There is no limit to the presence of God and in his presence we find joy. Joy exists outside of circumstance and because of the eternalness of Jesus — him being ever-lasting, never-failing — our joy exists eternally as well. Jesus’ promises are consistent and steady us in a chaotic world.
00:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us. Well, today we are continue our, our walk through the advent season. And of course, this is our final, Sunday before Christmas. And so we want to look at this idea of joy. And I want you to turn, if you have a Bible to Luke chapter one. We'll also put it up on the screen here. A little background to this short passage I'm going to read. Mary, the mother of Jesus has a cousin named Elizabeth. And Elizabeth and her husband Zacharia are, old in age, and they have not had a child. And so they have given up on the idea that they will have a child until an angel appears to Zacharia, who is a priest, and tells him that he's, they're gonna have a son. after, the, this angel appears to Zacharia, Zacharia kinda laughs it off like that's not happening.
00:55 the angel says it is gonna happen, and so that you don't spread your toxic attitude towards everybody, you're not gonna be able to speak until the son is born. So he is mute. He can't speak, until John the Baptist, his son is born and God comes through. But before the child is born, we have this little moment, mentioned in Luke chapter one, where Elizabeth and Mary, meet, and it says this in verse 39. 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. And 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, women, and blessed is the child you will bear. But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
01:45 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby and my womb leaped for joy? Blessed is she who is believed the Lord would fill, fulfill his promises to her. I just love this picture of everywhere that Mary goes, as she's holding Jesus Christ in her womb, there can't help but be uncontainable joy in the movement of the Holy Spirit. She walks in rooms and stuff happens. Why? Because Jesus, God with us is now with us. And so we're gonna dive into this today, the kind of effect that the presence of Jesus has on us today. What would it take for you to jump for joy? I mean, we're, you know, we're modern people. We don't get too excited about too much. Although I was with Gonzalo, our bilingual pastor this morning who, was born and raised in Argentina.
02:46 So he was here at seven o'clock with some of his friends over in the chapel before their service dressed up in, of course, our, the Argentinian colors, Argentine colors. I don't know how you say that. I never have, never will know. but I'll tell you what, and I, I apologize if you're going home to watch the game, but we'll just say this. There was some jump for joy, excitement present in the chapel this morning for Team Argentina. Okay? but what would it take for you? most of you probably were not born and raised in Argentina. So what today does it take for you to jump for joy?
03:23 Exactly right. We can't think of it. I was expecting no answer. Why? Because there's not a lot, there's not a lot that caused us to jump for joy. I think of, historically, some of these big moments. I think of, the end of World War ii, VE day when, when the victory was won in Europe, and, the celebration of the end of such a brutal and global conflict. I think of, the fall of the Berlin Wall and all that meant for the world and for Europe. I think of, those times, and I I've had at least one where, you know, you think you, misplace your child
04:14 But that's the news that we find circulating in this little Judean hill country a couple thousand years ago, news that maybe just maybe for this nation of people that are under the thumb of Rome and who have suffered so much that maybe just maybe God had remembered them, and that through the coming of this child, could it be, could it be that there's hope and possibility on the horizon that we thought was gone? And I think of this kind of joy and this kind of news that would bring such joy. The angels called it good news of great joy that will be for all the people. I think of that level of news as news that changes your trajectory, news that, and alters the possibilities on your horizon news that changes what the future might hold. It's this kind of news that causes joy. So, Jesus, today, we pray as we dive into this, that that same joy that that was present in that room in Zacharias house between Mary and Elizabeth would be present in our house today, in this room at Westside Church, for those watching online at home, that there would be a sense of joy through the Holy Spirit that would rise up in us because the news is so good.
05:36 It changes everything. Oh, we love you and we receive your word today. In Jesus' name. Amen. Do you have Christmas traditions in your house? my wife is always trying to introduce new traditions. I'm like, that's not how traditions work.
