Today’s Scripture:   Nehemiah 8:10

Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Introduction:

Good afternoon, and welcome to the very first Christlike Ministries NWA Christmas Devotional Series:  “Carol: A Christmas Devotional”.  I am so excited about this series, and believe that as we learn more about these carols…I believe God’s going to speak some things to us that we wouldn’t have expected to know from doing a series on Christmas Carols.  How many of you know that God can speak through anything…we just need to be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Ghost…Amen!?!

Today, we take a look at “Joy To The World”.  What a fantastic way to start a Christmas series…as a child I remember the anticipation of Christmas…but today…it’s become more about the anticipation of celebrating the birth of my Savior…and yet another opportunity to gather and fellowship with family.

I pray this series speaks to our hearts, and that we come away from it with a better understanding of the stories behind these carols…and more importantly…encounter God as we discover the joy and real reason behind the celebration of Christmas…Amen!?!

Today’s Message:  “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!”

Let earth receive her King.

Well…what would be the point of having a Christmas carol devotional if we didn’t include a video of the Christmas Carol.  I love the addition of “Joy, Unspeakable Joy”…to this song because it’s about the arrival of our King of kings and Lord of lords.  The Savior of the world arrives in a tiny little manger…the earth received her King that joyful day…and out of that was birthed a song to tell the story.

Isaac Watts wrote “”Joy to the World” in 1719. Since then, every Christmas season, carolers cast those words into the air like a lifeline out into the ocean of humanity. And every “”fish” surely finds something inviting and worth nibbling at. The thrill of hope within the message spools out to touch a weary world with anticipation of tasting something really good!

I find it amazing that even most television shows…when they have carolers…this is one of the songs you almost always here.  Throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas many television shows will try to incorporate Christmas into their shows, and I’m always amazed at how many of those television shows include “Joy To The World” as one of the carols that’s sang on their shows.

“The thrill of hope within the message spools out to touch a weary world with anticipation of something really good.”  I can’t argue with that…Amen!?!  How many of you know that our world is weary today…and could use the message of hope that this song has within it!?!  I mean, from sea to shining sea…there’s weary people all over the world…and I believe that much of it is because it’s trying to do so much without the help of the God that created it…and came to give it the joy that they seek.

After all, joy is one of the fruits of the spirit…is it not!!?!  There’s no secret that if you look around the world…there’s not much true…authentic joy is there!?!

Joy came to the world because God our great Creator loved His creation so much that He sent His Son to reveal His story, and so that over time, His character and ultimate good will toward mankind would be recognized.

The goodness of God is something that is often masked by personal achievement, and I believe the reason there’s so many weary people like we just talked about is because they’re seeking joy from a place they cannot find it.  Joy cannot be found within ourselves…it cannot be found in our achievements…and it cannot be found anywhere other than a personal, intimate relationship with God.

How do I know that?  I’ve experienced the weariness that the world has in my life, and while certainly not to the extend that of what we see going on in the world today…but none-the-less…I know what it’s like to be so weary because you feel like your chasing an impossible thing to have…joy.

I used to get jealous of people who walked around looking like they were just full of joy and happiness.  I wanted that so much, but it always seemed to allude me.  Any joy I tasted was fleeting and short-lived because the moment I began to taste a little of it…the moment I looked at myself…and thought that I was doing something right.  I thought joy had come into my life because I was achieving it…and don’t you know eventually that joy vanished…and I was left weary and full of despair again.

Why?  Joy is actually an acronym.  Joy stands for “J”- Jesus, “O” – Others, and “Y” Yourself.  In other words, joy is accomplished by putting Jesus first.  Why?  Because when you have Jesus first…then your priorities are correct.  Do you know that the most joy I experience is when I put someone else ahead of myself!?!   Jesus…Others…Yourself.  I promise you that if you will keep those three people in the proper order…you’ll discover a joy inside of you that’s…well…unspeakable.

Listen…we’re not meant to find joy within ourselves.  I know that’s a foreign idea to so many of you, but the truth is…we’re meant to find joy by following that simple formula provided by the acronym there.  When you put Jesus and others first…there’s an unspeakable joy that comes from it.

For example.  How many of you buy a very special gift for that certain someone, and you can’t wait to see the look on their face when they open that little box…right!?!  That’s joy right there.  The joy you get from seeing that person’s face light up with a smile, and if it’s a good enough gift you might even get a tear or two, right!?!  That’s what I’m talking about here, family.  Joy isn’t attained by doing for ourselves…it’s attained by doing for others…it’s attained by giving to others.

