This Christmas, I thought that it would be helpful to look at some of the teaching surrounding Jesus’ birth in The Gospel of Luke. I’ve entitled this teaching series, ‘Mary Treasured up These Things’ (from Luke 2:19) because my hope and prayer is that, like Mary, we will treasure the story, the truths and the God of the Christmas story.
Today, let’s reflect on how the presence of the Spirit fills us with joy and hope because the joy of the Lord is our strength.
You can listen to this devotional at:
‘At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!” (Luke 1:39-45)
What brings you joy and enjoyment? Would you like to be more joyful? What could you do in order to have more joy? It’s logical to think that if we do what gives us true Joy and avoid what gives us grief, we’ll be happier and this is true. However, many of us want to enjoy the gifts but miss the gift-giver. Yes, we can enjoy the good things that God gives this Christmas, but true joy is found in God Himself and being filled with the Holy Spirit.
At the presence of Jesus in the womb of Mary, we are told that Elizabeth was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’. When we are filled with the Spirit, there are always good things that happen. Elizabeth’s loud shout of praise and her testimony, 'As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy,' implies that Elizabeth was, along with John in her womb, also filled with joy as she was filled with the Spirit. An encounter with God, as we've seen in this chapter, can evoke fear and awe, but also joy. Joy is a good thing. It's okay to desire more joy. Nehemiah spoke of the need for joy:
“Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
At Christmas it’s good to enjoy good food and drink and to be generous. Feast-times were a major feature in the Jewish calendar and it’s good to feast. However, the feast, like fasting, points to something beyond itself; feasting points to enjoying and feasting on the joy of the Lord. As we feast this Christmas, let’s ensure that we ask the Spirit to also cause our spirit’s to feast because “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Speaking of food and drink reminds me of what Paul writes of the joy of the Spirit,
‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 14:17)
Let’s reflect on how the presence of the Spirit fills us with joy and hope because the joy of the Lord is our strength. We may be grieving and suffering but the Spirit wants to fill you with His joy. His joy is not based upon things that we can lose. His Joy is revelation and feasting on the unshakable being and love of God. Let’s pray together using Paul’s prayer in Romans as a model. After praying this for yourself, pray it for the various people that you know who are suffering at this time:
“May the God of hope fill [me] with all joy and peace as [I] trust in him, so that [I] may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. [Amen]” (Romans 15:13)
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
In particular, we have services on Christmas Eve, Sunday 24th December 10:30am - 11:30am; Monday 25th December, Christmas Day Family Service
10am - 11am; and Sunday 31st December 10:30am - 12pm.
How has God been speaking to you from His Word this week and how has this helped you?
3. Worship together
Let’s begin our time together by lifting our eyes and hearts to worship our great God. Perhaps you have readings and songs that you would like to use together. Let’s be open to the gifts that the Spirit wants to give in order to encourage one another.
4. Study and pray together
This Christmas, we will revisit in more detail some the teaching surrounding Jesus’ birth that we have looked at in our Luke series. I’ve entitled this teaching series, ‘Mary Treasured up These Things’ (from Luke 2:19) because my hope and prayer is that, like Mary, we will treasure the story the truths and the God of the Christmas story.
Please be aware that we are producing devotionals to accompany this series and encourage you over the Christmas period.
Please read Luke 2:13-14
Why is it surprising and what is the message behind God appearing to shepherds specifically?
The angels promise, ‘Peace on earth’; what are the different kinds of peace that this refers to? (Try to find Bible verses that substantiate your thoughts).
What are the ways that one can enjoy the peace of God each day and over this Christmas period?
SIV - How would you being filled with God’s peace and being a peace maker make you an effective witness to the gospel?
SIV - How would you help a non-believer who pointed to war and suffering as a reason to doubt these words from the angels?
SIV - Do we have any recent stories of how we have ‘Served, Invested, and inVited’?
SIV - Lets now pray together that, this week, we will have opportunities to SIV.