Enter Into Joy

How To Find The True And Lasting Joy Only Jesus Can Bring.

Bryan Vander Tuig
Dec 11, 2022    42m
Do you struggle to find joy in your life? We look to earthly things to bring us joy, but they are temporary and will not ultimately satisfy us. This message of hope reminds us that we can only find true and lasting joy through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Video recorded at Upland, California.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

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Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:00:24] Good morning. Beautiful lyrics as we prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus. My name is Terry O'Brien, I'm part of Mom to Mom, Quiet time, and I worship with the Life Kids. Today's scripture is from Luke chapter 2 verses 8 through 12, "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” This is God's Word.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:02:24] Isn't that a great video? Does that put a smile on your face? It's titled Christmas Joy, it's Tim Hawkins, he's a Christian comedian. And yeah, even on this kind of rainy morning, right, we just need a little something to put a smile on our faces, and I hope you enjoyed that.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:02:46] This week is week three of our Advent series here at Life Bible Fellowship Church, and we're going to be talking about joy. And throughout this week, as I've been thinking about this message and our time together, you know, I have to think about the things that bring me joy in my life, and there's a laundry list of them, but here are just a few. My family brings me joy. My wife Kathy brings me joy, my adult children, and their spouses, fiancés, and all of that. And some of you who know Kathy and I well know that we are new grandparents, and I have to say that my new granddaughter, Madison, brings me great joy. Riding my bike, some of you can relate to this, some of you guys are bike riders in this church, riding my bike on a perfect 70-degree California day brings me joy, right? For me, doing anything fishing, hiking, driving in the Sierras brings me great joy. The Sierras are getting dumped on with snow right now. Something else that brings me joy is eating down at the beach. You know, when I was younger, I grew up in Southern California and, you know, going to the beach used to be about sitting on the beach and getting sun and going in the water and body surfing and all those fun things, right? I could care less about that anymore; I just want to go to the beach and eat. I don't know if it's a sign of age or what, but I just want to eat. I love to eat food down at the beach. This time of year brings me joy. Thanksgiving is really my favorite holiday, but I love this entire season.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:04:31] And so those are some of the things that bring me joy, but when I think about that list, it's an interesting list, if you kind of just dissect it a little bit, right? The things that I would say bring me joy are people, places, things, and experiences. That seems a little bit shallow, right? It's not, I mean, they're all in and of themselves, they are great things, and I would even say for me that they are gifts from God. But by themselves and apart from God, they are shallow, and they are short-lived, and they will not bring lasting joy.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:05:07] Something else for us to be thinking about this morning is this, as we talk about joy, not everyone experiences joy at this time of the year. Not everyone experiences Christmas Joy. For some of you this morning, I would imagine that you have lost a loved one in the last year, and maybe for you, this morning is difficult to feel joy, or this season, to feel joy. For some of you, maybe the thought of getting together with family for the Christmas holidays does not bring joy because of family discord. Full disclosure, we have some of that in my extended family, it makes it challenging and difficult. For some of you, you might be feeling financial stress, right? The pressure to buy gifts and not just small gifts, but big gifts, right? And the stress that comes with that, where am I going to come up with the money for this? We're already tight, right? So financial stress. Maybe it's a lack of time that is the joy robber for you, right? At this time of the year, we run around like crazy and we're going to all these different parties and we're doing our shopping and we have to work in between, and we've got kids to care for, and places to go, and things to do, and lack of time can be a joy robber at this time of year.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:06:37] In fact, I came across this stat this week, according to the American Psychological Association, 38% of people they surveyed said that their stress levels increased during the holidays, which leads to physical illness, depression, anxiety, and for some even substance abuse. So the truth, for many at this time of the year, is that joy often seems out of reach, right? Joy often seems out of reach for so many people at this time of the year. And that might even be throughout the year, and maybe it's just exacerbated during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. And part of that is because the things that we look for to bring us joy are temporary, and they will not ultimately satisfy us. Our joy can be short-lived when we look for joy in people, places, things, or experiences. So the question this morning is where do we find true joy? Where do we find true joy?

