Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Current Study: Advent
Today’s Topic: Joyful Celebration
Scripture Reading: Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
I’m an emotional guy. I especially can’t handle happy endings. I love stories of people who overcome obstacles and tragedies. The tears flow freely every Sunday when they move that bus.
True joy does that to a person. I’ve cried at the end of too many movies to count – from Karate Kid to Rudy. But I don’t think I’ve ever been more overwhelmed with joy at a movie than when I watched Sister Act 2 for the first time. Sister Mary Clarence, played by Whoopi Goldberg, takes a class of musically talented misbehaving misfits and transforms them into a championship choir. One girl in particular is highlighted in her battle to honor her mother’s dysfunctional wishes or pursue her own dreams. She chooses her dreams. Her mother realizes her mistake and comes to the choir competition they have trained for. When she sees her mom enter, she freezes as her performance is to begin. She composes herself, and then…well, maybe you should just watch it.
I’ve seen that video clip dozens of times, and I’ve once again had to dry my eyes this morning. It is one of the greatest visual illustrations of joy I have ever seen in a movie.
That’s the kind of joy I want to have when I think of Jesus. That’s the kind of joy I want people to express I worship. That’s the kind of joy our hope in Christ is to produce. In fact, because joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, we who know Jesus and have the Spirit should be better at it than anyone else.
I’m not saying that joy is just an external action. No, joy starts in the heart and is manifested externally in several ways. Joy brings peace when all around us is in turmoil. Joy produces patience in the presence of problems. Joy connects hope with perseverance in prayer. But joy also erupts in a geyser of praise that should freely flow from hearts boiling over with gratitude. (See Dec. 07, 2009 Connecting Points)
I really don’t know what the reason is, but the average Christian today has severely stifled the expression of joy. When the angel appeared in the sky and announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds he said, “I’ve got good news of great joy for you.” Great joy. So great that a whole host of angels appeared at the mention of Christ’s birth and filled the sky with praise. Something has happened to turn great joy and public praise into emotional control and silent privacy.
The Apostle Paul tells us that we are to be joyful in hope. The Apostle Peter said that we are to always be ready to give an answer to everyone that asks us about the hope we have. My question is – without a visible expression of joy in our lives how does the world know we have any hope?
We get way too bogged down in our problems. So what if the Vikings lost – badly? (Stop being joyful all you Packer fans – it’s not nice.) So what if all of my running backs on my fantasy football team are injured entering the first week of playoffs? So what if the economy looks like it’s going down the tubes? So what if…you fill in what has stifled your joy. So what? Your hope isn’t in those things – it’s in Jesus Christ, who lives eternally and has given you His life.
I love the challenge from the prophet Habakkuk – Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. (3:17-19)
So stop looking at the hurts of your past and start looking look at the hope of your future. Then put on your dancin’ shoes and raise a voice of praise, and start letting the joy of the Lord out of quarantine. Someone around you today needs to see it.