Joy to the World

While I certainly wish I could take credit for the article below, it is actually a sermon from Jeff Wallace, Pastor of the Dyers Creek Church of God, Dover, TN.  Pastor Wallace delivered this message on December 2, 2007.  When it was forwarded to me in an email my immediate reaction was that I had to share this powerful message.  Please read it, let it soak in to the very depths of your being and live it out everyday of your life.  Celebrate the reason for the season and proclaim the victory that is won by knowing the one and only Son of God Jesus Christ!

– Thunder

“and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.  Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ So she went to inquire of the LORD.  The LORD said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.’  When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb.  The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.  Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.  The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents.  Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” Genesis 25:20-28

The young mother was running furiously from store to store trying to purchase those last-minute gifts. Suddenly she realized she’d lost track of her little three-year-old son. In a panic, she retraced her steps and finally found him standing with his little nose pressed flatly against a frosty window—gazing at a manger scene. When he heard his mother frantically call his name, he turned and shouted in innocent glee: “Look Mommy! It’s Jesus! It’s baby Jesus in the hay!” The harried mom grabbed his arm and jerked him away, snapping, “We don’t have time for all that! Can’t you see Mommy’s trying to get ready for Christmas?”
It’s easy to see the humor in that mom’s statement, but there are also two strong bits of sadness in this story. First, she was so busy with her shopping that she lost track of the whereabouts of her own little boy. Clearly, her focus wasn’t in the right place. And second, it was the three-year-old—and not the adult—who not only knew about but was also acting on his knowledge of the real meaning of Christmastime—once again proving that the mom’s focus wasn’t in the right place.

I wonder how many of us approach the Christmas holiday in almost the same way? How many of us become so distracted by the decorating and TV special-watching and gift-buying and baking and office parties and family parties and even church parties that we miss out on the actual reason for the season? I mean really, how often will you slow down enough to stop and gaze and ponder the birth of a baby that would bring salvation not only to you but also to the whole world? Will you—even once—be like Simeon who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel and think about these descriptive words when he finally saw the Christ child: “God, you can now release your servant; release me in peace as you promised. With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation; it’s now out in the open for everyone to see: A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations and of glory for Your people Israel”? How often will you really wonder about the words of the carols that you hear and sing? How often will your Christmas celebration usher you into worship of the King of kings? The truth is there will be a lot of people who will consider worshiping Jesus as an interruption of His birthday celebration! Will you be one of those?

Advent is about expectation—the expectation of Emmanuel, of God coming here to be with us, to teach us and to save us. It is the expectation of the birth of a child and how that one solitary child can change the course of the whole world by the love and grace and mercy of His own sacrifice. All of which is why this biblical story about the birth of twins reminds me so much of the advent season; it’s all about the expectation of what’s to come—or more appropriately, who is to come.

Isaac grew up knowing about the covenant God gave to his father Abraham. He too was a part of that covenant. But after he married Rebekah, it seemed the covenant was in danger again. Rebekah, like Isaac’s own mother Sarah had been, was barren—was unable to have children. No doubt Rebekah also knew about God’s covenant and her role in bearing a son that would continue God’s promise of many descendant nations. But how could such a thing happen if she was barren? She and Isaac waited and waited for a sign of her pregnancy, but no sign came. Could it be that God would not fulfill His promise?
It’s interesting that both Sarah and Rebekah were initially thought to be barren. It just goes to show that even as God was from the start forming His chosen people, He wanted to prove—He wanted them to know—that the children of the promise were not simply the fruit of nature but were also the fruit of His gift of grace. This chosen nation would not become great because of its people’s efforts and accomplishments; it would become great because of the fulfillment of God’s loving and graceful promises.

And so it was in the midst of their anxieties that Isaac earnestly prayed to the Lord, and God answered his prayer. And just as there should be any time we learn that God’s promise is on the way—just as we should whenever we hear that another precious baby will soon be born—there was a joyous celebration! It was like they were singing the old Three Dog Night hit song: “Joy to the world / All the boys and girls now / Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea / Joy to you and me.”
But Rebekah’s was not a normal pregnancy: complications began; there was an internal commotion within her womb that was more than the normal kicking and moving around. In fact it reached such severity that Rebekah said, “If this is the way it’s going to be, why go on living?” In other words, she wanted to know that if this was the will of God, why was she having such problems with her pregnancy. Fearing either dying herself or losing her baby, she went to God to find out what was going on—a very good thing to do!