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:07:43] Well, this morning's Christmas story tells us, God's word tells us, and so this morning, we're going to look into God's word in Luke chapter 2, that was read for us by Terry. We've been in this series called Enter into Christmas, and a few weeks ago it was Pastor Jeff who invited us to enter into Hope. And then it was Pastor Dan last week who invited us to enter into peace. Well, this morning, the invitation is for you to enter into joy, real and lasting joy.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:08:21] And so before we go further, let me just pray over us. God, thank you for this morning, thank you for the privilege that it is to worship you. And, God, to be reminded that you came in the flesh and the person of your Son, Jesus Christ, and we bless you and we thank you for that. And as we, God, dive into this topic of joy, this sentiment, this feeling, this reality of joy, God, I pray that your Holy Spirit would speak, that your Holy Spirit would open our hearts. God, that we would be able to see through the things that we normally look for joy in, and that we would be able to see Jesus and know that He is the source of our true joy. And so Holy Spirit, do your good work in our midst. We pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:09:18] For those of you who like to take notes, we're going to be looking at this Luke 2 passage in three different sections this morning. We're going to talk about the source of joy, we're going to talk about the recipients of joy, and we're going to talk about the certainty of joy, the source, the recipients, and the certainty.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:09:38] So first, let's talk about the source of joy. Where does this joy come from? And we see that the answer is given to us and for us in verse 10 of this morning's text. Verse 10 says, But the angel said to them, (Talking about the shepherds) “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people." So the source of true joy for us, as Luke tells us in the Christmas story, is good news. Now think about the news that you and I watch, listen to, and scroll through on our phones. I have a bad habit of this, you guys. I do this, I go to Fox News, I go to CNN News, I go to Google News, and I sit there, and I scroll through and I scroll through, and how much of that is good news, do you think? Not very much, right? We're all [inaudible], but we do it, it's crazy.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:10:40] This morning when I was sitting on my couch by my Christmas tree and I thought, you know, I'm just going to do this, and so I scrolled through. And no lie, I would say maybe one out of every 10 to 15 stories had a good element to it, right? It's usually not good news, it's typically bad news or junk news even, right? But the message that the angels declared to the shepherds they said, was good news. I want to talk about that a little bit. Luke, the writer of this gospel, Luke, is doing something here that his audience in the first century would have picked up on, and I want to help us kind of understand that this morning. Luke is using terminology that he took from the culture, the Greco-Roman culture, right? The Greek-Roman culture of the first century, as well as the culture of the Jewish people, to reach his audience, to tell them about the birth of Jesus.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:11:45] So from the Greco-Roman perspective, this phrase, good news, was a well-known phrase. It was known throughout the Roman Empire because it was used to reference the birth of Emperor Caesar Augustus when his birthday was celebrated. So you can imagine that they're at this birthday party of the Emperor Caesar Augustus and one of his politicians, one of his rulers, you know, stands up and says, man, the birth of our emperor, the birth of Caesar Augustus is good news for the world. And they would even go further and say it's good news because he is a savior. Does that sound familiar? Right? So Luke has taken terminology from that culture, and then, on the other hand, he takes terminology of good news from the Jewish culture, from their scriptures. And we can look at a few of the verses that show us that, most of them are the ones I'll share this morning are from Isaiah.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:12:51] The first one is from Isaiah 4 verse 9, "You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” And so for the Jewish culture here in this text, the good news is declared as the coming of God. And then Isaiah 52, a very familiar text quoted by Paul in Romans chapter 10, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” So here the good news in the Old Testament is proclaimed in God's salvation and in His rule of peace. And then Isaiah 61, another familiar text, Jesus quotes this text in Luke 4 at the beginning of his public ministry in the synagogue, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn." Here the good news is proclaimed on behalf of the outcast.