Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Advent 3

"Joy is ours through prayer and thanksgiving"

1 Thess. 5:16-24

December 14, 2014

Today's theme is JOY! So, where's the joy? The headlines have little good news. The weather is dismal. The economy is still stagnant. There's a general feeling of malaise throughout the country. Rioters and protestors try to intrude on everything from sports events, to mall shopping and even just trying to drive to work. So, where's the joy?

Paul was writing to Christians living with active persecution from both the religious and secular authorities. In spite of their trials, he reminds them to express their joy.

1 Thess. 5:16-24, Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise [the] prophetic [word]. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

What's the difference between joy and happiness? Happiness comes to your from the outside. Happiness is based in the things and the people around you. Happiness is of the moment. While happiness is temporary, joy is from the Lord and you can still experience joy during trials, suffering, and testing.  Joy is permanent but happiness is fleeting.

The third Advent candle is pink. This is the candle of Joy. It is associated with the shepherds who heard the angel's message of great joy. The joy was that the long-promised Savior was now here. He had come to His people as promised. The shepherds experienced the joy of that fulfilled promise and shared the news with everyone. 

The shepherds life wasn't glamorous or wealthy. They didn't often have much to be happy about but they did have the joy of knowing that the Savior was here. He was here for them. The Lord had kept His promises to His people including the lowly shepherds. They would share in the joy of the Kingdom of God.

How could lowly shepherds be joyful knowing that their lives weren't going to change? They had to return to the sheep. They still had to put in long hours, working outside in all kinds of weather. How could they continue to be filled with joy? Our clue to understanding joy comes to us from the writer to the Hebrews speaking about our Lord. How could Jesus endure His passion? It was joy.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [Hebrews 12:1, 2.]

Jesus was as human as we are. His human nature dreaded the pain and suffering He knewwas coming because of the cross. Yet, joy helped Him look beyond the cross to the resurrection. The joy of Easter helped Him undergo the agony of the cross.

Joy is ours because we know that whatever pain or suffering we endure here is temporary. Like Jesus, we look forward to our release from the trials of life to the fullness of joy in the presence of the Lord.

Let's be honest. The idea that we're always joyful is unreal. Our joy flows not from what we may conjure up but from the Lord. In order to experience this joy, we must be connected to the Lord in prayer.

As Christians our hearts are not always predisposed to prayer. Prayer is one of those things easier said than done. Prayer takes practice and perseverance. As we are schooled in prayer, we find that our hearts are continually ready to make our requests known to God. As our petitions ascend to the Lord, they are accompanied with our thanksgivings. We are thankful that the Lord will both hear and answer our prayers. We can rejoice in answered prayer even if it isn't exactly how or when we wanted.

Our source of prayer and thanksgiving is the Holy Spirit. As He works faith in us and fills us with His gifts our prayer becomes as natural to us as breathing. As we grow in God's grace, our prayers become more natural to us and less stilted. As we become comfortable in our praying, our prayers flow from us to the Lord in any situation. Our thoughts and, thus, our prayers keep us connected to God in everything we do. Our connection to the Lord is as natural as our breathing.

Joy is a blessing that is ours from God. Paul speaks of joy as one of the seven fruits of the spirit. The "joy in the Holy Spirit" as an essential mark of the kingdom of God. This joy is associated with faith, hope, brotherly fellowship and sympathy. To rejoice in the Lord is enjoined as a Christian duty

Because we have joy flowing to us through prayers and thanksgiving, we are to test all things spiritual. We have the Word of God to guide us in all matters. Not only does this Word help us to recognize and abstain from all things wicked, immoral, and evil, but it helps us to recognize and flee from all spiritual counterfeits.

The good news is that we the Lord helps us do what we cannot. We cannot manufacture joy but the Holy Spirit comes to us with His joy. This joy is ours because God is faithful. He continues to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Jesus would endure His pain and passion for the joy that would come with the resurrection. The shepherds could return to their ordinary lives knowing the joy of their Savior. We will persevere through the uncertainty of life with ups and downs, happiness and sadness, good and bad because we have the joy of the Lord. Our joy helps us deal with all aspects of life as we anticipate its full realization with our Lord Jesus Christ. Our joy will be fully ours forever in His love. Amen. 


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December
12/25/2016
12/18/2016
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12/04/2016
November
11/27/2016
11/20/2016
11/13/2016
11/06/2016
October
10/30/2016
10/23/2016
10/16/2016
10/09/2016
10/02/2016
September
09/25/2016
09/18/2016
09/11/2016
09/04/2016
August
08/28/2016
08/21/2016
July
07/31/2016
07/24/2016
07/17/2016
07/03/2016
June
06/26/2016
06/19/2016
06/05/2016
May
05/29/2016
05/22/2016
05/15/2016
05/08/2016
05/01/2016
April
04/17/2016
04/10/2016
04/03/2016
March
03/27/2016
03/20/2016
03/13/2016
03/06/2016
February
02/28/2016
02/21/2016
02/17/2016
02/14/2016
02/07/2016
January
01/31/2016
01/24/2016
01/03/2016
01/01/2016

December
12/27/2015
12/20/2015
12/13/2015
12/06/2015
November
11/22/2015
11/15/2015
11/08/2015
11/01/2015
October
10/25/2015
10/18/2015
10/11/2015
10/04/2015
September
09/27/2015
09/20/2015
09/13/2015
09/06/2015
August
08/30/2015
08/23/2015
08/16/2015
08/09/2015
08/02/2015
July
07/26/2015
07/19/2015
07/12/2015
07/05/2015
June
06/28/2015
06/21/2015
06/14/2015
06/07/2015
May
05/31/2015
05/24/2015
05/17/2015
05/10/2015
April
04/19/2015
04/12/2015
04/12/2015
04/05/2015
March
03/29/2015
03/22/2015
03/15/2015
03/08/2015
February
02/15/2015
02/15/2015
02/08/2015
02/01/2015
January
01/25/2015
01/25/2015
01/18/2015
01/11/2015
01/04/2015

December
12/28/2014
12/21/2014
12/14/2014
12/07/2014
November
11/23/2014
11/16/2014
11/09/2014
11/02/2014
October
10/12/2014
10/05/2014
September
09/28/2014
09/21/2014
09/14/2014
09/07/2014
August
08/31/2014
08/24/2014
08/17/2014
08/10/2014
08/03/2014
July
07/27/2014
07/20/2014
07/13/2014
07/06/2014
June
06/29/2014
06/22/2014
06/15/2014
06/08/2014
06/01/2014
May
05/11/2014
April
04/27/2014
04/20/2014
04/13/2014
04/06/2014
March
03/30/2014
03/23/2014
03/16/2014
03/02/2014
February
02/02/2014
January
01/26/2014
01/19/2014
01/12/2014
01/05/2014