Today we want to talk about Capturing Joy in a Crowded Season. At Christmastime, doesn’t that sound like the Impossible Dream? Look around us, we are already crowded.
Are you overwhelmed yet? And I haven’t even talked about your grocery list yet. It is a crowded season especially for us as women. There are other things that crowd our season. Things like
THIS IS A CROWDED SEASON…FOR ALL OF US
Let me ask you a question: I want you to think about the answer and then tell the answer to the person sitting next to you. Only going to take a minute, don’t tell your life story.
“Who or What might potentially “crowd” your Christmas this year?
Save that answer, we’re going to come back to it. We all are going to have a crowded season. But I believe we also all have an opportunity to capture joy, incredible, wonderful joy- “the good news of great joy”
So, let’s read about another crowded season READ Luke 2:1-7
JESUS was born into a Crowded world- There were so many people that Caesar Augustus wanted to count them. Imagine the traffic on the roads with everyone trying to get “home’ for the census. Picture the Lines that you would have had to stand in to fill out the forms. Where would you get food? or clothes or a doctor? When they show pictures of people sleeping in the airports during the holidays, the immense number of travelers, I think of the world that Christ was born in. A world crowded with people.
Ie Olivia’s story “too many people in my room”
On night when my granddaughter was little, I was tucking her into bed. We had read the story, said our prayers and were about to turn off the light when her mother came in and sat on the end of the bed and wanted to say goodnight. Then her brother came in and did the same, followed by her dad and granddad. Her little room and bed got very crowded and she was sleepy. Into the noise of everyone talking she said “There’s too many people in my room”! We couldn’t help but laugh and then leave but when I read the story of Mary and Joseph I’m sure they felt like Olivia …
There were too many people in Bethlehem too, too many for Mary and Joseph to find a hotel. The Inn had too many people, it was too crowded to give them a room. And yet, into this crowded space and time, Jesus comes and is born, his birth brings “great joy for all people.”
Truth: Our joy does not come from the absence of a crowded season, but our joy comes in the midst of it. You and I will not be insulated from this crowded, frantic Christmas season, we will live in the middle of it.
So the question becomes How do we, surrounded by the season, capture the joy that Christ came to bring?
I believe the answer is in the Story itself. The Scriptures tell us. Woven throughout the birth narrative are smaller stories of people impacted by the birth of Christ. Tonight I’d like to narrow our focus to 3 groups of people that show us 3 different ways we can Capture Christmas Joy.
When Jesus was eight days old, he was taken to the temple to be consecrated to the Lord fulfilling what was required by the Law of Moses. Many Jews at this time were looking for the Messiah to come. Some believed a great Ruler would descend on the earth and overthrow all their enemies. But in contrast to them, there were also a few people who were known as “The Quiet in the Land”. These people had a different view of Messiah. They didn’t dream of armies but instead were Jews who lived a life of quiet prayer and faithful watchfulness until God would reveal His Messiah. This very day that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple, there was a devout elderly man named Simeon who had been told by the Spirit of God that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. Along with Simeon was an elderly widow named Anna. Listen to what happens
READ Luke 2:27-32: 36-38
They discovered what they had been looking for all their lives. When they saw Him they knew this was the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah. The word ”Knowing” here is not only an intellectual assent to a fact or to a proposition, like “ I know how to speak Spanish, or I know the name of the President of France” This knowing is that and much more. It is believing, trusting and putting one’s faith and hope in, knowing in the very deepest part of me, embracing with all my heart. Discovering Christ for yourself is believing that He is who He said He was. The Son of God, come to earth to be the Savior of all. Jesus, the unique God/Man, fully God and fully Man come to earth to redeem us from our sins. Receiving Christ is saying to God, I am a sinner- I am not perfect, no matter how good I try to be, I need a Savior, I trust that Christ to be my Savior and Lord.
That is the good news, the true Christmas Story.
Will Willimon writes about the contrast between the story of Christmas written by Charles Dickens and the one found in Luke’s gospel. In the Christmas Carol, Dickens tells us how we should give to others (and that’s good) but in Luke, we learn how essential it is to see ourselves first as receivers. That’s tough, we’d rather see ourselves as capable, self-sufficient, generous, caring givers. But the gospel, the good news, is for poor, needy, empty people who open their hands to the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Have you ever done that? Have you ever trusted Christ? Discovered Him?