06:33 What? One more, what else? Gingerbread houses and cookies at the same time. It's beautiful. Oh, that's beautiful. A lot of traditions, you know, and the, and traditions, many times are passed down, or maybe you have ornaments on the tree that were passed down from a grandparent or, you know, handed down through generations. The thing is about holidays, many times they evoke a sense of, of history and nostalgia and the past, and they're designed, I think, these moments to make us look back and be grateful for the experiences that we've shared, the, the loved ones that we've been with. And I, I think about how for the people that Jesus, was born into the nation, the, the communities that he was born into, they had such a rich history to look back on of what God had done for them. the whole Old Testament really is chronically in the story of these people who God, really looked at with, with such favor and such blessing.
07:31 And so surely they would look back and, and think about all the goodness and the greatness and the glories of the past. but you know, what effect that has on us is that sometimes when the past was so great, we look towards the future and we think it can't possibly be that good again. You know what I'm saying? And I think for many, at, even at holidays, there's a, a wonderful warmth in looking back, but we feared that it will never actually be that good again. That the joy we experienced looking in the rear view, the, the future just can't possibly compete with that. Those memories of the people that we have celebrated with or, or, or come together with that we've lost, or memories that won't be recreated, and we look towards the future and think, yeah, it won't be as good. We'll make do, but it won't be as good. And, and surely that was the heart of so many in the community in which Jesus was born, that we will make due. We will figure out how to survive under the thumb of Rome, but the glory will never be quite what it was. The goodness and the joy won't be what we remember.
08:41 But again, the angels came to some shepherds and they said that there's joy coming on the horizon. I remember this quote from CS Lewis talking about joy. He said, joy is never a possession. It's always something that is a little further off is something that's about to be. And I love this idea that joy is something that's about to be. we sang this morning, that song I love it. It said, what joy, for those whose hope is in the name of the Lord, what peace for those whose confidence is in him alone? And I think confidence and joy are really tied together. confidence is based on how your predictions of the future, you know, how confident you felt today, might determine how your day goes. You know, did you wake up feeling like, yeah, this is gonna be a good day? All right?
09:26 You looked at social media, said Evan's preaching, eh, okay, well, we'll see, we'll see. You know, I felt the same way. I woke up Evan's preaching. We'll see
10:15 And I think joy is the same way that we look at the future and we say, how are things gonna go? How are we feeling about the future? And if the answer is we're feeling good, we have a sense of contentment, peace and joy. But if we look into the future and on the horizon, we don't have a lot of hope, we can look and we say, I don't have a lot of confidence and I don't have a lot of joy. And so then what happens? Oftentimes, if we have that shaken confidence, we look back and we say, all the joys in the rear view, and the future can't possibly be as good.
10:51 But make no mistake, as we read the story of the gospel, which is still relevant today, as as much as it was for those here in the first time in Judea, back 2000 years ago, from the very first time that Isaiah began to utter words that would prophesy the coming of the Messiah all the way until Jesus is born in a, you know, a, a stable outside an inn, to the moment where he stands shoulder to shoulder with John the Baptist, yes, that John the Baptist that he was in the room with, with marrying Elizabeth, when he stands shoulder to shoulder on the banks of the Jordan River, and he says, the kingdom of heaven is about to come, there was joy because why? Because on the horizon there was light where there was only darkness before it changed the level of confidence in those who heard the message. And therefore it changed their sense of enduring joy. Because the news that Jesus brought good news for all people was news that what seemed like a bleak future had a light turned on.
11:56 Isaiah chapter nine, Isaiah prophesied about this coming. He said, the people walking in darkness have seen a great light. And on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned. You know, the word darkness in there in Isaiah's prophecy is the same exact word in Hebrew as we find in Genesis chapter one, where it says that before God spoke, let there be light. And there was light that the spirit of God hovered over this, primordial chaos. They would call it this darkness, this, this all encompassing darkness. And the spirit of God hovered over the waters in this chaos. And it's this darkness that Isaiah calls back to that would remind the people who are hearing, oh, he's talking about like real darkness, real chaos before light has even had a chance to spread. This is the inky blackness of the deepest darkest cave.
12:55 And Isaiah's saying, that's where the people are living, but a light's gonna shine. And the thing about caves, anybody, anybody, anybody enjoy caves?
