First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Third Sunday of Advent ~ December 12, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Yet, I Will Rejoice in the Lord!”
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. Often times, we all experience disappointment, discouragement, and pain.
Every day I get to see God’s children and the cry in their heart is, “You don’t know what I’m going through, Pastor! I’ve got my hands full.” How can someone be joyful when their marriage is falling apart? How can someone be joyful when their health is declining? 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. 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 terrors 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, “17 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, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. 19 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 Lord in the midst of destruction, homelessness, and starvation? “ Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk says God will carry us through whatever hardships and troubles we will have to face. He will keep us afloat. He will keep your head above water. “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 15 begins with Jesus addressing His disciples just before being arrested, falsely tried, beaten, mocked and crucified. The disciples were frightened. In just a few hours, their life will be turned upside down. Where can the disciples find joy as they face the unknown? The advice of Christ to His disciples in the face of the unknown was: remain in me. Abide in me. Then 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 said these words 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.” Jesus desired that we have His joy and that it might remain in us. Jesus was not talking about the giggly moments that come to all people in life, but was speaking of a joy that transcends the events of life and the world – a heavenly, divine, continuing joy! It’s a joy that no one could take away from them and nothing could rob it. That is exactly what God intends for us, for we too are His disciples.
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. He promises never to leave us without His presence, and never to leave us without His overcoming Spirit. Lift up your hearts, be filled with His joy. Let your weeping be turned into laughter, and your heavy heart be filled with heavenly joy this morning. That is the will of God for you and for me.
Over 300 years ago, Isaac Watts, an English Pastor, hymn writer, and theologian, composed his masterpiece, “Joy to the World.” The original words read like this: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” It always sounds grammatically incorrect. Shouldn’t it be, “The Lord has come?” But I like the original present tense The Lord is come. I think Pastor Watts meant it that way. Christ’s coming to the world was not a one-time event 2000 years ago. Christ comes into the world, into your life in this very moment. Right now Christ is as close to you as your very breathing and that in itself is enough to give us joy. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
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