★ Day 14 – Reason for the Season – Joy to the World ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1Two songs that always get me into the Christmas spirit are “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” By Andy Williams (a classic,) and any version of “Joy to the World,” (most recently I have been enjoying David Crowder Band’s interpretation of the classic hymn.)  I think this picture of these kids crying, 14 - Daily Dependnece - The most wonderful time of the year as the possibility of the perfect Christmas card is becoming more and more remote, captures many people’s view of this season of chaotic schedules and never-ending lists of things to do.  You can hear the sarcasm of people as they make some comment like “oh yeah, it sure is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year as I am exhausted out of my mind and don’t know how I am going to get everything done in time!  The signage of this photo shoot gone badly is the focus of today’s “Reason for the Season.”

14 - Daily Dependence - Advent Wreath 3The third candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath, which also is the only pink candle, represents Joy.  Joy is such an interesting concept.

Yesterday my pastor was preaching on Joy as part of the Advent Sermon Series we are currently in and he discussed the difference between Joy and Happiness.  Often times the two are used interchangeably but they are radically different.  He said,

“You can have joy but not be happy about circumstances.  You can have happiness but not joy.”  Marty Collier

See HAPPINESS is based on circumstances, whereas JOY is based on our faith in God.  I read a devotional this morning called “The Definition of Joy” from Rick Warren based on Kay Warren’s new book, Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough.

“My problem was my definition of joy.  I thought joy meant feeling good all the time.  That’s impossible!  Even for those who are naturally upbeat and optimistic, that’s impossible…

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.

You’ll find nothing in that definition about happy feelings, because, as we all know, happiness is fleeting and temporary.

Happiness is fleeting, only Joy remains!  The second song that I mentioned that kindles the Christmas spirit in me is Joy to the World.  David Mathis said something very interesting about this song in the preface of John Piper’s “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,”

“The advent primarily in view each December is the first coming of Jesus two millennia ago.  But Jesus’s second coming gets drawn in as well, as the popular Christmas carol “Joy to the World” makes plain:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

I was shocked when I read that…I never realized that a song I sang at the top of my lungs during the Christmas season was actually a hymn glorifying Christ’s triumphant second return, rather than a song celebrating his first coming.  Published in 1719, the words by English hymn writer Isaac Watts and are based on the second half of Psalm 98 in the Bible. Take a look for yourself…Psalm 98:4-9 (NLT).  Powerful imaginary isn’t it?

And that is what I believe God would like us to grab hold of this Advent Season…Not just to look back at the first coming of Christ, (which is good to do no doubt,) but to also have joyful expectation of Jesus Christ’s second coming as the Book of Revelation speaks of!  Steven Furtick made this statement about Joy that I wanted to share…

“I love the scripture that says that weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning.  You know what I found out though morning doesn’t happen when it says AM on the clock.  Morning happens when you wake up and throw the covers off and open your eyes to the goodness of God.  In other words the moment you decide to wake up and look, I bet you’ll see God in the middle of your circumstances. I bet you’ll see God in the middle of your difficulty.” 

In the ★ Day 08 – Reason for the Season – Christmas or X-mas? – Part 2 ★ post we talked about this year is the 50th anniversary of the classic TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  Today’s passage is one in the same with what Linus quoted the Gospel According to Luke, verses 8 through 14 of the Kings James Version so we will read it in that translation as well…

14 - Daily Dependence - Angels Visiting Shepherds Collage“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

I am so thankful for Charles Schulz fighting to have those (6) verses included because there is so much power in them!  Can you imagine what that scene was like to be one o those shepherds?  Maybe it was a crisp cool night as the Shepheard’s sat around a campfire…all that could be heard was the sheep shuffling around grazing in the open pasture.  The shepherds probably had very little to do, but to gaze at the stars above when all of sudden “the glory of the Lord shone round them!” I have always thought it comical, that Luke writes in the next line, that the “were sore afraid.”  14 - Daily Dependence - Angel Announcement I bet they were, wouldn’t’ you be?!  But I love the reassurance they received from the Angel…“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  Hundreds of years of waiting for this news, and the recipients of the greatest news event in history was not a King or nobles but lowly shepherds tending their flock in the countryside.  Tomorrow we will dig into “A Shepherd’s View of Christmas” so I will defer that aspect of this event until tomorrow.  Like we discussed in the ★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★ post about the journey to Bethlehem for the census, we can gloss over familiar parts of the Christmas Narrative and miss the wonder like the next part…“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Wow can you imagine what that light show must have been like?  What an unbelievable experience to have that proclamation done in front of you!  I am sure all these images pale in comparison to what it must have been like.  I came across this image that I thought was fascinating in how it shows the events unfolding simultaneously…  14 - Daily Dependence - NativityAs Mary lays the baby Jesus down in the manger, we can see the Angelic Heavenly Host declaring the arrival of the Savior of the World in the distance!  This painting is a great visual representation of the tapestry of events that God wove together the lives of many different people to bring about the fulfillment of His Salvation plan as revealed through the prophecies of Isaiah, Micah and Jeremiah, (to name a few…) right down to the very last detail.  Amazing!  I love this quote from Matt Chandler’s sermon called “Advent (Part 2) – Tell of His Coming: The Shepherds and Angels,”

“God is a God who keeps His promises, even the small ones that don’t seem maybe to matter that much…The fact that God keeps His promises to His people should move our hearts towards worship, move our hearts towards gladness and anchor us in confidence.”

