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

Changing and Shaping Decades of Life

On Sunday we asked one simple question. How do you leave a legacy that lasts and lingers into the future? How do you ensure 1161714_36739445that how you are living now matters?

And what we discovered was a simple truth, that the decisions you make today soon become the stories you tell, which become the legacy you leave.

We looked at the story of Joseph and how after being sold into slavery, thrown into prison, and have untold difficulties all because of his family, comes face to face with them again and now he is in power. Joseph has a moment where he can exact justice, and retribution from his family. Instead he chooses grace.

The question is how did he know to do this? This is not natural. Ask any 3 year old about sharing and you’ll discover grace doesn’t come easily. So how did he know to do this? Because he saw it practiced years before. Because he heard stories of it as he grew up. Because one decision by his uncle shaped his life.

We discover in Genesis 33 that Jacob (Joseph’s dad) meets up with Esau after wrecking his life. Jacob steals Esau’s birthright (inheritance, power, and position) and his blessing (his connection and future). Esau is furious and vows to kill Jacob. Jacob runs. But eventually Jacob’s past catches up with him, as it always does. And he is forced to meet Esau. Esau shows up with 400 of his armed men. So Jacob astutely guesses that this won’t be a fun family reunion or picnic. Esau is here to kill him and take everything back that he’s stolen. And so slowly Jacob comes to Esau. But Esau does an amazing and remarkable thing. He gives grace, he forgives, and he makes a decision that shapes generations. And there is a small detail buried in Genesis 33:2 and 7. Joseph is mentioned. Joseph is there. Joseph is part of that moment of grace and forgiveness. We can only assume over the years Jacob telling of Esau’s generosity and forgiveness. As they sit around campfires, and the dinner table sharing about how this one moment changed the destiny of their entire family.

So fast forward decades and we find Joseph in the same situation. And he now knows how to act because of a decision of his uncle. Esau’s decision has echoed into the future and shaped the future of his entire family. It is an amazing thought isn’t it? That one decision can shape generations down the road. But its what the Bible teaches. We landed on this main point: that the decisions you make are the stories you will tell, and the legacy you will leave.

So what kind of decisions are you making? What kind of legacy are you leaving? What if your grandkids, or grandnephews or nieces take their cue from your decision today? Maybe you thinking of giving up, leaving, forgiving, forgetting, or moving on. What if this is the decision that will shape generations?

What it does is make sure that we think about how we are living. Because one thing is for sure, how we live now is leaving our legacy for the future.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: How you are living is the legacy you are leaving

Take Aways…

  • We want lives that matter and last
  • Decisions last and linger into the future
  • Joseph and Jacobs family were dysfunctional
  • We spend time contemplating our hurts, grudges, and desires for revenge
  • Why does Joseph give grace rather than justice?
  • Grace and love don’t come naturally
  • Joseph knows what do to because he’s seen it done
  • Our decision today last decades into the future
  • The decisions you make becomes the legacy you leave
  • The legacy you leave doesn’t start when you die, it starts now with how you live
  • What stories are you living and leaving?

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What made you laugh? What did you take away? Was this take on this passage new? Who has left a legacy in your life? What decisions you’re your past have lingered into the future? What type of a legacy are you leaving? What type of stories will the future generations tell about you?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take your kids and sit down and talk about today’s message. Tell them how you know the decisions you make will affect their futures. Make a vow, a pledge, or a promise in front of them to make the best decisions possible knowing that these are thing that will linger into the future. Promise them to live stories that matter

Challenge for this Week:

Live a legacy worth leaving