Finding Joy in the Midst of a Mess

On the weekend, we continued our Advent series by talking about joy. Because joy is something I think we all need and want. Joy is different than happiness, actually. While happiness is often based on our circumstances, joy can transcend our circumstances.
So, we began by looking at how we might find joy in the midst of our real lives. Because our real lives are sometimes difficult, especially around Christmas time. There can be financial strain, family drama and unmet expectations – all of which makes “the most wonderful time of the year” a little, well, not so wonderful.
What we discovered, as we examined Mary and Joseph’s life, is that their lives were full of mess, drama and difficulty when Jesus was born. First of all, Mary is with Joseph, even though they aren’t yet married. Most likely because of family drama. Then, they show up to Joseph’s ancestral hometown, but there is no room for them. No one seems to want to take in a very pregnant woman in their own hometown. So, all of this leads to some pretty obvious conclusions – Mary and Josephs’ life is not perfect, clean and put together. It’s a lot like ours – messy and occasionally hurtful.
Yet, it is into this reality that Jesus shows up. And, He brings joy to Mary and Joseph, as their first child is born. More than that, He draws in the shepherds as well. This might seem insignificant, but it’s hugely meaningful. Because when you have a child, you want to share that story and experience it with others. But, no family seems to show up, so God sends shepherds to share in the joy and celebration with Mary and Joseph.The Scriptures say that it impacts Mary deeply and she treasures it all.
So, from this, we pulled out the obvious, but necessary point – that with Jesus comes joy. One of the first things He does on earth is bring joy to His parents, and bring others together to share in this joy.

We then walked through how this applies to our lives. That, first and foremost, if we are in need of some joy, we should pray and ask for it. Jesus, Himself, says this in John 17 – that we can ask for joy. On His birth, Jesus demonstrates how He brings joy when He arrives. So, the first thing we should do is pray and wait and watch for Jesus to come with some joy.
The other thing we should be open to is that Jesus might want to send us out to bring joy to others. This is what we see when the shepherds come to meet with Jesus. So, what if that’s our calling this Christmas – to bring joy to others? To show up with cookies, a conversation or a connection? To show up and surprise others by bringing them joy?
So, we ended with a simple challenge – To pray and ask for joy, but also to listen and follow God if He sends you to bring joy to others. Because, as Christians, we are not only to experience the joy of Christmas and Jesus, but to spread it.
Teaching Notes
Passage: Luke 2:1-20
 
Big Idea: When Jesus shows up, He brings joy
Teaching Points:
  • All families are dysfunctional at some point
  • Jesus’ first act is to bring joy
  • Happiness is dependent on what is going on around us; joy is dependent on what is happening within us
  • Jesus brings in others to share in the joy
  • Pray and invite Jesus to show up
  • Giving joy spreads
  • Show up so someone else receives joy
  • Prayers coupled with action is always better
  • Joy is on its way, and we can find it and be part of it
Adult Discussion Questions:
1. What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new?
2. Do you agree with Andrew that all families are dysfunctional at some point? Why or why not?
3. Are you more likely to think of the story of Mary and Joseph as history or fable? Why?
4. When have you been filled with joy? Have you ever found joy amidst difficult situations?
5. How can you commit to asking Jesus to show up with joy in your life? How can you show up to bring joy into someone else’s life? What next steps do you need to take?
Challenge for the Week: Pray for Jesus to show up and show up so someone else receives joy

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