The Advent Candle of Joy

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FIVE CANDLES AT CHRISTMAS (An Advent Wreath Sermon Series)
“The Advent Candle of Joy” (Luke 2:8-12)

INTRODUCTION: Today is the third Sunday of Advent, and we are working our way around the various candles of the Advent Wreath. We have seen that the first candle represents hope, and the second candle represents peace. Today we come to the third candle on the wreath.

Now you may have noticed that one of the outside candles is a different color from the other three. There are three purple candles around the outside of the wreath and one pink candle. The pink candle is the third candle of advent which represents joy.

The traditional reading for the third Sunday of Advent comes from Philippians 4:4 which says: “Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again, rejoice!” As a result, the third Sunday of Advent was set aside as a special Sunday, often called Gaudete Sunday after the Latin word for “rejoice.”

We will be looking at a number of Scriptures this morning relating to Christmas and joy, but we will begin with these verses from Luke 2. (Read Luke 2:8-12)

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One of the things people love about Christmas is that it truly is a joyful season. All season long we celebrate with music and song and lights and decorations. We celebrate by getting together with family and friends and by exchanging gifts. It is a joyful time of year.

But I can’t help feeling that sometimes the world hijacks their joy in the season from the true joy at the center of Christmas. Because when you come right down to it, the real joy at Christmas comes not from the lights and the decorations and the music but from the meaning of Christmas.

At the heart of Christmas is the astoundingly good news that Jesus Christ was born as a Savior into this world. From beginning to end the Christmas story is punctuated with various outbursts and moments of joy, and they all center around the birth of Christ. You can’t get away from it. You can’t get around it. You can’t spell Christmas without Christ, and you can’t enter into the true joy of the season without Jesus.

This morning I want us to consider three truths about joy at Christmas. 1) Jesus brings the joy of salvation. 2) Joy leads to proclamation. 3) Joy leads to praise. All three of these truths are found right in the very Scripture passages which tell us the Christmas story, and so all three of these truths together capture the true meaning of joy at Christmas.

I. Jesus brings the joy of salvation
   – Psalm 51:12; Isaiah 12:3; Matthew 2:9-10; Luke 1:39-45

First of all, Jesus brings the joy of salvation. Now Jesus brings joy in so many areas of life, but the joy that is especially associated with Christ’s birth is the joy of salvation. We already saw last week that Jesus’ very name means salvation, and this week I want us to see the connection that the Bible makes between salvation and joy.

For example, we read David’s prayer to the Lord in Psalm 51:12: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” (Psalm 51:12) David wrote this Psalm after committing adultery with Bathsheba. David had sinned greatly against God, but he still understood the connection between salvation and joy. He repented of his sin. He asked God’s forgiveness and asked God to restore to him the joy of his salvation.

We find the same connection between salvation and joy in Isaiah 12:3 where Isaiah writes: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3) What a beautiful image! In this passage Isaiah is prophesying about the second coming of Christ, which as we have seen is a large part of the focus of the Advent season. Advent not only reminds us of Christ’s first coming, but also helps us as we anticipate Christ’s second coming.

Last week we looked at Isaiah 11 where we saw that when Christ returns he will bring peace on earth, a peace that includes not only peace among the nations but extends even to nature and the animal kingdom. Now Isaiah follows that up with Isaiah 12 by speaking of God’s salvation and the joy that accompanies his salvation.

There is no true joy without salvation, and there is no true salvation without joy. The two go together, and they especially go together in those Scriptures which tell us the Christmas story.

For example, we read in the gospel of Luke how when Mary was pregnant with Jesus she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth was also pregnant at this time with John the Baptist. We read in Luke 1:

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:39-45)

I love this scene. Mary enters the house, and John the Baptist, who was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb, starts jumping for joy! Why? Because as Elizabeth put it, Mary was the mother of her Lord! Jesus is Lord, Mary was Jesus’ mother, and John was in close proximity with Jesus who had come to bring salvation for his people. And so John begins jumping with joy in his mother’s womb.

And you might wonder, how is that possible? Well, it’s because he was filled with the Holy Spirit. You have two of the members of the Trinity here in one house. You have God the Spirit filling John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb and God the Son growing as a child in Mary’s womb.

Now the Holy Spirit’s role is to glorify Jesus as Savior. That’s what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit’s job is to get excited about Jesus! And so when Jesus enters the house in Mary’s womb, John the Baptist who is filled with the Holy Spirit gets excited about Jesus because the Savior has come.

Another great example of Jesus bringing the joy of salvation is the wise men in the gospel of Matthew. They traveled a great distance just to see the Messiah and to worship him. They had seen his star in the east, but they didn’t know exactly where he was to be born, so they stopped in Jerusalem along the way to ask King Herod for additional information. We read in Matthew 2:

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” (Matthew 2:9-10)

Once again they rejoiced to find the place where Jesus was born. Why? Because Jesus was the Messiah who had come to bring salvation to his people.