13:38 But Isaiah would remind us that we're not designed and we are not abandoned by God to figure out how to survive in the darkness. John chapter one, when John speaks about Jesus and says, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overwhelm, we're reminded that the coming of Jesus means that for those who feel like you've been living in a cave spiritually, that you've been abandoned by God in the darkness, that that's not where you belong. And that the coming of Christ is that light on the horizon that does, doesn't only give us hope, that we can stand outside of the darkness. It gives us hope that we never have to return to it.
14:33 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. And those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned they rejoice before you. For unto us, a child is born to us, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders, and he will be called wonderful counselor, mighty everlasting Father. And the Prince of peace, the prince of peace, our confidence is rooted in the truth that Jesus is everlasting. I think sometimes it's easy to have confidence in God, and sometimes our confidence shakes. Sometimes it's easy to wake up in the morning and think, I think God's with me. I feel his presence and his grace on my life. And sometimes we wake up and we say, I don't know. I just don't know.
15:27 And our confidence in who God is can shake. I was at a, a, a prayer conference with Steve and Ben and Dave and, we're talking about prayer. And as, as he was the, the teacher was teaching on prayer, I had this kind of gnawing thought in the back of my mind that I have allowed myself, I think, to allow my prayers to settle into a safe place. Safe prayers, prayers that run very little risk of not coming to pass prayers that I pray that are so generic and so guaranteed that I don't actually expose myself to any kind of risk of disappointment.
16:21 And so we had this, moment he was teaching on prayer, and it was really beautiful. And I was, I was moved by this idea of I wanna pray more and I want to pray richer prayers and deeper prayers. But that thought kit coming back, why are, why do you pray such safe prayers? And so there was a, a question and answer time, and I raised my hand and I said, you know, I find myself praying safe prayers. And I, I shared about, the, the health struggles my wife has had. She's been sick for a couple years. And, and so I, I shared kind of her journey and, and, and just said, what do you do when you want to pray and you want to believe that God can perform miracles, but you're so scared of disappointment? And he said something really wise, I think, he said, first of all, praying those kind of prayers is an act of love. And second of all, the God who I believe can intervene the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God who does the great miracles that we read about, has the ability to shoulder the disappointment when life doesn't turn out how you want it to.
17:31 And so, I I, I disagreed with him. No, I didn't. I I said thank you. And I've begun to reignite some prayers that feel impossible, and it exposed myself to the, the possibility of disappointment again. And so as we read this today, and I'm thinking about all these people that had probably gotten really comfortable and settled into a life and a cave in the darkness where they didn't ask much from God and they didn't expect much from God. That what the coming of this Christ child sparked must have been. The hope and the joy and the thought that on the horizon there are possibilities again. And if there are possibilities, and if God is with us, and if he is listening to us, and if he has not forgotten about us or abandoned us to the darkness, but he is with us, then maybe we can start praying those great prayers of faith again.
18:36 And I want to tell you that there is a pathway to joy in our lives that goes straight through prayer and petition to a God who turns his ear towards you. And I have been with you, and I am with you in those moments where you say, I don't even want to go down that road because the disappointment would be too heavy. I don't know if I can bear it. And to you, I would say you can trust him. This morning in worship, I was, singing along with everybody and I just, I just felt, felt this word from the Lord. He just said, just tell 'em that they can trust me.
19:15 Maybe you don't trust me. Maybe you don't trust churches. Okay, we'll talk about that later. You can trust Jesus today. The light that shines in the darkness is not gonna betray you. It's not gonna abandon you. He is everlasting. But you say, Evan, but we, we stand in this, these places and, and life's hard and it's always hard, and it'll always be hard, and there's terrible things that happen. But then we, we preach about the joy of the coming of Christ, and now God is with us. That sounds nice, but how do you reconcile these two things? How do you have a life filled with trouble and pain and sickness and death? And also talk about this God who brings everlasting joy and peace with his coming. How these don't line up, man, we've been wrestling with this for a long time in Romans, Paul who is writing from prison, he's not had an easy life.