I am thankful for a God who is not only a promise keeper but who is also my anchor!  14 - Daily Dependence - Fit Family - Bring JoyLike the Angels, we need to BRING JOY EVERYWHERE YOU GO.

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Angels – The Voice of Praise.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Angels’ perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 15 – Reason for the Season – A Shepherd’s View of Christmas ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 08 – Reason for the Season – Christmas vs. X-mas – Part 2 ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1

08 - Daily Dependence - Christmas or X-masLast year we posted ★ Thought for the Day – Christmas or X-Mas? ★ where we looked at the evolution of the word Christmas to its abbreviated form of “X-Mas” and how Jesus has been “X-ed” out of Christmas.  08 - Daily Dependence - X-ing Christ OutI highly recommend you read the original post for the context//background as I plan to build upon it, (not repeat the content.)  The main idea is how do you “X” Christ out when “Christmas begins with Christ?”

08 - Daily Dependence - Christmas Begins With Christ

This year is the 50th anniversary of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, which today is still my favorite cartoon to watch!  It is amazing to me that back in 1965, when it first aired, how pervasive materialism must have been to inspire the TV special.  If you have not seen it, the main character Charlie Brown is struggling with depression and trying to understand the meaning of Christmas as everyone around him is focused on themselves and what they can get.  I wonder how creator Charles Schulz would feel about today’s atmosphere.  There was a special on TV the other week commemorating the golden anniversary which gave some interesting insight into Schultz’s insistence that the crux to the show was Linus quoting the Luke 2:8-14 of the Kings James Version in which the scene lasted 51 seconds!  08 - Daily Dependence - Linus - For Unto You is Born a SaviourBig investment and gamble but it paid off!  And at the end of that near minute recitation Linus concluded with the simple statement that,

“ . . . And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,”

At the time, CBS executives saw the final product and were horrified, believing the special would be a complete flop and wanted to “X” it out but 50 years later, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” continues to air every season that is a testimony to God’s Word having tremendous power, even with how hostile the culture is towards Jesus!  (If you missed it, we delved into this a little more in the ★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★.)

Today we will build upon this reality of “X-ing” Christ out of the Christmas by contrasting it with a man whose followers tried to set him up as the Messiah which was the first attempt to “X” or replace Jesus.  The next part of the Christmas story that we are going to look at is the Birth of John the Baptist as recorded in Luke 1:57-66 (NLT).  When we last left Zachariah in ★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★, the Angel Gabriel disciplined his disbelief by rendering him mute until the events that he foretold came to pass.  After John was born and they went to the temple to circumcise and name the baby “John,” Elizabeth was met with opposition because no one in the family was named that and insisted that he be named after his father Zechariah.  Luke 1:63-66 (NLT) records Zachariah’s atonement and restoration for His faith,

“He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.

Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills.  Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, ‘What will this child turn out to be?’  For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.”

That last part is very interesting… “‘What will this child turn out to be?’  For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.”  God set the stage for John the Baptist to be the forerunner for his cousin Jesus to “Prepare the Way,” calling the people to repent of their sins and ready their hearts for the coming of the Messiah.  When you read the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,) you learn much about this mighty man of God and how there was indeed a special anointing on John the Baptist.  In John 1:19-23 (NLT), John the Baptist testified about who he was,

“This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” He came right out and said,

“I am not the Messiah.”

“Well then, who are you?” they asked.  “Are you Elijah?”

“No,” he replied.

“Are you the Prophet we are expecting?”

“No.”

“Then who are you?  We need an answer for those who sent us.  What do you have to say about yourself?”

John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“I am a voice shouting in the wilderness,

‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”

Regardless though, John the Baptist had many disciples, and converts coming every day, but when Jesus’ ministry began to flourish, people flocked to Him instead causing John’s disciples to complain to him.  But here is what we need to grab hold of…Instead of puffing up with pride, John the Baptist embraced “being second” and did not try to replace Jesus.  He responded to the critics with this powerful statement:

“He [ Jesus ] must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” of John 3:30 (NLT) 

08 - Daily Dependence - I Am Second - John 3-30

See John the Baptist understood what his purpose was, that he was not the star or hero…Jesus was!  No one or anything should replace Jesus.  He was the original the “I AM Second” spokesman!   And it is clear that his attitude of humility lead to the Son of God, the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ to say that John the Baptist was the greatest man who ever lived, (see Matthew 11:11 and Luke 7:28) and that was because he knew his place and accepted it!   (If you are interested you can read more on this topic from the post ★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Settle For First Place! ★.)

I will close with this final thought from Mark 10:43b-45 when Jesus said,

“…and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

I am so thankful that gave me an example like John the Baptist that being second to Jesus is not a bad thing but rather the right think which He holds in high esteem!!

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “John the Baptist – The Voice of Preparation.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the John the Baptist’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 09 – Reason for the Season – Who Do You Belong To? ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness

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