First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Third Sunday of Advent ~ December 11, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Joy is Relational not Situational!”
Habakkuk 3:17-19; John 15:9-12
As you can tell, our worship this morning is centered around the theme of joy and where to find it. The season of Advent takes us from hope to peace and this week to joy. Real joy can sometimes seem to be in short supply.
As a Pastor, I have the privilege of walking this journey we call life with this beloved church family. With so much loss and grief, pain and brokenness, where can joy be found? How can someone be joyful when their marriage is falling apart? How can someone be joyful when their health is failing? How can someone be joyful when their finances are drying up? How can someone be joyful when they grieve the loss of a spouse, a child, a parent, or a good friend? How can someone be joyful when they are so lonely? There is not as much joy in our world today as we would like. Too many broken and unhappy people walk down our streets today.
Our two Scripture lessons for this Third Sunday of Advent help us to capture the spirit of true and genuine joy. Both lessons remind us that joy is not situational; rather, it’s relational. Let’s see where Habakkuk found joy and what did Jesus have to say about joy.
First: Habakkuk and Leaning on God’s Strength
The Prophet Habakkuk wrote about 20 years before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Quite possibly, Habakkuk was alive to see that destruction – he may have been killed in the battle, or he may have starved during the siege; he may have lived through it. We don’t know. But we do know that he experienced all the terror and horror of that time. King Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon surrounded the city and besieged it for two years, starving the people into submission. Eventually the King of Judah and his army tried to escape through a hole in the wall at night, but they were caught and slaughtered. The Babylonian army then entered the city, looting, murdering, plundering, and destroying everything.
Families were separated; economy was destroyed; crops didn’t yield anything; all livestock, sheep and cows are dead. In Habakkuk 3:17-19, we get a glimpse of the economic situation of the nation and Habakkuk’s response, “Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.”
How can someone rejoice in the midst of destruction, homelessness, and starvation? Simply because joy is relational not situational. “ Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk reminds us to lean on God’s strength. “God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights,” says Habakkuk 3:19. Like that deer, God will make us tread upon the heights. God designed the feet of deer for climbing. They don’t slip. They don’t fall. The point here is not the power of the deer, but the design of the deer’s foot. God is our strength.
Second: Abide and Remain in Christ
John chapter 15 begins with Jesus addressing His disciples just before being arrested, falsely tried, beaten, mocked and crucified. The disciples were frightened to say the least. In just a few hours, their life will be turned upside down. Their world will be shaken. How can the disciples maintain their joy? “Remain in me,” Jesus said. Abide in me. Looking to the vineyards around them, Jesus gives His disciple an example of what it means to abide in Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Remain in me,” Jesus says in John 15:5.
As Jesus concludes this part of His speech, He continued to say in John 15:11, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” As we abide in Jesus, His joy will be in us. Again, that joy is relational not situational. It’s a joy that transcends the events of life – a heavenly, divine, continuing joy! It’s a joy that no one could take away from them and nothing could rob it.
Friends, God does not promise us nights without sorrow, days without pain or times without hardship; however, He does promise us songs in the night. Joy is relational not situational. For Habakkuk, the source of true joy was leaning on God’s strength. For Christ’s disciples, it was abiding in Christ. While most of those around us may think that joy is situational, we come this morning to affirm the truth that joy is relational. Therefore, lift up your hearts, be filled with His joy, followers of Christ. Let your weeping be turned into laughter, and your heavy heart be filled with heavenly joy this morning. Joy to the world, the Lord is come. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
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