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:14:29] So here's what Luke is doing, he draws from the language that is a part of the religious and power culture of the Roman Empire. And he draws from the language of the culture of the Jews and their trust in God's rule, and he transforms that language, and he puts it into a message about a newborn baby in a manger declared to peasant shepherds. And what Luke is doing here, is he's intending his comments and his account of this story to be a declaration of this baby's greatness, this baby's greatness.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:15:09] But he doesn't stop there, in verse 11, Luke keeps going, and now he's going to ascribe some different titles to this child, he's going to ascribe the titles of Savior and Christ and Lord. And in verse 11, it says, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, He is Christ the Lord." And so similarly, Luke is using terminology titles that were familiar in both cultures, again, the Greco-Roman culture and the Jewish culture. Savior, a familiar term in the Roman culture, because Augustus himself was known as a savior, I kind of mentioned that. But other people were as well, if you were a doctor, if you were a philosopher, if you were a politician, or some type of ruler, you often had the title of savior, and so that was a familiar term in that culture. Well for the Jews, on the other hand, the term Savior as used in the Old Testament, was often a reference to God, their Deliverer, their Savior. And so now what Luke does is he takes these terms that these cultures knew about, and he ascribes this role of Savior to Jesus, the newborn child. And we know, right, that ultimately that was the purpose of Jesus coming, to be the Savior of the world. And we see that in John chapter 3 verse 17, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." And then in Acts 5 verse 31, also written by Luke, "God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins." So Savior, a term ascribed to Jesus by Luke.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:17:21] The next one is Christ. Christ is Greek, it's kind of the alternate form of the Hebrew word Messiah, and both Christ and Messiah mean anointed one. And if you're familiar with what we call the Old Testament, the Jews would call it the Hebrew Scriptures, right? The entire Old Testament, the law, the prophets, the historical books, the people, and everything about the Old Testament were all part of God's redemptive plan to prepare the world for the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, the anointed One, the Christ. And there are texts all throughout the Hebrew Scriptures that are known as messianic texts, texts that told the people and reminded the people of God's promise that the Messiah is coming. And one of those very familiar texts for us is Isaiah 9 verse 6, a familiar text at this time of the year at Christmas. And I think both Pastor Jeff and Pastor Dan referenced this passage in the last two weeks, and we're going to read it again this morning, "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, (That's a reference to kingship), Mighty God, (A reference to divine power) Everlasting Father, (A reference to a compassionate provider and protector) Prince of Peace, (A reference to a ruler who would bring wholeness and wellbeing to both individuals and to society." So you have to imagine that the people of Israel waited generations for this message to come to fruition, this promise of God to come to fruition, they waited for generations.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:19:26] But by the time of the first century, the time of Jesus's birth, the Jews were waiting for a messiah that was going to be an earthly king. They wanted a king that would deliver them from underneath the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire, they hated being under Rome, under their thumb, and so they were looking for an earthly king that would deliver them. But God's Messiah was not to be an earthly king who would bring political victory, this Messiah brought a new kingdom, a kingdom where life comes through death, a kingdom where victory comes as we lay down our lives in humility and service to others, it's a different kingdom, it's the Messiah of God, Jesus.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:20:20] So he's He speaks of a Savior, and he speaks of the Christ or the Messiah, and the last term that Luke uses to describe this very special child is Lord. Another term used familiarly as a word in the Roman Empire because they also use that to describe Caesar Augustus. And Luke, already for the Jewish audience in chapter one of Luke, he already connects this title of Lord to the coming child. He does this when the angel Gabriel came to Zechariah and told Zechariah that his older wife is going to have a child, and he made a promise. And in Luke 1 verse 17, the angel said to Zechariah, "And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” And so Luke has already ascribed this title of Lord to Jesus, the newborn child.