Matters of Faith: The Joy That Christmas Brings!

20161113_JLRussell‭‭‬‬‬By Rev. J. Loren Russell, BA, MDiv.​

Luke 2:8-14 KJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 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. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Today is the third of the four Sundays of Advent. Advent means “coming” in Latin and it is the season that Christians prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas. This third Sunday, the pink candle is lit. It is the Candle of Joy which reminds us of the multitudes of angels that joyfully announced the birth of Christ. There in the manger where Christ was born, the ritual of rejoicing began when the angel of the Lord told the shepherds in the field not to be afraid because he was carrying news that would bring great joy.

According to the Blue Letter Bible, the word joy appears 165 times in 155 verses in the King James Version of the Bible. Joy is characteristic of the deepest emotions of the human experience. It prompts elated cheerfulness that finds its expression in notable physical actions like leaping, shouting, and singing. Joy, in the Biblical view, is what happens to us when we are in fellowship with God.

The news that the angel bought was so joyful that it prompted joy beyond the human experience; a great multitude of the heavenly host joined him praising God and rejoicing to see the promise of the Messiah become a reality. This is the joy that Christmas brings.

When Jesus was asked “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). If this scripture is prayerfully read, carefully considered and dutifully followed for the commandment it is, a genuine experience with joy will be had. It will result in authentic love of the Lord, compassionate love for neighbors, and a healthy love of self. There will be an experience of incredible joy and an awakening to the truth found in Luke 15:10; “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”

The heavenly host rejoiced on that first Christmas Day. Now they rejoice over every single person that repents! This was prophesied centuries earlier when the prophet Ezra wrote, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Whenever someone has a genuine encounter with Christ, they will be compelled to repent and the heavenly rejoicing starts all over again. There will not only be an experience of exhilaration and physical joy, but a multitude of heavenly host will join them in their rejoicing. Ezra declares that the Lord will hear from heaven. I believe that this refers to the heavenly host who will shout so loud that the Lord will hear from His throne in heaven. What a blessing! This is the joy of Christmas.

Be Blessed!

Rev. J. Loren Russell is an associate minister at both Goodwill and The Greater Universal Baptist Churches in the Bronx, President/CEO of The JLR Company for Church Financial & Strategic Consulting, and hosts “Matters of Faith – The Radio Show” on Soul 1 Radio, Mondays 8:00 – 10:00 PM. Listen here or by phone at 626-226-1448. Be sure to friend “Matters of Faith” on Facebook, Twitter @jlorenr, and email us at matteroffaith.mof@gmail.com.  

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