************ Sermon on Luke 1:44 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 17, 2006
"A Leap for Joy"
I always think of Springtime on the farm while I was growing up when I read that John the Baptist "leaped for joy" in the womb upon hearing Mary's voice. All Winter long our animals were tied up in the barn – the horses, the cows, the steers, the heifers. Then came the day when the snow was gone, the grass was green, and the animals were untied from their stalls. Us kids used to sit on the fence and watch them as they got outside for the first time in months. They jumped, they ran, they rolled, they even seemed to dance. They were so excited and happy. Like John the Baptist, they were leaping for joy.
John the Baptist is not the only person in the Bible who leaps for joy. The psalmist was leaping for joy too.
(Ps 28:7) The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.
I We Should Have Joy
A A couple of years ago I saw a movie about slaves in America. These slaves fresh from Africa had rebelled or mutinied, were caught, and were brought to trial. During the trial a group of Christian abolitionists gathered together, got down on their knees, and prayed for them. This confused the slaves. "It's some sort of dance," one of them suggested. "It can't be," said another. "They look too miserable to be dancing." From that point on in the movie the abolitionist Christians were referred to by the slaves as "The Miserable Ones."
Isn't this sad? Isn't it sad that many in the world view Christians and Christianity this way? Isn't it sad that many Christians have no sense of humor and show no joy? It shouldn't be that way. We are told over and over again to be joyful. Billy Sunday, in a sermon in New York City in 1914, said, "If there is not joy in religion, you have got a leak in your religion." Is it fair to say that some of us have sprung leaks?
Like John the Baptist, in this Christmas season we too should be leaping for joy. Christmas time is meant to be joy time.
Even the secular world recognizes that Christmas is meant to be a time of joy. "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens tells us about Ebenezer Scrooge. He is such a miserable man but ends up singing for joy. The Christmas time movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," tell us about a guy named George who loses everything and discovers that it is a wonderful life after all.
B Christmas time is meant to be joy time. This comes straight from the Bible. Remember what the angel said to Zechariah about the birth of John the Baptist?
(Luke 1:14) He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth ...In our text Elizabeth says to Mary:
(Luke 1:44) As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.When John the Baptist was born to Elizabeth, her neighbors and relatives "shared her joy" (Lk 1:58). The angel of Christmas Day told the shepherds,
(Luke 2:10) "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people ..."
This Biblical theme of joy has been picked up by many of our Christmas songs. Have you ever noticed the number of Christmas songs that mention joy in their title:
"Joy to the World!"
"How Great Our Joy!"
"Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You"
"Good Christian Men, Rejoice"
"O Thou Joyful, O Thou Wonderful"
C The joy of the first Christmas was real. Every Christmas since then is meant to be joy time. And yet, for many people it is a time of sadness and loneliness. I think of widows without their husbands. I think of parents without their children or children without their parents. I think of those who have loved ones serving overseas or doing time in prison. I think of those who can't afford presents or even a Christmas meal for their children. I think of those who get depressed by the season or by the alcohol or by the cost.
II A Joyful Leap
A When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, one of the things he told her was that "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" (Lk 1:37). When Mary hear this, she hurried to Elizabeth for some woman-to-woman support. When Mary entered Elizabeth's home she greeted her cousin.
John the Baptist, who was six months old in the womb at this point (Lk 1:26,36), "leaped for joy" when he heard the sound of Mary's voice. The word that is used describes sheep or goats or other animals skipping or leaping in a field. It expresses excitement and happiness.
It is important we recognize why John the Baptist leaped for joy. It starts with the Spirit. The angel told Zechariah that John the Baptist would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb (Lk 1:15). Filled with the Holy Spirit, John the Baptist was leaping and kicking with joy because he knew the Messiah was present.
B At the same time as John the Baptist was kicking with joy, his mother Elizabeth began to praise God for what was being done through Mary:
(Luke 1:42) In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!In that society it was normal for Mary to pay homage to her older cousin. Instead, it was Elizabeth paying homage to Mary.
It is important we recognize why Elizabeth began to praise God. It starts with the Spirit. Scripture tells us "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit" (Lk 1:41). Filled with the Spirit, Elizabeth recognized the truth of the situation. Filled with the Spirit, Elizabeth recognized she was standing in the presence of the mother of the Messiah.
C Filled with the Spirit, then, John the Baptist "leaped for joy." Filled with the Spirit, Elizabeth praised God. We see here that joy comes from and by and through the Spirit. But, then, we already know this because joy is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). Spirit-filled Christians are joyful Christians. Spirit-filled Christians are filled with joy because they have met and know the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Savior.