Look…the Bible talks about how God loves what kind of giver?  Cheerful, right!?!  Blessed be the name of the Lord when there’s pain in the offering…right?  Why?  There’s a certain joy that comes from giving to the Lord…isn’t there?  Maybe there’s a visitor from out of the area, or maybe what we’re giving towards is gonna help buy shoes for children in a third world country or something…there’s a joy that comes from giving into something like that…isn’t there.

I think I’ve managed to prove the point…joy comes from being a blessing to others.  I began to realize that once I sought joy outside of myself…it was much easier to come by…and it lasts a whole lot longer.

The impact on earth of Christ’s birth will never diminish despite enemies’ attempts to stop it. John 21:25 says that the world would not be able to contain the books that could be written about what the Lord did while on earth. Since then many more testimonies of His transforming love have been and will be written.

How many of us have a story of the transforming love of God…Amen!?!  For those of you who have followed me for any length of time…you know that I refuse to take credit for any of the transformation that’s taken place in my life…because I’m well aware of the fact that none…and I do mean none…of the credit belongs to me.  I am who I am today because of the love, grace, mercy, and workmanship of God…and my prayer is that I won’t ever forget that…and so far I haven’t.

This also speaks to my declaration a while back through many of our series…there’s no other book like our Bible.  It’s the only book that’s still writing it’s own story…and it’s all non-fiction.  Every single story and testimony written is another story that John 21:25 is talking about.  My story is one of those testimonies…your story is too…Amen!?!

Nehemiah 8 records that Nehemiah, the leaders and the people celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles with great joy, after sharing God’s Word. Rejoice in God’s Word and thoughts of the Savior’s birth, His purpose and His inheritance.

I can be honest with you.  If it weren’t for this series…I wouldn’t even know about Nehemiah, but that’s one of the bi-products of a series like this.  I imagine we’re going to get into many of the lesser known prophets, and that we’re going to discover people that we didn’t even know about…and they’re going to be able to speak into our lives…and add to the transforming power of the Word of God…Amen!?!

This reminds me of what we just did over Thanksgiving.  In fact, in many ways Thanksgiving is the official beginning of the Christmas Season that’s usually ended by the celebration of bringing in another New Year.  There will be Christmas parties where many of us work, there may be more family dinners, and other traditions that take place during this time of year that don’t happen at any other time of the year.

This is my favorite time of the year because of the first time all year…people figure out that joy of gift giving, the importance of spending time with family, and people are a little friendlier…a little less selfish…and for a short time…there’s an atmosphere of joy that comes from the Christmas season.

I love gathering with family.  I love that I’m married, and working to establish new traditions in my family.  I love that there’s going to be family feasts and gatherings, and there’s a lot of joy that comes from this time of the year…but sadly once 2013 hits…after a week or so…the atmosphere changes back to the way it usually is all year.  We go back to being consumed with ourselves, work, and being selfish returns…and before long we forgot what brought us joy…if even for a few short weeks…and we’re back to the rat race of life.

Can I challenge us this year?  Can I challenge us to not be so quick to forget what brought us the joy we’ll have over the next couple of weeks?  The joy of trying to find that special gift, the joy of seeing that person’s face when they receive the gift, the joy of spending much-needed time amongst family, and finally…the joy of being in a place where maybe for the first time all year…we’re reminded of what’s really important in life.  The challenge is to maintain that cheerful atmosphere of joy…of thinking of the needs of others, and knowing that as you take care of others…God will take care of you.  That’s the kind of challenge I’m talking about…making the pursuit of joy more important than the pursuit of personal gain or anything else.

Anyone going to accept this challenge with me?

In Closing:

As we close, I just want to say again what an honor it is to be used of God to write these messages, and that there’s an unspeakable joy that comes from knowing that in some way…God is using these messages to impact lives.  I hope that you’ll follow along on this Christmas Devotional countdown to Christmas…and that we have special encounters with God along the way.

Thank you so much to those of you who are joining me through this series…and I’m going to work really hard to make sure I don’t get behind…and if I do to make them up as quickly as possible because this series will take us right up to Christmas Eve…and I am really going to work hard to make sure we finish this series on time.

Now that I’ve put that out there…I’m going to ask you all to pray for me.  As I put that out there…I just know that the enemy is going to work to try to keep me from finishing this series on time…so please pray for me that God will give me the strength, ability, endurance, and that supernatural ability that only comes from Him to be able to stay caught up on this series…so that we can finish it on Christmas Eve…can y’all do that for me!?!

“Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:2)
Blessings & Grace to you
Bryan J. Kizer
Christlike Ministries NWA