Salvation and joy belong together, and joy and Christmas belong together, because Jesus came at Christmas to bring us joy, especially the joy of salvation. So that’s our first point this morning. Jesus brings the joy of salvation.

II. Joy leads to proclamation
   – Luke 2:8-12, 15-18

Secondly, joy leads to proclamation. Jesus brings the joy of salvation, and that joy leads us to share the good news of Jesus with others. We find this truth demonstrated for us in the story of the angels and the shepherds. For example, we read in Luke 2:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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 Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)

Notice the news about Jesus’ birth is not only news, it is good news! And it is not only good news, it is good news of joy! And it is not only good news of joy, it is good news of great joy! And it is not only good news of great joy, it is good news of great joy for all the people! But how will all the people know about this good news of great joy unless we share it with them?

We share good news with each other all the time. When something good happens, we talk about it with our friends at work or at school. We post it on Facebook. When the good news is the birth of a baby, we especially share it with others, don’t we? We take pictures and send out birth announcements. We are filled with joy at the birth of a child, and that joy naturally leads to proclamation. We want everyone to know and share in our joy.

Well, if we tell everyone about the birth of our own babies, how much more should we proclaim the birth of God’s Son! Good news is for sharing, and there is no better news than the news the angels shared with the shepherds that first Christmas Eve: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

So what did the shepherds do after they received this good news of great joy that was for all the people? Let’s find out! Picking up the story in Luke 2:15:

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” (Luke 2:15-18)

When the shepherds heard this good news of great joy that was for all the people, first they checked it out for themselves and found everything just as the angel had told them. And after they had checked it out for themselves, what did they do? They spread the word to others. Why? Because good news is for sharing! This was good news of great joy for all the people, and it would have been wrong for them to keep it to themselves. Joy leads to proclamation.

III. Joy leads to praise
   – Luke 1:46-49, 2:20

1) Jesus brings the joy of salvation. 2) Joy leads to proclamation. And then thirdly: 3) Joy leads to praise. We find this truth demonstrated for us in two examples from the Christmas story. The first example is Mary after she hears the words of prophecy from Elizabeth that we looked at earlier in the message. Mary was filled with joy and wonder as her cousin Elizabeth spoke words of blessing and favor over her and the child she carried in her womb. Her joy could not be contained, and so then she burst out in a song of praise.

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49)

We often call this “Mary’s Song” or “The Magnificat,” as Mary magnifies or glorifies the Lord for choosing her to be the mother of Jesus. And notice that this joy still has to do with salvation. Mary rejoices in God her Savior. She is filled with joy at God’s goodness to her, and her joy bubbles over into praise.

And then we find this same pattern also with the shepherds when they returned from sharing the good news of Jesus with the people in the town. We read in Luke 2:20:

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:20)

Joy leads to proclamation, so they went out and spread the word about Jesus and his birth. But joy also leads to praise, and so they returned glorifying and praising God. God chose them to be eyewitnesses to the birth of Christ, and they would never forget the things they had heard and seen that night, which were just as they had been told.

CONCLUSION: And so the third candle, the pink candle, the advent candle of joy reminds us of these three important aspects of joy relating to Christmas. 1) Jesus brings the joy of salvation. 2) Joy leads to proclamation. 3) Joy leads to praise. And these three aspects of joy at Christmas also become three application points for us as we respond to the message this morning.

First of all, Jesus brings the joy of salvation. Do you know Christ as your Savior? Do you know the joy that comes from having Christ as your friend and having your sins forgiven? Do you know the joy of being restored to right relationship with God through Christ the Savior? The message that the angel gave to the shepherds that first Christmas night is just as applicable to you two thousand years later, right here, right now: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) There is no true joy without salvation, and there is no true salvation without joy. Jesus is the reason for the season, and if you have never trusted Jesus as your Savior, then you are missing out on the true joy of Christmas.

Secondly, joy leads to proclamation. If you do know Jesus as your Savior, then you need to spread the word! How many people have you told about Jesus this Christmas season? You don’t need to be a trained theologian to share Christ with others. Just tell them that Christmas is all about the birth of Christ who came to be our Savior. Tell them Jesus died on the cross for their sins so they could be forgiven. Tell them Jesus rose from the dead and that he is alive today. Tell them Jesus is coming back to bring peace on earth. That’s all very good news, and remember, good news is for sharing. If you know Jesus as your Savior, then you know the joy of salvation, and joy leads to proclamation.

And then finally joy leads to praise. Praise God every day for your salvation. Praise him for his amazing grace. Praise him for his great love in sending his Son, Jesus, to be your Savior. Praise him for his goodness and kindness in forgiving your sins. Praise him for the miracle of the incarnation at Christmas, that God the Son took on human flesh and was born into our world as a little baby. Remember Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3) And so let me encourage you this morning, with great joy draw great buckets of praise from the great reservoir of blessings that God has given you in your salvation.

Are you filled with joy this Christmas season? You should be! Because God is good, Christ has come, and salvation is yours for the asking. Christmas is all about joy, because joy comes from Jesus, and Christmas is all about him.

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