Sunday Morning Live Stream: Joy

This morning I invite us to reflect on the baby who was born in Bethlehem, Jesus, the Son of God, who brings great joy.
Some people are familiar with Christmas story; however today, I invite you to listen afresh and seek the treasure embedded in the narrative, for it is more than a story from long ago. This story is a personal story for us – for our life. It is God’s fulfilment of his promise: the promise of the Messiah – Jesus our Lord, our Saviour, our Redeemer – for it is the Jesus who will reconcile us once again to God, restore us to life and joy in the Lord.
Throughout the history of Israel, shepherding was a noble profession. Moses (and of course David) were shepherds. By the time we come to the first century however, shepherding had lost its prestige. Shepherds were made up the lowest class of people, coming in just ahead of the lepers. In the Talmud, which is a collection of interpretations and insight from the rabbis, we read these words: “No help is to be given to heathen or shepherds.”
In order to understand how unusual it was to have the angels appear to these lowly shepherds, let’s learn a bit about them:

Considered ceremonially unclean. Because of the nature of their work they were unable to attend any religious services.
Isolated and forgotten. Because their flocks needed to move around to find new grass and fresh water, they never stayed in one place for long.
Treated with contempt and mistrust. They were suspected of stealing from others. Their testimony was never allowed in court because they were so unreliable.
Known to be rude, noisy. Living out in the fields away from society made them unappealing to most people. Most of them had foul mouths and were eager to engage in a fight.

Taking all that into consideration, the only announcement of Christ’s birth goes out to people such as these. “At night the shepherds were the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep.”
The Lord choose to come to what society would say were the lowly, the most undeserving, the neglected and marginalized – yet God appoints the angles to celebrate the news to the shepherds first – why? – simply it is about restoration. Everyone matters to God!
As we briefly look at the shepherds’ response, we’ll see some lessons that we can apply to our lives so that we don’t forget the Son this season.

The shepherds were outside the village at night….

Perhaps like the shepherds on the hillside in the dark of night

  • You feel like you are on the peripheral or outside – you feel excluded – you feel you don’t belong
    Perhaps you are/have experienced a dark time in your life?
    Perhaps have you felt that God doesn’t even know you exist or
    Perhaps God has abandoned you

YOU are not insignificant to God our Emmanuel. God will meet you right where you are – just like the shepherds. You don’t have to clean yourself up on your own or act like someone you’re not. If you smell like a shepherd, let Jesus wash you up. If your sins are weighing you down, allow Jesus to lift you up. Keep watch for Jesus presence.

  1. Announcement

Luke 2:9: “Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared amoung them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. [The angel of the Lord stood beside them, and the clearness of God shone about them – Wycliff] They were terribly frightened but the angels reassured them. Don’t be afraid! he said I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! [Wycliffe translates it this way: “I evangelize to you a great joy.”] The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!”

Notice the shepherds are terribly frighted…… but angels reassured them!

Imagine the shepherds out on the hillside – I wonder what their vocabulary was like? Was their conversation appropriate?

How is you mouth or behaviour as you gather with colleagues or friends?
What would be your response if an angel suddenly appeared at your side?

I wonder if they were terrified because they thought God has sent angels to strike them down! What is your image of God?

The angel calms the shepherds down, telling them not to be afraid that he is bringing good news of great joy. The angel proceeds – the Messiah, their Messiah has been born. The promised Saviour – God had broken his silence – God had fulfilled his promise.

Imagine being one of the shepherds hearing the message in person!

And the message is affirmed as “the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favours.”

3) Seeking Jesus

These shepherds didn’t just accept and enjoy the message they received, they acted upon it. Luke 2:16: “”When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Come on, let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

This message is for “everyone.” However it requires action/response – it must be accepted/received – otherwise it is just information.

Have you responded to God’s good news? It is a gift that must be received if you want it to be activated in your life.
How have you allowed the announcement of promised Messiah to shape/change/transform you? That of joy…Celebrate that and offer thanks to God in praise.

4) Finding Jesus

“They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” The word “hurried off” means they left in haste.

The idea is “come on, hurry up, let’s go!” This is pretty amazing in itself because shepherds normally did nothing quickly. They were used to moving slowly through the fields.
The Bible is clear that acceptance must lead to action, or as James 2:17 says: “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” They could have doubted or delayed but instead they decided to act and they moved.
They went and saw. The first thing they did when they arrived in Bethlehem… they went to see the baby with their own eyes. Unclean shepherds came to a smelly stable to see the Holy of Holies lying on a bed of hay!
The shepherds left and shared. It’s striking that they don’t pull up a bale of hay and make themselves comfortable. They didn’t hang around the manger because they knew the importance of getting the message out to everyone.
Notice that the message they shared had nothing to do with seeing the amazing angels and there’s no reference to Mary or Joseph. They came to see Him (baby – Jesus/Messiah) and now they head out to share the good news.
Verse 17: “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” The word “spread” means to “make known in such a way that people can understand.” We’re here today because they couldn’t keep quiet.