Ie: I was raised in a Christian home, baptized, faithful in my church attendance, but it wasn’t until I was grown and married that I understood, none of those things enabled me to truly “know Christ.” I had a religion but no relationship with God. When I put aside trying to control my own life, when I put my faith, trust in Christ- I came to Know Him. Do you know Him?
Joy in this crowded Christmas season, first comes with Discovering Christ, personally knowing the One whose birth we celebrate.
Meister Eckhart “The eternal birth must take place in you”
In a group like this, many of you have Discovered Him. Many of you have come to know Him, many of you have received Him as your Savior. But I think our challenge in this crowded season is to remember that no matter how long you have been a Christ follower, Jesus calls us to be “poor in spirit,” meaning to be continually dependent on Him. To release the daily the control of our lives to Him. The call for those of us who have received Him is to come to Know Him more.
Phil 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings becoming like Him.
Christmas= Christ- Mas= More Christ
The reason we want to Know Him more is to become like Him, to expand our faith, to grow up in Christ. This is the life of the passionate disciple.
Ie: Several years ago, we were in Israel and at the hotel we were staying there was a wedding outside in the courtyard below our room. As we walked by, in the breezeway we stopped and watched the ceremony- it was all just open. After they were married, the groom and the bride were carried around the terrace high up on chairs with everyone dancing, as they came by where we were, they tried to pull us into the dance- they wanted us to join them, spontaneous invitation. In a sense, we went to their wedding, but we didn’t know who they were and we couldn’t speak their language. We didn’t know them. Their wedding, as beautiful as it was, had little meaning for us. It is a nice memory, but it can’t in any way compare to the weddings of my daughter, daughters-in-law, my sons, who I intimately know and deeply love.
Christmas Joy is like this. Joy in Knowing Him, knowing intimately why we celebrate this time of year.
But I do believe you can Know Him and still fail to Capture Joy in our crowded season. That brings us to another story. Along with Discovering Christ, there is a call on our lives to…
The Scriptures are unclear how much time passes between the birth and the visit of the Magi. We know that Wise Men “from the East” saw a star, a unique star that indicated to them a Jewish King had been born. They traveled to Jerusalem to get information, asked where were they to go to find this baby? They were told to go to Bethlehem. In Bethlehem, a ruler would be born who would be “the shepherd of the people Israel”
READ Matthew 2:1-11
Soren Kierkegaard makes this interesting observation about the scribes in Jerusalem. They
Could explain where Messiah should be born but they stayed in Jerusalem. They did not accompany the Wise Men to seek Him. Similarly we may know the whole of Christianity, yet make no movement…what a difference! The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it moved them to make that long journey. The scribes were much better informed, much better versed. They sat and studied the Scriptures, but it did not make them move.”
The scribes knew but they did not seek, they knew but they did not adore, they knew but they did not treasure This could be true of us too. For us, this season, we must Know the Christ Child, be born anew with His Spirit but there is more. It was the Wise Men who pursued, continued to travel to find this new King. And when they found Him, they worshiped Him, gave Him gifts, they adored Him, they treasured Him.
I like this word TREASURE especially during this season. Most of us receive gifts at Christmas, among those gifts only a few become treasures to us. I treasure an angel that my daughter-in-law gave me the first Christmas she spent with our family- it has great meaning for both of us. I treasure a small Christmas tree pin my niece gave me about 10 years ago. I treasure this gold band my husband gave me many Christmases ago. Many gifts but few treasures. I’m sure that you have special gifts: large or small, that you treasure as well. However, God’s gift to us of His Son is His treasure to us, given so that we may Discover Him and Treasure Him.
You may ask How do we treasure Christ? The Wise Men started the giving tradition that we continue at Christmas. They gave from hearts of worship because Giving is the natural overflow of worshipping hearts. Look at the Wise Men. When they found Him, they were overjoyed, filled with joy- this very same joy that we want to capture this season- bowed down and worshiped Him, they adored Him, they honored Him with their gifts.
All of us can take the opportunity to offer our worship to Christ corporately in our local churches. But we also give to Christ our adoration in quiet private times of prayer and reflection. Those times RESTORE our SOULS and allow us to take deep breaths of JOY in a Crowded Season.
