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Scripture: Luke 2:1-20; Acts 5:35-37; Galatians 5:2...
Track 3 of 4 in the Illuminating the Light of the World series
Running time: 1 hour, 02 minutes, 30 seconds.
Joy is something we experience independent of the circumstances around us. Joy comes from a relation with God, not from our experiences or feelings. We dont feel Joy like we do happiness. We are Joyful because of who lives in us and controls us.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Illuminating the Light of the World
Joy: Luke 2:1-20

We live in a time that is quite unbelievable. The news is filled with all sorts of trouble and evil event, people and bad news. Sometimes I just shake my head and wonder what is going on and ask myself just how bad can things really get? It seems as though the leadership we depend on in our government, for many, the companies we work for are just losing their brains. People who are suppose to be so smart and bright act like complete idiots. There is corruption all around us and it just seems at times things are going to bust somewhere. Life seems to be in a real big mess. One writer wrote this about the times:

“Trade diminished, investment stood still, interest rates soared, property values fell. Morals, which had been loosened by riches and luxury, had not been improved…(and the land) was full of men who had lost their economic footing and then their moral stability; citizens who had seen their savings consumed in taxes and inflation…waited vacuously for some returning tide to ‘lift them back’ to affluence; women (were) dizzy with freedom, (and there were) multiplying divorces, abortions, and adulteries.” Durant, 6 BC

What is fascinating about that statement is, it was written by the historian Durant as he described the conditions of the Roman world that Jesus was born into. This is not a statement about America today; it is a statement about the times Jesus lived in. History has an amazing way of repeating itself, doesn’t it?

Looking at what Durant wrote about the time of Jesus, how is it similar to the times we live in and how is it different?

Luke 1:1-3 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

Notice how Luke starts the story about the birth of Jesus; he starts with a description of the times Jesus was born into. He lays down an historical marker to tell his readers that this was not a fairy tale. Luke records an historical event that really happened. The men mentioned in Luke’s account were recognized leaders of the day.

We need to understand the census Luke records. Luke mentions that the first census took place while Quirinius was the governor of Syria. To look Quirinius up to learn about him and the census, you need to refer to his full name, Publius Sulpicius Quirinius. The census was an historical event. It took place around 6 BC. We also have to understand that this census was most likely not an empire wide census. There existed a policy for census taking and there were recordings of a number of censuses in Roman history. Some were for Romans only. Some were for the purpose of taxation and military service. There were some census that the Jews only took for tribal recording that the Romans allowed to take place.

The known census of BC 6 was conducted precisely because Herod’s son Archelaus had been deposed and Judea was coming under direct Roman administration. Josephus’ account of the census of Quirinius in BC 6 in order to make an assessment of the property of the Jews and liquidate the estate of Archelaus led to shock among the local populace. That led to a revolt by Judas the Galilean who was at that time the zealot leader who also was mentioned in Acts 5. This event is mentioned when trying to figure out how to deal with Peter and John.

Acts 5:35-37 “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.

All of this is to point out to you that Jesus lived in a time when people were not happy at all. For most people, there wasn’t much to be happy about. You and I probably can’t understand what it is like to live in a land where there were no freedoms. The Jews were totally controlled by the Romans through governors who were allowed to exploit the people for their own personal gain as long as they were able to keep the people controlled. You think Blago is a governor who is corrupt and out to enrich himself, he is nothing compared to Herod and his sons who ruled under him.

Give me some words that describe what our present day situation, or life is like? How many of you would put at the top of your list the word, “JOY”? Why?

What is there to be happy about today? Oh we can each look at things or moments in our lives and point to periods of happiness. But overall, are you happy with how things are going? This is a serious question Christians must ask themselves. If the answer is no, then the obvious question to me is why? If the answer is yes, then the obvious question is how can you be this way in light of all that is going on? Are you just one of the lucky ones who have life going great for you? The problem with the topic of joy is the misunderstanding people have about joy. It has nothing to do with happiness even though joyful people can experience happiness. Joy goes beyond happy.

Someone give me the definition of what it means to be joyful? What is joy? Just like Peace, Joy is a byproduct. It is something you can’t manufacture or will within your life. Joy, like peace is a gift given to you by God. It is a byproduct of the Holy Spirit living inside you and as He lives there, changes your character to experience JOY.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Joy is something we experience independent of the circumstances around us. Joy comes from a relation with God, not from our experiences or feelings. We don’t feel Joy lie we do happiness. We are Joyful because of who lives in us and controls us.