In what area is God calling you to some action? It’s not enough to just say you have faith, or to feel good about your relationship with the Lord; there comes a time that after seeing, we must be involved in sharing with others.

Finding Joy

Notice the shepherds went back to their same jobs however they weren’t the same on the inside.
Look at Luke 2:20: “The shepherds went back to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said.”

When did you last marvel at Jesus our Messiah…. Emmanuel God with us?
When did you last share the joy of the good news?

Like the shepherds we too will go back to the same routine after Christmas; will you be the same person on the inside upon or will you be joyful – living a life of praise for we have a way to be restored to the Lord, celebrating the joy of our Saviour our Redeemer.

Another passage of scripture that records the birth of Christ that I like to briefly reflect upon, is that of the Magi and their joy – the passage is found in Matthew 2: 1-12.

As we read in scripture, we find they “were from country to the east of Israel – yet it was the Magi noticed the Star in the night sky – signalling an invitation to come and follow! “We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” The Magi recognized the star as invitation to come and follow his star which would lead them to the Messiah – King of the Jews..
The Magi had probably heard about God through the time Israel was under captivity by Persia in the east. The Magi had obvious listened & been interested in the God of Israel. Now God invites them to come follow the star – come see the Messiah – King of the Jews.
What was your invitation to come see Jesus – can you recall?

The Magi followed the Star – we not sure how long the journey took however if we read their account further in Matthew 2:16 “the magi had told him [Herod] the star first appeared to them, about two years earlier”
Here are Magi I don’t think they had a personal faith in God – they had hear about God’s promise of a Messiah. Now they noticed the star and were willing give up to 2 years to follow it!
What is guiding your life currently? Money, career…?
Perhaps you are lost and wandering?
I wonder how patient are we as God leads us…. do we snatch back control as we become impatient? Do we give up on trusting God if our prayers are not answered quickly?

I was fascinated that the star shone brightly leading all the way from the Magi home town until Jerusalem…. For when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem they stopped to ask … “Where is the King of the Jews?”

Caught off guard, Herod scrabbled, calling all the “leading priests and teachers of the religious law. ‘Where did the prophets say the Messiah would be born?’”
Interestingly, the leading priests & teachers of the religious law knew what the prophets had written and directed the Magi to Bethlehem.
The leading priests and teachers – he very leaders who should have been waiting and watching for the birth of the promised Messiah/King of the Jews – knew the directions however were not interested in following. It was as if they could reference and recite the law – scripture was full of information/facts to them! They themselves had not internalized the scripture… living from a heart of worship.
Does Scripture breath life into you heart of worship?

9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Could you imagine the Magi’s joy – they had followed the moving star as it lead and guided them – now it stopped over the place where the child was – the very child that the Magi themselves referred to as King of the Jews!
How would you respond if you were in the Magi’s sandals!

Fascinating that they simply “entered the house and saw the child with his mother Mary and they bowed down and worshiped him”
They knew they were welcome in the presence of the Messiah – they could enter.

When did you fall on your knees to worship Jesus Messiah?
Do you know Jesus the Messiah’s presence in your life?
Are you aware that the Spirit of God has made a home in your heart/soul, the Spirit of God resides in those who believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God? How does that transform the way we live each moment of life?
Do you still celebrate the joy of meeting Jesus? Do you still celebrate the joy that Jesus is present in our lives today?

The shepherds found joy, the Magi found joy. Have you found joy?

Perhaps you are asking where is joy found? Joy is found in worshiping the Messiah – our Redeemer – who came from Heaven to Earth to restore our relationship with God. Joy is gift that comes from salvation – there is no salvation without joy and no joy without salvation.

Joy is the gift of living for Jesus – of sharing Jesus with others. The root word for JOY in Greek is cheerfulness – calm delight.

Joy is calm delight that flows as we worship the Lord – giving thanks, praising him

Word from Christina Rossetti Christmas Carol –

What can I give Him,
poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb.

If I were a wise man,
I would do my part.

Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.


