DISCOVERING THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS

Message by Rev. Erny McDonough
Fisherman’s Chapel, Port O’Connor, Texas

Luke 2:8 – 12(8) And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. (9)An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (10) 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. (11) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. (12) This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

Intro: Have you ever thrown out a gift with the Christmas wrappings? I remember once when we were having a family Christmas, a special gift for our son was inadvertently gathered up with the discarded wrappings and thrown in the trash. It was not discovered until we were receiving thanks for what he had received. Since we try to teach thankfulness for every blessing, when he failed to mention this one small gift, we pressed him and learned that he had not opened it. Yes!, I dug through the trash until I found the gift and allowed him to receive one of his toys that he had requested in his Christmas list!

Have you ever felt like that has happened to you? Maybe in your marriage, or with your family! Maybe at your job or with your career! Maybe with a friendship that you cherished! Maybe in your spiritual life and your relationship with the Lord! Has that happened to you with Christmas? You feel that things have just been thrown out as if it were only the trash of life! You are left with the holiday, without the feeling the heart of Christmas!

I. Christmas Is Not Always Happy For Everyone!

Problems do not mysteriously take a leave for the holidays! The doctors and hospitals seem as busy as ever! Family finances, already tight, grow ever tighter as people spend even more freely to provide gifts for those they love! Marriages and families still struggle with the same tensions and stress as before, maybe even heightened a bit by unrealistic expectations of picture-perfect holidays. But, whatever your present circumstance, if you go to the true heart of Christmas, you will discover real JOY, just as the shepherds did!

II. There Is A Great Difference Between Happiness And Joy!

I think it is important to differentiate between happiness and joy, although I have preached on this topic several times before. They both feel similar when we are experiencing them, but when we examine their source, they are distinctly different. Happiness is an emotion that is connected to “what’s happening.” The emotion is directly related to our present situation, whether perceived as good or bad, desirable or undesirable, pleasant or painful. Because we do not control much of our circumstances, we do not have much choice in our happiness, unless we find a source unrelated to things of the moment!

Joy, true joy, is more a conviction than an emotion! Admittedly and wonderfully, JOY is emotional, but its source is found well beyond the moment. Joy that is at the heart of Christmas is the product of our conviction about our past, the present, and our future! It has a much more broad and substantial basis than happiness. Joy balances on the strong reality of the unchanging faithfulness and provision of God Himself!

III. Our Past Has Been Settled In Christ Jesus!

We will discover joy at the heart of Christmas when we possess a firm conviction that our past has been settled in Jesus! Jesus has forgiven our sins and given us the gift of eternal life. The past is past! Until that is true, our experience, and expression of joy, will come and go as our spiritual confidence does! Salvation is at the heart of joy! David prayed, (Ps.51:10-12) “Renew a right spirit within me … restore unto me the joy of Your salvation.”

IV. Our Present Is Satisfying In Christ The Lord!

We will discover the joy at the heart of Christmas when we have the conviction that our present experiences with ultimately be used for God’s glory and will be for our good! When we are walking with the Lord daily, confident that He is near to us, and we are dear to Him, then what surrounds us at the moment will not engulf nor overwhelm us! (Ps.16:11) “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of Joy, at Your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

V. Our Future Is Exciting In The Glorious King Jesus!

In my childhood, as I remember it, almost every other message from our pastor was concerning the Second Coming of Jesus! It seems that in every song service, we sang about Jesus coming again! Maybe because we were poorer we wanted to see Jesus sooner! Maybe because our lives were simple, but hard, we were expecting our reward! Maybe because we had not accumulated so much of the world’s goods that we were looking for the streets of gold and gates of pearl! We did have a spiritual orientation about Heaven waiting for us and that brought incredible assurance and Joy! We sang those songs and “amen-ed” those sermons with conviction and with gusto! We need to return to that Joy of knowing that Jesus first came as a Baby in a Manger, but will return as King of kings and Lord of lords!

Conclusion: We will discover Joy at the heart of Christmas when we have a clear conviction that our future is secure in God’s hands, both in this life now and in eternity! (II Tim 1:12) “I know Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

The shortest path to our personal Christmas Joy is to find someone who most needs to discover the heart of Christmas, and include them in yours! Include someone from your work or in your neighborhood in the joy of our celebrations of the Chapel this Christmas Season!

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come; let earth receive her King!”

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