Message by Rev. Erny McDonough
Fisherman’s Chapel, Port O’Connor, Texas
Luke 2:10 “The angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Intro: How can we celebrate the first coming of our Lord into human life with the joy that we should when we live in a gangsters’ world – a terrorist’s world?
Christ came to free us from the spiritual gangsters who hold us hostage from hope. He restores our sense of human worth – significance. He offers us forgiveness from our sins. He provides for us fulfillment as persons!
I. The Problem Of Happiness Is In The Pursuit!
How often we hear quoted, or we quote for ourselves, the words about our constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We Christians believe happiness is a gift from God! Why is this happiness so elusive for us?
A. For one thing, we look for happiness to produce joy! Happiness is a result of happenings! Joy is one facet of the Holy Spirit’s fruit operating in our lives! Happiness will rise and fall according to the happenings around us – joy will be there when everything is caving in on us!
B. We seek happiness in the wrong places! Some are always straining to find happiness and will seek it anywhere someone suggests! The bars will be filled tonight and there will be a lot of laughter, but Christmas morning will produce fighting and angry exchanges for gifts!
C. We often identify happiness as a cushioned life! As long as I have it my way, I can be happy! But, can any of us think of one person who truly has it “my way?”
D. Happiness is elusive because it is a purely selfish pursuit! I don’t care whose life I mess up along life’s journey as long as I get what I want!
E. A life filled with happiness is only a dream – never reality! I know people who will never find many things in this life because their expectations are totally unrealistic! Happiness is sensual! Senses are dulled by constant use! A life based upon stroking our human desires soon runs out of new places to stroke!
F. Life’s greatest tragedy is a joyless life! Yet, the person who makes life a constant mission of seeking happiness instead of joy will never find happiness! Happiness is always a by-product of something else!
II. The Answer Is In Christ!
A. If the problem of experiencing joy in life is found in our efforts to pursue happiness, the answer to the problem comes to us with the joyous assurance which Christmas brings – I bring you good news of great joy … It is God’s gift to all who will receive it!
B. The emphasis of the New Testament is on joy, not on sorrow! On the Day of Pentecost, Christians who had been confused and sorrowing over the loss of their leader were having such a great joyous time that some accused them of being drunk on new wine! The tragedy of the Cross had turned into the Triumph of the Resurrection. There were joy filled people who spread the joyful news of the resurrection all over the world. Remember Jesus final discourse with His Disciples – “These things have I spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full!”
C. If the answer to our joy is in Christ, what does He provide for us out of which joy comes?
1. Inner stability! Faith in Jesus and in His abilities to work in our lives offers us no outer security against the storms of life, but promises an Abiding Presence in the middle of the storms!
2. Life-giving hope! Joy is always a by-product of holiness! Another word for holiness is wholeness! God in Christ provides for us the fulfillment of total self. In no other way can we be fully alive, totally aware, and completely fulfilled!
3. Usefulness of vital love! Jesus lives and taught the fact that the highest form of human joy is found in self-forgetting devotion to something beyond self! We do not live very long before we discover that self-seeking is self-defeating and never really leads us to joy. What a joy to see stars dance in your child’s eyes on Christmas morning. What a thrill to have provided a catch-in-the-voice response of a loved one at her response to the beauty and love of your modest gift! That is the redemptive usefulness of a vital love! It moves on from the seeker after gifts to the one who becomes the giver of gifts. It saves us from self-seeking and leads us into the joyful realm of self-forgetful devotion to someone or something beyond self.
Conclusion: I know people who will never find love in this life because they do not know what true love is! I know people who will never find joy because they do not know what joy truly is! Joy is a by-product of giving and not in receiving! Joy is only found as we allow the Baby in the Manger to become truly Lord of our lives!
~ Pastor Erny