Joy That Lasts

Stefan Nitzschke December 17, 2017 Luke 2

Intro:

I would like everyone to try to recall a time in your life where you experienced a great amount of joy

While you are thinking for yourself, I’ll tell you a few occasions that come to mind for me:

My Wedding day was definitely up there

The days that my sons were born were also very joy-filled days

And if we were on the popular game show “Family Feud”, my guess is that those would be numbers 1 and 2: “survey says, “wedding day” and “birth of a child”

But we all have those unique times that stand out in our mind that may not make it on Family Feud…

One of those events came for me in 2008 as I was home from college watching the summer Olympics with my family

There was a lot of hype surrounding one men’s swimming race in particular – the 4 by 100 meter freestyle relay

France was slated to win the race, even with freestyle super-stars like Jason Lezak and Michael Phelps swimming in America’s lane

To add to it all, France’s anchor, Bernard, had been quoted before the race, claiming they would “smash” the Americans

Needless to say, tensions were high and the chips were stacked against the fatigued American team

So there I was with my family, packed away in our living room, eagerly awaiting the start of the race

Now, I could describe the race to you, but let’s go ahead and watch the final portion of it

*Play “Swimming Clip” file on P: drive

At that point, my whole family was jumping up and down, hugging each other, and yelling at the top of our lungs – our dog was barking her confused little head off, and total elation filled the house

That was one joy-filled moment that I will not soon forget

Passage:

With this, along with your own joy-filled memories in mind, please turn with me to the Gospel of Luke, starting in chapter 2

If you do not have a Bible, there should be one beneath the chair in front of you – you’ll find our passage on page 44 of the back section of the Bible

What we are going to be talking about in the short time we have remaining is “Joy that Lasts”

Let’s pick it up in verse 1 of Luke chapter 2:

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Message:

Picture the historical context that this passage was set in:

For thousands of years, God’s chosen people awaited a Savior who was going to deliver them from their greatest enemy

On top of that, 400 years had passed since a prophet of God had spoken to them

As if it couldn’t get worse, Israel was under Roman oppression and had fallen under some very hard times

Now, whether you have heard this passage 100 or more times, or whether this was your first time, I want each of us to place ourselves in the mind of the shepherds

You can close your eyes if it helps you to picture it; I promise I won’t go around collecting purses and wallets…

There you are, watching your sheep in the cover of night as you have done countless times before

This night seems no different than any other night – you hear the shuffling of your sheep, the occasional “baaaaa”, and the crickets keep the rhythm of the night

Your eyes lift to the starry sky and your mind begins to aimlessly wander

Suddenly, as though a flash of lightning struck right in front of you, the darkness scatters and the awe-inspiring figure of an angel of God appears in the midst of this blinding light – he’s looking right at you

You may be thinking to yourself – “this is it – I’m done-for”

But then you hear this angel speak, and his first words are “Do not be afraid”

Your sense of imminent doom begins to fade, but your body is totally frozen

The angel goes on to tell you that this Savior who has been long awaited for ages upon ages was born TONIGHT. Not only that, he was born within walking distance of your very location

As though that message were not enough, a great number of heavenly beings appear around this angel and give glory to God with one voice

As quick as they came, the heavenly host disappears, and darkness once again surrounds you

It doesn’t take long for you and your fellow shepherds to decide to go and see this Savior

You can open your eyes if they were closed just now

Imagine the joy that would have filled the hearts of those shepherds

What else would have mattered to them in that moment, apart from going to see their Savior?

What could have possibly taken the joy of that news away from them?

Let’s think back on my story I told earlier of when I watched that race with my family

How long do you think the jumping up and down and yelling at the top of our lungs lasted?

One might say that if it lasted longer than 2 minutes, that might indicate a problem rather than a good sign

Do you think that my family reacts the same way every time we watch a replay of the race?

Needless to say, we do not

How about for the Olympians who were a part of the race?

