Joyful Blessing

Joyful Blessing

Home Church Service 12/11/2021

These sermons began as devotionals for my family as we met during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. We have now begun to include our friends and the devotional has now become a full sermon. We are also recording our service and will begin posting those videos in the near future.

When my family and I meet for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. This message was designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points Paul is making. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

                                                                                   Luke 1:39–45 (NASB95)

We find ourselves in the third week of Advent, a time that is to bring hope, peace, joy, and love. The third week of Advent is the week of joy. Joy is often mistaken as happiness but as we have already seen, joy is not the same as happiness, though it does include being happy.

As Christ followers we are to find our joy in the Lord. He is the One who has called, sealed, given us life, boldness and strengthens us to be grace in action and to live as light. Today, we look at the One who gives a Joyful Blessing for all who seek Him.

Mary travels to a city in Judah, to the house of Zacharias, to greet Elizabeth. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaims a Joyful Blessing to Mary at the news of her first child, while the baby in the womb of Elizabeth leaps for joy, at the anticipation of what God has spoken.

In our journey as Christ followers, we will greet many other Christ followers. Those who are filled with the Holy Spirit will speak a Joyful Blessing as their soul leaps for joy, as they witness the word of God come to life, evidenced in the new creation of other Christ followers.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “What is the meaning of this Joyful Blessing we so eagerly anticipate?”

The Joyful Blessing causes the soul to leap for joy for the belief and trust in God the Father, by the Christ follower, has been strengthened.

1). The Joyful Blessing means the Christ follower can trust the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in their lives.

The Holy Spirit produces fruit in the Christ follower that is evidenced by their new life in Christ.

This passage of Scripture is largely overlooked in Luke’s gospel message. After all, it comes right after Mary is told she will give birth to the Son of God and right before what we know as “The Magnificat.” Mary’s poem that fills the remainder of chapter one. But there is much we can learn here and apply to our lives as Christ followers. The first point of this message is that Christ followers can trust the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in their lives.

The first evidence we see of this comes in verse 39 – “Mary arose and went in a hurry…” The meeting between Mary and Elizabeth demonstrates the obedience of Mary – this reflects Mary’s desire to see the sign the angel told her about. Notice that Mary “went in a hurry…” This shows the willingness of Mary to obey and go where God is leading her. As a Christ follower, how many times have you “drug your feet” in being obedient to where God is leading you? Or how many times have you “arose” in obedience to see something God has told you about.

Secondly, there is the humility of Elizabeth. Elizabeth is honored just to be in the presence of Mary, “the mother of my Lord,” and the child Mary is carrying. There is a sense of privilege and favor at being used of God, in both of these women – humility that has led to finding favor with God. It is sad that more Christ followers cannot follow the example of these two women – then again, many who call themselves Christian have a hard time following the example of Christ. We can find many cases of false humility in the church – the one who says or does the right thing before people and freely confesses “I didn’t do it for the recognition,” only to complain when they are not given recognition for something else they have done. Yes, it is hard to find true humility in the church today.

Humility is a natural by-product when we reflect upon who God truly is. In ancient Israel, a relationship with God was not a casual affair – treating God as if He were just a friendly neighbor. Having a relationship with God was seen as an honor – it called for deep respect. Think about how people treat those of celebrity status today, or even an important diplomat. God is the Creator; He is the One who is responsible for us being a part of His creation. In ancient Israel, much awe was reserved for God, so much awe in fact, that they discussed how He should be approached at the Temple. As Christ followers today, we should appreciate how much care and consideration was given to approaching God; we should appreciate the honor of having a relationship with God and what it means to know Him.

If we, as Christ followers, truly trusted the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in our lives, this world would truly be a different place. We are all familiar with the fruit of the Spirit list in Galatians 5:22-23.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

                                                                         Galatians 5:22–23 (NASB95)

Have you ever stopped to consider how much of this list you actually put to use in your everyday lives? The list of the fruit of the Spirit lists only 9 fruits. These 9 fruits are already possessed by you – you just need to use them and allow the Holy Spirit to produce more – to an overflowing abundance. We have, at least, a working understanding of each of fruit on this list – but how often do we actually use them? Now, obviously, this is not an exhaustive list – it only contains 9 fruits – and there are more the Spirit can produce. We’ve already talked about obedience and humility, so clearly there are more.

Here is the thing we must understand – this list of the fruit of the Spirit are given to us as we begin our new life in Christ. They are not perfectly developed, and we must use them to perfect them, but we have ALL of them. This is why I get so upset when I hear someone in the church say, “Oh, that’s just the way she is – we have learned to deal with it.” Or when I hear, “Oh, that’s just how he is – we have learned to ignore it.” NO, NO, NO – a thousand times NO!

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

                                                                          2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB95)

The list of the fruit of the Spirit comes with the new you! You have them and thus you must use them! How else will others see Christ in you? How else with the new you be seen by others? The change in the Christ follower is to be so radical, the people who know you best need to do a double take! Remember the questions and confusion that surrounded Jesus? “Isn’t this the son of Joseph, the carpenter?” Or how about, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Or “Where did this man get such learning?”  This is the way the world should look at the Christ follower – with a sense of confusion, wonderment and curiosity.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How have you been obedient to God this past week?