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:21:33] And so all of these titles together point to the exalted status of Jesus. And Luke says, essentially, to his readers, and he says to us this morning, that this is the best news ever, it's the best news ever. It's the news that the people of Israel have been waiting generations for, God has come in the flesh. And one of the other gospel writers, John described it this way, the Word became flesh. The word is another term used to describe Jesus, the Word became flesh, and he made his dwelling among us. God came in the flesh in the person of Jesus, and Luke wants to blow the doors off of the story by how he tells it, it is the best news ever. This is no ordinary child, God did not send the local pastors to the shepherds to tell them the news, he did not send the priests from the temple, he did not send the Pharisees or the teachers of the Bible, he sent the Heavenly Messengers, the angels, to tell this incredible story. This was a big, big deal, the birth of Jesus is good news that brings great joy, not because it's a cute story, it's good news because Jesus, the child, grew to be Jesus, the man, who loved as no one had loved before, who broke down barriers, who died on a cross to reconcile lost sinners to God, who ascended to heaven and now sits at the right hand of the Father. It is news that has eternal implications, and it is this news that is the source of great joy, both for the shepherds and for us this morning, as long as we don't leave that great gift unopened. That would be the greatest...what would be the right word there? That would be a travesty, right, if we left this gift of great joy unopened. So the source of joy is the good news of Jesus.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:24:00] Second, the recipients of this good news, we find a few verses later, but the recipients are the shepherds. The shepherds were the first to hear the good news of Jesus's birth. And something else that Luke is doing in these early chapters of this Gospel, in Luke chapters 1 and 2, is Luke is contrasting two different worlds, he's contrasting the world of the privileged and the powerful with the world of the simple and the lowly. And we see this in Mary's song, right in chapter 1, the angel Gabriel had come to Mary and said, hey, Mary, you're young and you're a virgin, but you're going to conceive a child through the power of the Holy Spirit and you're going to give birth, you're going to name him Jesus, and he's going to save the people from their sins. And Mary's response is a declaration of praise, we know it as Mary's song and in verses 52 and 53 of chapter 1, Mary says this, "He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty." And so Luke is doing something here in these early chapters, he's contrasting the enthroned versus the lowly. On one hand, it's Caesar Augustus, and Quirinius the governor of Syria, the power brokers. And on the other hand, it's the shepherds, the lowly peasant shepherds. You see, the shepherds were the normal Joes in that culture, they were not the rulers. And so we see that the lowly are lifted up, just like Mary declared in her song of praise. The shepherds represent the lowly and the humble who respond to God's message.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:25:56] We recently just finished a really wonderful sermon series, I know that challenged so many of us, called Justice and Mercy. And throughout that series, we saw the heart of God for the vulnerable, right? The heart of God for the vulnerable, those on the edges of society. Well, in this text this morning, we see God's heart, again, for those on the edges of society. We see it in God's arrival, in God's message to the shepherds. The message of the greatest event in the history of the world up to that point came to a group of average Joes living on the edge of society. And you know what else is interesting in this story? To think about where they were when God declared this message, okay, verse 9 says, "The angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them." When you think of the one place in the Scriptures that the glory of the Lord is usually associated with, where is that? The temple, right, it's associated with the temple. God's glory manifests in the holy of holies, right, it's the tabernacle, it's the temple. But here, God's glory is manifest in the hills of Bethlehem.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:27:17] And one commentator that I was reading said this, he said, "It's as if God showed up at the farm." God showed up at the farm. At the birth of Jesus Christ, God is doing a new thing, he's shaking up the importance of the temple as the central focal point of the religious and cultural life of the Jewish people. He's saying it's a new day, a new day has arrived. And we see this, too, in a picture that I like to show, because I think this shows the heart of God, too. I showed this to the men at the men's retreat last April, this is just an artist's sketch, but on the right up on that hill is what is known as the Herodium. Herod the Great, who was the king of Israel at the time of Jesus's birth, one of the most powerful men, one of the wealthiest men ever to live, one of the most incredible builders ever to build. He had this incredible palace, this fortress up on the hills just outside of Bethlehem, and from the village of Bethlehem, you can see the Herodium. And so in this artist's sketch, you see the fortress of the powerful and the influential and the wealthy, and yet the savior of the world, God in the flesh, the creator of the universe, right, born in a stable in Bethlehem. And God is telling us something, God's communicating something to us in the birth of Jesus, where He was born, and to who the message came to. It puts the reader, it puts us, on notice that a new world is coming and it's radically different than the former one.