I know how difficult it is for young mothers or working women, seems impossible. Maybe you only have 5 minutes or maybe it’s an hour. Whatever, Devote that time to thinking about Him, telling Him how much you love Him, giving Him thanks. Pray about that Christmas list and the people on it. Your day will be different.
Some of the things that help me to treasure Christ:
Simple ways, but intentional.
What are some ways you can treasure Christ this season? Perhaps you could share with others ways that help you treasure Christ at Christmas.
Discovering Him and Treasuring Him leads us to another part of Christmas joy. During this season like no other we have opportunities in our family, with our friends and with complete strangers to talk about Jesus. To
To share the good news, to share the joy that knowing Christ brings, to share Him with others who may be frazzled, lonely or desperate for a glimpse of True Christmas Joy.
Let’s look back in the story to the first ones to share the transformation power of His birth.
READ Luke 2:8-20
This little baby boy born into a crowded world, at a crowded season of time, invades our universe, calls to us to Know Him as our Savior, He is born so that we are born anew. He is worthy of all our adoration, a treasured King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And this good news is to be shared.
The shepherds were the first to hear the news, they hurried, they ran “to see” about “this thing” the angels spoke of, as soon as they saw, they went and shared with others.
Martin Luther writes
(the fact) That there were shepherds means that no one is to hear the Gospel for himself alone, but everyone is to tell it to others who are not acquainted with it.
I have a beautiful, beaded silk pashmina, multi-colored with long black tassels. It’s one of my favorite things. I keep it wrapped up in tissue paper in a drawer so nothing can happen to it. It is precious to me, I love it. If you were to open that drawer you would see the tissue paper but you would have to unwrap it to see its beauty. Many of us keep our faith wrapped up in tissue paper and no one really sees the love we have for Christ because we don’t share it. We keep it hidden, private.
But if you know Him, and you treasure Him, you have a story to share with others. It’s how your own life story has been changed by Christ’s birth, His life, death and resurrection.
There’s an old saying “ Share the gospel everyday in all you do, wherever you are, when necessary use words.”
That implies that we are sharing the good news everyday with our actions. I know that this crowded season will give you and give me numerous opportunities to serve as Christ to others, to give ourselves away, to embody and reflect the Incarnation of Christ, the Christ who is born in us, is manifested to a watching world. Can you think of WHO in your circle of family and friends needs to hear or be shown the Love OF CHRIST?
Truth: This is Radical Christianity: it is in the giving of ourselves to others that we receive great JOY. This is where true, lasting joy will be found. This is not news to you. We all have felt the warmth inside when we’ve been able to help someone else, done a good deed. Radical Christianity calls us to give when it’s not convenient, when it’s not easy, when it hurts or costs us, when we have busy schedules, many demands, and no time to spare.
We’re to share Christ, to be like Christ in a crowded season.
Illustration: I know all of us wrestle with situations that catch us off guard, situations we didn’t plan or abruptly confront us. A few weeks ago, I had an encounter with a homeless woman. She wanted money to buy food. After I said no and walked on to buy my lunch, I was compelled to turn back. I offered to buy her food instead of giving $. We went into a sandwich shop and I told her she could pick out anything to eat and drink. She thanked me and went outside to sit down and have her lunch. In a hurry, I got in my car and started to eat my sandwich. As I drove off I was feeling pretty good, when God impressed my thoughts “you could have stayed and eaten with her, heard her story, prayed for her…that would have been great Joy.”
Do you remember the question I asked you earlier?
“Who or What might “crowd” your Christmas this year?
Whatever your answer, the Truth is all of us will have a crowded Christmas ahead. But what will you do to Capture Joy in the midst?
Jesus teaches “we reap what we sow”…my kids like to say “what goes around, comes around”
When you choose to Discover Christ, to Treasure Him and to Share His love with others, it doesn’t matter how crowded your Christmas becomes, for you will capture the true Joy of the season.
I wonder if you will “reawaken” your commitment to Discover Him, To Worship and Treasure Him, and Share His love serving others this season- to have the Birth of Christ lived out in you- true Joy, eternal Joy, the Joy of the Good news of Glad tidings for all people.
Will you, surrounded by the crowded season, capture the joy that Christ came to bring?