Which “fruit of the Spirit” has been seen, used and grown this past week?

Are you trusting the Spirit to produce fruit in your life? If so, how? If not, why?

The Joyful Blessing causes the soul to leap for joy for the belief and trust in God the Father, by the Christ follower, has been strengthened.

2). The second point we must understand is the Joyful Blessing means the Christ follower can believe in the fulfillment of all that God has spoken.

As Christ followers, we take joy in what God has spoken regardless of the circumstances that surround us.

This is a major theme in the first two chapters of Luke’s gospel message – God does what He says. There are rich blessings that come to those who share in and believe that truth. Like Mary and Elizabeth, when God steps into our lives, we should rejoice and trust that He will do as He has promised, for joy and blessing come to those who believe that God will fulfill all He has spoken.

“Mary arose and went in a hurry,” because of her obedience but also because she believed what God had spoken to her. Mary and Elizabeth are cousins and Elizabeth is older and has been known to be barren. Luke tells us that both Elizabeth and her husband, Zacharias, are advanced in years – they are past the point of child-bearing years. When the angel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God, just for good measure, he adds that Elizabeth, “who has been known to be barren” was now, in fact, in her sixth month of pregnancy! The angel emphasizes this point by saying, “Nothing will be impossible with God.”

We read in verse 15 of chapter 1 of Luke, that the baby Elizabeth is to carry will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. In verse 42 we read that when Mary greets Elizabeth, the baby leaps for joy and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. The fact that Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit is important for Christ followers to note. How else would Elizabeth know that Mary was with child – let alone carrying the Son of God?!

This knowledge – this word – had to come to Elizabeth from God through the Holy Spirit. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth believed that God had spoken to her. Oh yes, I know the Scriptures do not say this, but we can tell this to be true by her response. Elizabeth cries out in a loud voice and blesses Mary. “Blessed are you among women!” and “Blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Elizabeth then ends the passage by adding yet another blessing – “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what has been spoken to her by the Lord.” When Elizabeth became pregnant, she believed she had found favor with God, and He had taken away her shame. Both Mary and Elizabeth have been blessed because they believed God would do what He has said.

What is even more impressive is that neither of these women were worried about the circumstances that surrounded them. Elizabeth is known to be barren and past the age of childbearing. She greets her husband, after he returned from the Temple where he was on duty, completing his priestly duties, only to find he is mute. Can you imagine Zacharias trying to explain to Elizabeth what has happened in the Temple? No words could be spoken by Zacharias; maybe he used pictures drawn on papyrus, or perhaps he used hand signals – but he could not speak! And what about Mary? Told by an angel she would carry the Son of God – BEFORE she was married to Joseph! Consider her age for a moment – it is commonly believed Mary was between 13-16 years of age!

Let’s not forget that her family is poor, women do not have much value or influence in society at that time and Joseph is considering divorce. Just another ho-hum day of human existence! Right? And yet, these two women are obedient, filled with humility and believe what God has spoken to them. Now, let’s put this in perspective. How was your week? Did everything go exactly as you had planned? Was it a smooth ride through the best week ever? I’m going to go out on a limb and say NO! It was a tough week!

I’m guessing you are glad this week is over, and you are probably wondering what is going to happen this week. So, did you take time this week to intentionally focus on the peace you have in Christ? If so, what did you hear God speaking to you and did you believe Him? Maybe your word came through the Scriptures? Or perhaps in prayer? You see, we first need to be listening before we can hear God speak. Unless it is a come to Jesus moment that slaps you in the face and stops you dead in your tracks – you need to be intentionally listening in order to hear Him speak. If we do not still ourselves long enough to listen for His voice, we will not hear Him speak, even if it is a Scripture you have hidden in your heart – you cannot hear Him speak if you are not first listening – then you MUST believe.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

What did you hear God speaking to you this past week?

Were you able to look past the circumstances around you to see God and hear God this past week?

What has God spoken to you (at any time) that you are believing in fulfillment?

The Joyful Blessing causes the soul to leap for joy for the belief and trust in God the Father, by the Christ follower, has been strengthened.

In this third week of Advent, we look at the theme of joy. Joy is often mistaken for happiness, and though it does include being happy, joy and happiness are different.

As Christ followers we find our joy in the Lord and on this third week of Advent we look at the One who gives a Joyful Blessing to all who seek Him.

As Christ followers, we must take God at His word. We must find a way to get past the routines of our lives and be amazed at His involvement in our lives. God owes us nothing! Yet we owe Him everything. Just like the child that leaped for joy in the womb of Elizabeth, the life of a Christ follower must be filled with moments when we recognize His presence, and our hearts leap in our chests, as we consider the many blessings He has poured upon us. God does what He says, and He has much to say to the Christ follower, but we must first be listening to hear.

As we get closer to Christmas it will get much busier. Time with family, friends and work parties will all put added stress to our already busy schedules. I challenge you to find a way to STOP and intentionally LISTEN to what God has to say in this season. Once you HEAR God speak, then the challenge becomes believing. I pray that God will empower you, through the Holy Spirit, to make time to listen for God to speak and then grant you the courage to believe He will fulfill what He has spoken.

We do all things to the glory of God through Christ our Lord,

Amen and amen.

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