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:29:05] The message I believe that God wants to communicate this morning is that this message brings great joy for all people, all people, no matter your economic status, your social status, what you do for work, your age, none of that matters. The birth announcement to the shepherds reflects God's desire to speak to everyone about the coming of Jesus because everyone is impacted by his coming, whether they know it or not.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:29:39] But the birth announcement to the shepherds, the lowly shepherds, is also something else for us this morning, it is an invitation for us. It is an invitation for us to embrace our own brokenness and our own loneliness, like we can relate to these shepherds, right? We can relate to them because we have our own sense of loneliness, every one of us that is a follower of Christ here this morning at one time was lost and separated from God, wallowing in our own sins, living in our own darkness, right? We were godless sinners who needed to be saved, and so we can relate, and we are invited into that. And even thinking about joy, right, joy in this difficult world that we live in that's filled with hard things and sadness and we need a desperation for God because that joy is fragile. And God's message to the shepherds, and to the lowly shepherds, is a reminder and an invitation to us that our joy is fragile, and we need to be desperate for God to lead us to victory each and every day. So the message brought to the shepherds was received with great joy, the God of the universe came and spoke to them. Similarly, we can have that same joy knowing that the message of the good news of Jesus's birth, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension is for you as well as long as we don't leave that gift unopened. Right? We need to open up that gift and experience the joy found in Jesus Christ.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:31:34] The third is the certainty of joy. The certainty of joy. Look at verse 12, "This will be a sign to you." This is from the angels to the shepherds, "This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” The sign enables the shepherds to find the baby, and it proves to them the truth of what the angels said. So the shepherds, we know, they go to Bethlehem, they investigate. In verse 20, which we didn't read this morning, but verse 20 tells us their response, it says, "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." That's very important, just as they had been told. Once again, God keeps his word. This is not fake news, this is good news, and God keeps his word.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:32:38] The birth of Jesus is a lesson for us this morning, and a reminder to us of God's faithfulness. Right? God promised, God promised that he would send his son, God promised that he would send the Messiah. And that promise goes all the way back to Genesis chapter 3, right, Genesis chapter 1 is Creation, chapter 2 is Adam and Eve, and chapter 3 is what we know as the fall, right? It's where Adam and Eve kind of essentially say, God, we've got this. God, we can handle this on our own. God, we don't need you, God, we're going to trust the word of the enemy, of Satan, over you. And Adam and Eve fall to the temptation of the enemy, and they eat of the fruit that they were forbidden to eat from. Right? And God could have easily said, all right, I'm done, I'm done, you don't trust me. But God didn't, God stepped in. God stepped in, and he made a promise. Genesis 3, verse 15, He said, the seed of the woman is going to someday crush the head of the serpent. And that right there was a prophecy, a promise that God is making, that someday his son Jesus is going to crush the head of the serpent. And Jesus accomplished that through his death and through his resurrection on the cross. And so God is faithful to keep his promises, and we can take that to the bank this morning. And it is a reminder of this incredible story of the birth of Jesus reminds us of God's faithfulness.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:34:11] But God's faithfulness doesn't stop at the birth of Jesus or at the manger. As I said earlier, the child in the manger does not compare to the man who healed diseases, who loved the unlovable, who in obedience went to the cross, who was raised from the dead by the Father, who ascended into heaven. God is faithful, and his promise of joy through a relationship with Jesus is the same today as it was 2000 years ago. You see, joy, real joy, the gift of joy is not something that we can drum up in and of ourselves, real true joy is a result of knowing Jesus Christ, it is because of what God has already done in Jesus.