until that point, Joy had responded with happiness, but it took using Sadness to make the feelings of Joy complete. 

We are the same with God.  Up until the birth of our Savior, people had never truly experienced Joy unless they were in the presence of God himself.  Again, we think of Adam, walking beside God in the garden.  David, and his direct communion with God during his reign.  Habakkuk never actually had Joy, but he knew that Joy would come beyond this world.  Jesus took his disciples and told them that if they kept true to his teachings, and lived a life with God at its center, with the sacrifice of Christ at the head of that life, heavenly Joy could finally be their Joy.  Joy was complete in Christ.

So here we are today.  We are 2000 years after Jesus makes his sacrifice and, somehow, we are still seeking Joy in our lives.  So many people in the world today are looking for real Joy in their lives.  There are days and seasons of my own life that I have looked for Joy.  I didn’t think I would ever find it.  I’m sure that there are people in this church today that are searching for Joy.  They may smile and put on a cheerful face, but I’m guessing that face is covering pain.  Pain because they cannot find Joy in any part of their lives. 

If that is you here today, there is only one option for you to truly find your Joy; Jesus Christ.  If you cannot find Joy right now, you aren’t looking for Christ.  If you only find hurt and loss everywhere you turn, then you aren’t turning toward Christ.  Jesus completed the circle. Now we are able to experience the Joy that God can give us because of the birth then sacrifice of that baby we celebrate this time of year.  The best part of that is that God is searching and waiting for you.  Jesus in your life, God as your focus, will bring you Joy.  There is no other way.  Like the Israelite people, you can search the world for Joy.  You can put your faith in other places.  You can even deny that God is even there.  However, if you choose to search for Joy in these ways, you will never find it.  You may find temporary happiness, but true and lasting Joy is only available in one place and that place is in that manger, in that barn, in Bethlehem.  Jesus in your life creates Joy.