Have you ever done that? Have you sought out the Lord to try to figure out what was happening and why? Surely all of us have faced situations when we ask, “God, if I really am in your will, why in the world is all this happening to me? Why, if I’m doing what You want me to do, am I in the middle of this trial?”
Rebekah got an answer, but I doubt seriously that it was the one she expected. She was told that she was carrying twins and that those twins were already tussling in her womb. She was told that each of these baby boys would form a separate nation. Then it was hinted at that the older son would turn aside from the family’s values and in the process forfeit God’s blessing in missed opportunities. And it was also hinted that the younger son would try to take his destiny into his own hands but would in time so wrestle with God that the covenant would be continued through him. It was all kind of like that bumper sticker says: “We are born naked, wet, and hungry—then things get worse!”

For most people, Christmas ends up being a time of unmet expectations—primarily because they expect to be fulfilled through things or wealth or stuff or even through another person. And to get real honest about it, some of you may even feel that God hasn’t met your expectations. Some of you became Christians but almost right away God allowed some circumstances to crash into your life that have caused you to think to yourselves, This simply isn’t what I bargained for. Some of you feel that God promised you something you haven’t received yet. Some of you feel that even though you’re striving to be in the center of His will, you’re still facing almost overwhelming obstacles. Someone hurt you, someone upset your applecart, someone caused you great pain, and now, like Rebekah, you’re asking, “If this is the way it’s going to be, why go on living?” No, we don’t always understand the things we go through; sometimes it doesn’t make any sense at all; sometimes it just seems downright unfair; sometimes we wonder what God has against us.

I’m not going to stand before you and pretend to know why God lets some things happen or why He doesn’t intervene sooner. But I will stand before you and on the authority of God’s Word tell you that God is still in control of your life! I will tell you that when you seem to have lost control, God has taken control! I will tell you that when you lose your composure, God still has His! I will tell you that God knows where you’ve been, He knows where you are now, and He’s already made plans for where He wants to take you. And there’s not a devil in hell that’s able to stop God’s ultimate plan for you if you’ll keep the faith and continue being obedient to His will. What He says, He will bring to pass just as He did with Jesus Christ being born in Bethlehem—all in His time.

Always remember these three things about God: He always has a purpose; He always has a reason; and He always has a plan. The path He has for you won’t always be straight. Some will be smooth, some will be rough, some will be hilly, some will be flat. But you must stay on the path if you plan to make your destination. Stay the course, and keep the faith. Be patient in your storm, for He will come walking on the water. Be patient in your fiery trial, for He’ll be with you in the flames. Be patient in your pain, for He will give you a song in the night. Be patient in all your discomforts, for He will bring rest to your soul. Be patient with your burdens, for He will take them up and carry them for you.

Learn to allow God to have complete control of your life even when you can’t see the way—knowing that He can see the way. Learn to relax in His presence, allowing Him to work on you in the way He sees best. You won’t always know what His plan for your life is. Indeed, you won’t know but what this storm or this trial or this temptation or this situation is in actuality God’s preparation to take you into greater and better things in your life. Just walk in obedience to Him. Live in His presence. Trust in His direction. Be patient with His will. And Christ will not only be born again in you this season, but He will also live out His life on earth again through you.

Let us pray: Come to us again, high King of heaven! Come to us again in spirit and in truth. Bring life to us who are weary with misery. Bring peace to us who are overcome with weeping, whose cheeks are covered with bitter salt tears. Seek us out, who are lost in the darkness of depression. Do not forget us, but show grace and mercy on us. Impart to us Your everlasting joy, so that we, who are fashioned by Your hands, may praise Your glory not only in this, the season of Advent, but also in each and every season of our lives. For Your glory and in Your name, we pray.

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