Christmas time is joy time because, through the Spirit, we know the Savior has come.
III Joy in Jesus
A When we look through the Gospels, we see that joy always has to do with Jesus. Listen to these verses:
(Lk 6:22-23) Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. (23) "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets ..."We are called to rejoice that our relationship with Jesus means persecution.
I think also of the time Jesus appointed seventy-two and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go (Lk 10:1). We are told that the seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name" (Lk 10:17). Do you remember how Jesus responded? He said,
(Luke 10:20) "... do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."Rejoice, in other words, that you are saved.
Another time the Pharisees and teachers of the law muttered that Jesus "welcomes sinners and eats with them" (Lk 15:2). In reply, Jesus told three parables – the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Parable of the Lost Coin, and the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Each time the parable ends with a call to rejoice that lost sinners have come to the Lord in repentance and faith. Rejoice over salvation.
Do you remember how the apostles responded to Christ's resurrection? They were filled with "joy and amazement" (Lk 24:41). And, after Christ's ascension into heaven "they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy" (Lk 24:52). As Paul puts it, our joy is in the Lord (Phil 4:4).
We see that the joy attached to the resurrection of Christ was also attached to His conception and birth. And, it was attached to the conception and birth of John the Baptist as well. Joy, because God is at work. Joy, because God is advancing His plan for our salvation. Joy, because the Messiah has come or is coming. Joy, because God is being faithful to His covenant promises.
Those who know or who have met the Savior are filled with joy. For believers everywhere Christmas time is joy time.
Topic: RejoicingJoy because they have met the Savior.
Evangelists from Colorado Springs based "Every Home for Christ" tell us what happens when a pygmy from Zaire in Central Africa repents.
Pygmies consider themselves inferior to outsiders and rarely make eye contact with them. But when they pray to receive Christ they weep and sob, then lift their eyes and look at you, and the biggest smile will come across their faces.
-- National & International Religion Report, May 2, 1994, Vol. 8:10, p. 1
B The joy of the first Christmas and the first Easter was not something new. It has its roots in the Old Testament. Did you know, no language has as many words for joy and rejoicing as does Hebrew? In the Old Testament thirteen Hebrew roots, found in twenty-seven different words, are used primarily for some aspect of joy or joyful participation in religious worship. It is clear that the Hebrews regarded God as the source of joy. Pure joy is joy in God.
C Someone observed that in the English language "joy" is an interesting word. It does not have an automatic opposite created by adding an "un" or "dis" to it. For example, there is pleasure and displeasure, happiness and unhappiness, righteous and unrighteous, satisfied and dissatisfied. But there is no disjoy or unjoy. There is a reason for this, of course. Joy is something that you can have regardless of what else is going on. Joy is not dependent upon the circumstances of life.
Joy is in the Lord and comes from the Lord. Take Jesus out of the equation, and the joy is gone as well. In other words, as long as you have Jesus, you have the joy. Those who have met and know Jesus have every reason for joy. Especially at Christmas. Because Christmas time is joy time – for the Savior has come.
A couple of years ago Carole Mayhall wrote an article in "Today's Christian Woman" (Vol 20, no.2).
Title: What Occupies Your Heart?
I squirmed a bit as I forced myself to listen to my friend cataloging her problems. After three hours, I interrupted her gently to ask, "If you were to draw a circle to represent your life, what would be in the center?
She thought a moment, then said, "My problems." My friend spoke the truth.
A week later, I sat across the hospital bed of my younger sister, Joye, who had just been diagnosed with acute leukemia. Gray and perspiring, with bandages encasing her throat from a biopsy, Joye talked to a student nurse who was interviewing terminally ill people to see if there was any way she could help them.
"Oh, Jan, I'm a bit fearful of the pain and process of dying--but I'm not afraid of death! It'll just be a change of residence for me," I heard my sister, her face radiant from within, say to this student nurse. And for forty-five minutes, Joye explained the good news of Jesus Christ to Jan.
Afterward, I thought, both my friend and sister have serious problems. Yet one's walking in despair, and the other in joy. What makes the difference?
Then I realized what it was. My friend's heart was occupied with her problems; my sister's heart was occupied with the Living God.
The first Christmas, John the Baptist and Elizabeth focused their hearts and minds on Jesus, the Messiah. And, they were filled with joy.
What occupies your heart in this Christmas season? If your mind is filled with thoughts of presents and parties and decorations and Santas, then joy is missing. If your heart is filled with thoughts of problems and worries and income and health and illness, then joy is missing. But, if your mind and heart is filled with the Lord, then you experience and sing for joy.
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