20:10 He begins to talk about these themes about how there is glory and peace and grace and joy for those who love God. And yet life will be filled with trouble and pain and suffering. And so what Paul does in Romans chapter eight, and I'm gonna read a passage of it in just a second, what he does is he holds up those two realities. The difficulty of this world alongside the great joy and love of an everlasting God whose love cannot be separated from us. And he holds them up side by side. And he basically says this, they don't have to reconcile because the love and the joy, the peace of God is not dependent on everything going well. It doesn't matter how deep and dark the world gets, it will have no bearing or effect on the everlasting nature of the joy and the love of God. And so the question for us who follow Jesus is, where will we put our confidence? Where will we put our confidence?
21:12 I I've looked in the news, not a lot of confidence out there. I've looked in my own future, and I, I, there's, there's too much uncertainty. But when I look to the love of God and God with us born and incarnated in the person of Jesus, I think maybe just, maybe this is a place where I can put my confidence and my hope in this little baby born of Mary. Sometimes our confidence is shaken, so we anchor our confidence deeper in the love of God. In Romans chapter eight, the very, last, I keep pulling this out and it keeps kicking around, I'm sorry. In Romans chapter eight, the very last phrase of the chapter, the very last phrase of this thought. And of course we added chapter markers long after Paul wrote this, but it was the end of his thought of Romans chapter eight, after he talks about all this trouble and all these things that come against us.
22:14 He says this, no. And all these things were more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure, sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers nor hide or depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Period. I love that. That's the end of the thought. I love that He doesn't have to qualify it, he doesn't have to explain it. He doesn't have to say. And what I mean by that is all he does is he says, nothing's gonna be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The end, and my message for us today is the true enduring, lifelong joy, even in the midst of trouble, is rooted in that same thing, that at the end of all things we have waiting for us, the love and acceptance of a God that will never fail us.
23:12 And so we just anchor to it. We, we, we, we put all of our eggs in that basket, even as a church man, we are, we are so all in on the love of Jesus. Everything else can be shaken. I was talking with a friend after the first service and he was just talking about the, the, the shifting nature of, of life. And, and he said, man, isn't it great that we can anchor ourselves to something that doesn't shake First John five 14 says, this is the confidence we have in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to his will, he will hear us. You know how he hears us when we ask? It's because he is close.
23:58 My ears aren't as good as they used to be.
25:39 I think we pray that wars would end, enemies would become friends that many, many would come to know and love Jesus, that he would redeem, he would restore, he would reconcile. These are all impossible things, folks. I'm, I'm not naive.
26:07 So rather than becoming naive, here's what I wanna do. I wanna be full of faith and I wanna invite you into this life with me. And so we're gonna explore it and see what's waiting on the other side of these big prayers. And I think through the next couple months, even into the new year, we're gonna be talking more about prayer, more about pursuing a God who, who t through Jesus said this. He said, if you who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your kids, how much more will the father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask? How much more will he give good things to those who ask? So if you bow your heads with me, and, and we're gonna kind of dip our toes here in just these moments we have together in the quietness of this space, into these big prayers, into these, these big requests for impossible things
27:02 They'll, the light has come to the darkness and those living in the shadow of darkness, in the cave of darkness have seen a great light because He is with us. Because he is close, because he is God made flesh walking among us and with us. He's close enough to hear and he's powerful enough to do something about it. And so Jesus, we pray big prayers this morning. We pray that you would heal bodies, fix bones, heal illness, reroute cells and synapses, bring back prodigal sons and daughters, reconcile hopelessly broken relationships. Jesus bring to life things that are dead and gone and buried, hopes and dreams. Jesus, we just pray for every whispered prayer, risky prayer, prayer that opens us up to disappointment, that the response from Jesus would be, I hear you. I love you, and I'm with you. I hear you. I love you and I'm with you. Jesus lets your joy, overwhelm and overtake us. Give us confidence as the song says in you and you alone. And we love you Jesus. We're grateful that God is with us close enough to hear, strong enough to act. We receive your joy today in Jesus'.