You may have recognized someone at the end of the clip I showed – Michael Phelps was the lead in that relay

Flash forward 6 year from when that event took place, and Michael recounts one of the darkest days of his life, which occurred in 1014. He said this in a 2017 interview:

“I was locked in my room for three-to-five days, not eating, not wanting to talk to anybody, and just wanting to be alone. I didn’t want to live.”

The joy of that incredible victory in 2008 was not enough to sustain him

This begs the question – is there a joy that is unfading?

The short answer to that question is “absolutely”, and that joy is found in Jesus Christ

The angel said it best when he appeared before the shepherds: “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people”

You see, Jesus wasn’t just born into the world to break the 400 years of silence, or heal the sick, or even raise the dead

Jesus came into the world to rescue us from our greatest enemy: sin

It wouldn’t be long before that baby lying in a manger would be hanging on a cross, bearing the sins of mankind

And I know that for a Christmas musical message, you aren’t supposed to talk about Easter, but what happened three days after Jesus died on the cross?

He rose from the dead, proving His rule over death!

There may be some here visiting who came to hear some wonderful Christmas music – you may be thinking, “why is this guy talking about death – more Jingle Bells, less death!”

First, I want to say “welcome” and we are very glad you’re here. Second, I’m sorry, but I don’t recall seeing Jingle Bells on the set list…

We cannot talk about the birth of Jesus without talking about the purpose of His birth

We can’t talk about the purpose of His birth without talking about His sacrificial death

And lastly, we cannot talk about his sacrificial death without making a strong appeal to follow Him in light of the resurrection

Jesus says in the book of the Bible written by His best friend – the Book of John:

“I am the way and the truth and the life – no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6)

Jesus is extremely exclusive, in that He is the only way to be made right with God

The Bible also says in Romans 10,

“Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Jesus is extremely inclusive, in that He will not turn away anyone who comes to Him seeking salvation

If that is you today, I would encourage you to talk with one of the pastors after the service or fill out one of the cards in the chairback in front of you

Jesus’ offer for salvation is just as true today as it was 2,000 years ago

Christian friend – this good news of great joy can bring the same amount of elation that it brought on the day you first heard it

Not only that, our joy in the gospel of Jesus Christ should GROW!

Jesus is the fountain of living water and all of His promises are eternal

We do not need to rely on past victories in our life in order to bring us joy – we can rejoice in God’s grace through them, but they will eventually fade

Trust in the past, present, and future victories of Jesus for your ultimate joy

Now, that’s all good and well theoretically, but what does it look like for me to live that out?

1) in order to live out the joy found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we need to be continually growing in our depth of knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ

Primarily, that means you are reading your Bible (simple enough)

In addition, you can grow in this knowledge by listening to Bible-based messages, reading Christian books (especially ones that dead people wrote), joining Bible studies, Adult Bible Fellowships, attending FCI classes, and so forth…

Just like a husband needs to learn his wife in order to deepen in his love for her, so we need to learn Jesus in order to deepen in our love for Him

2) we need to be people who pray

Pray alone, pray with others, pray in your closet, pray in the car, pray with your eyes closed, open, crossed – doesn’t matter – just PRAY! Talk with God!

3) we need to be in community and serving

Join a Bible-believing church if you are not already a part of one, find areas where you can serve, get connected with the various outreach and inreach ministries – in short, be an active and working member of the body of Christ

A hand does no good to the body if it is not connected, and the body lacking if it has no hand

There are several more ways we can be growing in our joy, but I don’t think preachers are allowed to have more than 3 points, so I’ll leave the rest to you…

So remember: lasting joy cannot be found in our latest victory, or our fondest memory, nor in anything we will find wrapped under the tree, but rather it was found in a manger by a group of unsuspecting shepherds

And that joy is available for us today as well

Let’s Pray…

Stefan Nitzschke

B.S. - Management Information Systems, Iowa State University 
M.Div. - Faith Bible Seminary

Stefan is married to Alexandra and they have two sons – Judah and Israel. He currently serves as the college pastor and director Faith West Ministry Housing. Stefan is certified as a biblical counselor through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and is a board member of Faith’s Community Development Corporation. He has a heart for evangelism and discipleship, specifically though the process of biblical counseling.