Advent 2017 – Week 4

Today we light the pink candle known as the ‘Candle of God’s Love.’ It is a lighter colour than the others because it symbolizes the effects of God’s love. The darkness begins to give way under the impact of God’s gracious act. The Light of His love has come to us. Now let the light of His love shine in us and through us.

The Apostle Paul wrote about the connection between hope, love and the work of the Holy Spirit

Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Rom 5:5)

In 1 John 4:7-12 The Apostle John reminds us:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Lord, thank you that Your gift of love entered the world in darkness and that you split darkness with the light of a star. You invites us to not be afraid. These Advent candles burning this morning remind us that fear is cast out as we enter into the radiance of His Love. Make your love to to shine in us and through us. Amen.

Advent 2017 – The Final Candle

This Christmas Eve we light the white candle. This is the Christ candle. His candle is brighter because he is the light of the world! Our hope, our life, our King and our Saviour has finally come!

Luke 2:1-7 says: 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.

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.

He became one of us:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The apostle writes about the amazing humility of His love:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Cor 8:9)

The birth of Jesus was just the beginning. No one else has ever had the impact of Jesus, He has changed history and is continuing to change it. We celebrate the gift of life and hope. We light candles because God has split the darkness. We bring gifts because God has given his Son to us.

Jesus, you are the Father’s greatest gift. Your teachings, your life example are precious. Your death in our place is beyond price, for we have not been redeemed with silver and gold but with the precious blood of the Son, the Lamb of God. Your resurrection has broken the sting of death. And the gift of Your Spirit leads and guides us through the days of our lives, until at last we are carried into your eternal presence. Jesus, we celebrate your birth, the fulfillment of the ancient Promises of God. You are our hope, our joy, our life, our everything. We love you, Lord. Amen.

Let’s celebrate!

Advent 2017 – Week 3

Today we light the third purple candle, called the “Shepherd’s candle.” The lonely shepherds who responded with awe and joy illustrate a proper response to the coming of God in Christ Jesus. The light burst into their cold, desolate, and dark existence. They were drawn into the circle of joy. Come celebrate a new baby born. For this Baby is the Promised King , the Saviour of the World.

Luke 2:8-20 says:  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 Saviour 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 favour rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

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.

Lord, rekindle in us the joy we had in the beginning. We all have been invited to this birthday party. Give us shining eyes, smiling lips, voices full of laughter, and hearts full of good cheer! ‘A Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’ Amen.

Advent 2017 – WEEK TWO

Today we light the second candle, the purple ‘Candle of Faith’. A young woman, Mary, was pledged to be married, but not yet married. She was visited by the angel Gabriel, who told very disturbing things. The angel told her things that would change her life forever. What amazing faith she showed. Mary put her trust in the Lord God surrendering herself to be the servant of His will.

Luke 1:26-38 says:  In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! 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 favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

Lord, long ago Mary surrendered herself to you and was used by you to bring the Saviour into the world. Give us that same faith, that same deep confidence in you. For you are at work in us and through us, especially in the hard things. Lord, we love you and we trust you. Give us the faith to say, ‘I am the Lord’s servant.’ Amen.

Advent 2017 – Week One

Today we light the first candle known as the “Prophet’s candle.” Imagine the eager waiting and longing for the appearance of God’s chosen one. 700 years before the coming of the Promised Christ, the Messianic King, God gave these prophetic words through the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 9:2-7 says: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

Give us our fill of expectation. Renew in us the eager longing of those who waited for the Messiah’s First Coming. Give us that same hope as we await the Second Coming of Jesus. Amen.

Advent Day Five: Let the Star of Morning Rise

Lord God,
in the deepest night
there rises the star of morning,
    of birth,
        the herald of a new day you are making,
a day of great joy dawning
    in yet faint shafts
        of light and love.
I hear whispers of peace in the stillness,
fresh breezes of promise
winter sparrows
    chirping of life,
a baby’s cry
    of need
        and hope —

In the darkness I see the light
    and find in it comfort,
            cause for celebration,

for the darkness cannot overcome it;
and I rejoice to nourish it
    in myself,
        in other people,
            in the world
for the sake of him
    in whom it was born
        and shines forever,
            even Jesus the Christ.

                            —Ted Loder

Reflect on the words of this poem. What does it mean to you? How do you see yourself living this out? Do you see a day of great joy dawning? What does it look like?

Christ has come. Christ still comes to us. Christ will come again. May the Spirit prepare and enable you to receive Christ daily, in the midst of the challenges and the joys, with wonder and gratitude and hope.

reflections taken from Two Steps Forward: A Story of Persevering in Hope by Sharon Garlough Brown