Have you ever wondered why the world seems to be such a different place the closer we get to Christmas? There seems to be a shared sense of Joy and excitement in the air. Not only is there more joy and excitement, but people seem to be nicer and certainly more generous. This is evident by the increased donations and volunteer hours in the month of December at places such as the Salvation Army and other outreach organizations. There seems to be an intensified sense of joy in the world. Today we are going to examine that joy and identify when it came into the world and discuss how we can tap into this joy year round.
Luke 1:39-45 Mary Visits Elizabeth
Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
The first thing we notice (V39) is that Mary went to see her cousin Elizabeth. It says, she went into the hill country with haste meaning, she was in a hurry to see Elizabeth. Let’s think about what was going on here. Mary was visited by an angel and is the recipient of this amazing news. In the process of learning that the Savior of the World will be her son, she also learns her cousin Elizabeth has been visited by an angel too and that a miracle birth will take place with her as well. So, what is young Mary thinking? I’ve got to see Elizabeth as soon as possible. She was excited and filled with Joy. She wanted to get to the one person she was pretty sure could relate to what happened to her, Elizabeth.
This journey from Mary’s home to Elizabeth’s was about 90 miles. It sounds like a short stroll when you read it in the Bible however; this wasn’t a short day trip. It could have taken two to three weeks to get there. Not only was this a long journey, but remember, Mary is going alone and she’s pregnant.
There’s no way Elizabeth could have known Mary was coming to see her. When she arrives unannounced Elizabeth was surprised and something amazing happened. (V41) When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe (John) leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. The mere presence of Jesus made the baby leap. The baby was aware of God’s presence. Furthermore, this was a fulfillment of what the Angel told Zacharias in Luke 1:15, “The baby will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before it is born”.
Elizabeth also uses the same words the angel used when visiting Mary, Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Remember, Mary hadn’t told her the good news yet, so imagine how thrilled Mary was to hear her cousin make the same proclamation as the angel.
Elizabeth describes her baby as leaping for Joy inside of her when she heard Mary’s greeting. She was probably overflowing with joy beyond anything she had ever experienced. Mother and child were having an amazing moment together due to the presence of Jesus.
Mary was experiencing an amazing blessing too. Elizabeth said, “blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Mary had already accepted by faith everything that had happen to her, but God loved Mary so much that he chose to bless her further by affirming everything she already believed.
Before we further examine where to find joy, let’s take a moment to consider where it can’t be found.
People have chased joy in every avenue imaginable. Joy can’t be found in any of the following.
- Not in Unbelief — Voltaire, a philosopher and an atheist who often attached the Catholic Church and Christianity. He wrote: “I wish I had never been born.”
- Not in Pleasure — Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure if anyone did. He wrote: “The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone.”
- Not in Money — Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying, he said: “I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth.”
- Not in Position and Fame — Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote: “Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.”
- Not in Military Glory — Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day. Having done so, he wept in his tent, before he said, “There are no more worlds to conquer.”
Money, power and fame don’t bring Joy. The following is a list of men and women who had just that, yet lived a life void of joy. Each of them committed suicide.
- Robin Williams – Comedian, Actor
- Ernest Hemingway – Author
- Vincent Van Gogh – Painter
- Virginia Woolf – Writer
- Don Cornelius – TV Host
- Curt Cobain – Lead singer Nirvana
- Mindy McCready – Country Music
- Jovan Belcher – KC Chiefs linebacker
3 Things we can learn about Joy from Scripture
Joy is found in God’s presence.
Elizabeth said her baby leaped for Joy inside of her. At the mere presence of God, even this unborn baby felt joy. We are hard wired to have this reaction to God. It is joy that drives us to worship and sing God’s praises. In Luke 19:40 the Pharisees wanted Jesus to stop his disciples from praising Him. Jesus told them, if they stopped rejoicing, the stones would immediately cry out.
1 Chronicles 16:27 teaches us, Honor and majesty are before Him; Strength and gladness are in His place. Psalm 16: 11 says, You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Where else would we want to be but in the presence of God. It’ s in His presence we find true joy. Jeremiah 15:16, Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.
Trusting God with our future brings Joy
Proverbs 16:20 teaches us, He who heeds the word wisely will find good,
And whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.
Psalm 30:11 says, You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.
Not only in the good times will we find joy. Once again, the Bible promises even in a time of grief and mourning we will find joy that is beyond reason.
Psalm 28: 7 says, The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him.
Our Joy transformed difficult times into blessings
1 Peter 1: 6-8, 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.
James 1:2-4, 2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7, 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.
Are you experiencing the fullness of joy to be found in Christ? Life can be complicated and burdensome. So why is it that some feel the full weight of their burdens and some the fullness of Joy? We can find the answer in another question. What occupies your heart? Is it your problems and troubles or is your heart occupied by God? Herein lays the answer. To experience the fullness of His joy, we need to occupy our hearts with God.
I’ll close with this. At the beginning of the sermon I asked if you knew why it seemed the world was more joyful this time of the year. I believe the answer is in the angel’s proclamation found in Luke 2:10-11, “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” That proclamation still stands true today. Amen