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:35:14] So let me finish this by just looking at asking the question, who is this message of joy for? Right? We saw in verse 10, "The angel says, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." Right? So the good news of great joy is for all the people in the sense that it's available for all people. But who benefits from the good news of the Savior? We have to look at verse 14, if you have your Bible, look at verse 14. It's where the Heavenly host declares this, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:36:05] Pastor Dan talked about peace last week, and for Luke's audience, again, peace is a well-known term. In the Roman world that Jesus was born into, the people were experiencing what was known as the Pax Romana Roman Peace. Roman peace was marked by all kinds of external things, such as good roads, theater, gymnasium, government, health improvements, wealth, right, that was the Pax Romana. But the Angels proclaimed a deeper and more lasting peace than that, a peace that is made possible only in a relationship with Jesus. And in Romans 5 verse 1, Paul says, Paul the Apostle writes, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we a have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Peace with God comes through our Lord Jesus Christ. And so this remark makes it clear that salvation in its fullness, and the joy that comes with it, are not automatic for everyone. Jesus comes for all, but not all respond to or benefit from his coming. Peace with God is received by faith in Jesus Christ, and it is on believers that His favor rests.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:37:47] So let's think about that for a minute. At the beginning of the message. I said joy often seems out of reach, right? But through this incredible Christmas story this morning and the birth of Christ, God reminds us that true joy is within reach. True joy is within reach because of what he has accomplished through his Son Jesus Christ. I have said that the greatest kind of travesty of this morning would be to not open up the present or the gift of God's joy through a relationship with Jesus Christ, and so I want to ask you this morning, have you opened up that gift, that relationship? Do you know Jesus as your Savior, as your Lord? Because it is only in him and through him that we will have everlasting joy. And if you haven't ever opened that gift, please do not let this morning go without doing that. After the service, there will be people, prayer team people, elders up here, I'll be up here, and we would love to have a conversation with you about that and to pray with you about that.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:39:18] But maybe you're here this morning and you've been following Christ for a long time and maybe you are struggling to experience that true joy. Right? And we said that we need that, we need God on a daily basis. we need that relationship, we need his Holy Spirit to direct us, and to help us into encouragement in times when we need that joy. And so if that's you this morning, I want to invite you to come up and pray too after the service, we would love to just enter into that with you, and to come before the throne of God together as his people and to pray that you would experience that joy.

Bryan Vander Tuig: [00:40:02] The theme of the series is Enter into Christmas, and the message title is Enter into Joy, it's an invitation. And so let's together, as the body of Christ, God's people, enter into this season of joy together. Let me pray. God, thank you for your great gift of your Son Jesus Christ. Thank you for the reminder this morning of just what an incredible event that was, and what an incredible event for us to remember each and every year. And God, maybe we need to admit this morning that celebrating Christmas year after year after year, sometimes we lose the awe. Sometimes, God, we get so wrapped up in everything else about Christmas and trees and going to the malls and music, and God, those are good things, but sometimes they take away and distract us from the real meaning, and what you really want us to remember about that this season. So, God, I pray that through your Holy Spirit, you would draw us back to you. God, your word says that when we draw near to you, you draw near to us. And so, God, I pray that this morning, for us as a church. God, if there are men or women or young people here this morning that haven't stepped into that life of joy that is only through a relationship with Jesus, God, I pray that you would draw near to them this morning. God, that we would be able to have a conversation or a time of prayer with them, God, do your work. God, if there are brothers or sisters who know you and yet are struggling with joy, I pray, God, that we would enter into that together as well. God, you call us to carry each other's burdens, and even in that God, we can find joy. And so Holy Spirit, do your good work in our midst. Holy Spirit, unite us together in Christ Jesus. And I pray this in His name alone. Amen.

Recorded in Upland, California.
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