The phrase we sing, “Joy to the World”, what does it mean in context with the Christmas story?

Luke 2:4-7 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Looking at this passage, what are some of the points that are important? What stands out to you that you feel are important in the story? Looking at Luke’s account, what are some of the assumption we have that might be incorrect?

Some assume that they arrived just in time, on the day the baby was born.
She gave birth to a son. Mary’s first born, a son.
They placed him in a manger because there was no room at the hotel.

Biblical Inns: We see the Hebrew and Greek terms used in the Bible for inns. It is important to note what Mary and Joseph might have experienced. Remember, Joseph is from Bethlehem, also possibly Mary. The chances that they had family there was very good and most likely that is where they intended to go and stay. When they arrived there we are not sure. It does state that while they were there, the baby came. The Greek that is used for “inn” refers to a guest area in a home. It is never stated whose home but Joseph and Mary are surprised that the guest room is not available. They go to the area set aside for the animals which was common at times to do. In many cases, the animals were protected first and the kids slept outside. Since it was during a time when the animals would be out in the pastures, there probably was ample room and comfort for Mary to have her baby. Most likely it would have been empty and clean.

One thing to notice, Mary wrapped him in cloths and placed him in the manger. The custom would be for a midwife to do this. This indicates that Mary was probably alone when Jesus was born. She had to deal with the birth and all that goes with it all herself besides take care of the immediate need of Jesus.

Luke 2:8-15 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

I find this passage of scripture fascinating. There is a ton of symbolism here that relates directly to the Messiah. Records tell us that the shepherds in and around Bethlehem in the time of Christ’s birth, were known to care for the temple flock. These men, who may well have been caring for the “sacrificial lambs”, have been given the good news about the birth of one who will become the sacrificial lamb for all men.

Shepherds, socio-economically, were considered the lowest of the low; and the shepherds who worked the graveyard shift, were obviously the lowest on this lowly totem pole. Historical records tell us that shepherds had a bad reputation….More regrettable was their habit of confusing ‘thine’ with ‘mine’ as they moved about the country. They were considered unreliable and like women, were not allowed to give testimony in the law courts.’

So why then would the Angels go to this group of people to tell them the Good News about Jesus? What impact would they have with their testimony? What was the purpose? They traveled around and would have access to many different people especially to those who were the temple elite since they provided the lambs to the temple.

Again we see a phrase used by the angels at their appearance. Just like Zechariah and Mary, the angels say the same thing, “Don’t be afraid”. They didn’t say don’t be afraid of us but don’t be afraid of something else. What were they afraid of? How does the good news about Jesus remove their fear?

This passage ends with worship by the angels. I think it is very important we understand what it is they say and what it means to us today.

Luke 2:13-14 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

What is the message to man spoken by the angels? What does it mean for us? Is what Gabriel said to Mary any different than what the angels said to the shepherds?

Luke 1:28-30 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.

What does it mean by the statement, God’s favor rest upon us? This all points to a very important aspect of God, with the birth of Jesus came the reality of grace. The angels express this fact in praise. They exclaim his Glory and his very nature and what that means for mankind. Favor to man is God’s grace. God’s grace is not merely a detached sentiment, but an active quality, expressed in positive, redemptive, creative ways as God pursues His own purposes. Because God is gracious at the core of His being, He sent His Son to save us as the expression of His nature.

So here is the $20 question, how does the reality of God’s nature bring about peace and how does it produce joy in us? How should this good news affect us today in a time when the world seems to be falling apart?

Luke 2:16-20 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

The response of the shepherds is something we can’t gloss over lightly. They mark the beginning of a theme we will see throughout the Gospels. It has to do with seeing and hearing. This passage records that the shepherds testified to all that they saw and heard about the baby. What they testified about caused many to be amazed by what they said. A group of men who had a poor testimony in life were appointed to be the first to testify about the birth of Jesus and caused many to be amazed.

Those who are faithful testify about what they see and hear. Several times the servants of God stated this.

1 John 1:3-4 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

But there are those who are the opposite. They aren’t looking for the Christ and don’t care about the shepherd’s testimony. We see many times the following pattern played out in scripture and in the times we live in.

Matthew 13:10-15 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.

What about you? Are you someone who spreads the Good News about the baby that was born? If the people could believe shepherds who had a poor reputation for their testimony, how much more joy can you proclaim who have a good reputation?