And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
My name is Mike Edmisten. I’m the Senior Pastor here at Connect, and I’m so glad you’ve joined us for the last week of our series called “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
You could always count on Linus to bring things into perspective. This whole group was worried about their Christmas play. And then Charlie Brown brought in this pathetic little tree to be the centerpiece. Everything seemed to be going crazy. So crazy that they missed the point of the whole thing. But Linus was there to bring everything back to where it should be. And the reminder that he gave everyone from Luke 2 is where we’re going to focus today. So let me pray for us and then we’ll dive in.
I’ve told you before that I’m a huge fan of Peanuts, so this series has been so much fun for me.
I’m so much of a fan that I still have this. This is the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas. I actually forgot I had this until I found it a couple of weeks ago.
I showed this to our two boys, and said, “Do you guys know what this is?” They were both clueless.
So I’m here to educate everyone who was born after 1990. This is a cassette tape. It’s from an awesome decade known as the ‘80s. This was an amazing invention that changed the way everyone listened to music.
You could listen to your tape on a ghetto blaster. And if you were really cool, you would crank it up super loud and then carry it on your shoulder, right next to you ear, because going deaf is awesome.
But, if you didn’t want everyone in the neighborhood to hear your music, you had another option.
You could always listen to your tape on your Walkman. How many of you had a Walkman? I did. I think this is the exact model that I had.
This was amazing technology. You could actually take your music with you! You could take your music on a walk, man. We had never seen anything like this. Now could you go somewhere and you could take Duran Duran with you. You could actually take Journey, on a journey! Planning a trip to Houston? You could take Whitney with you! This was amazing stuff!
Now, all the kids are rolling their eyes right now. And us old folks might be thinking, “They just don’t understand the awesomeness of the ‘80s.”
But in reality, this is outdated. It’s totally obsolete. There are 11 songs on this cassette. And if you want to hear them all, you’ve got to turn the tape over. There are 6 songs on one side and 5 on the other. Now we have devices that will hold thousands of songs, and they’re smaller than this tape. This is outdated, obsolete technology.
In fact, technology becomes outdated and obsolete faster now than at any time in history. You go buy a new phone and it’s considered out-of-date next week.
And maybe that’s one reason why we get so nostalgic at Christmas. Everything else is just changing so fast. Think about the most popular Christmas songs you hear every year. A lot of them are from the 1940s and 50s. There’s something about this time of year that makes us feel traditional and nostalgic.
That’s how I feel every time I watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. Even though I can almost quote the show line by line, it still speaks to me. But the reason it speaks to me isn’t just because it’s a nostalgic Christmas tradition. It speaks to me because of the truth it teaches. It’s truth that is centered in Scripture.
A lot of people think the Bible is outdated and obsolete. After all, this book is thousands of years old. In an age where the latest and greatest becomes obsolete overnight, we’re just not inclined to believe anything can endure. But this book has endured, because of the truth it contains.
It was written in a culture that was far different than ours. It was written in a very different time than we live in today, but it endures because truth doesn’t become obsolete. It speaks to our deepest needs. Needs that don’t change over time.
Now, maybe you’re skeptical about that. Maybe you just don’t see how such an ancient book can be relevant today.
I get that. I really do. And it’s ok. You’re allowed to be skeptical here at Connect. That doesn’t anger us and it doesn’t offend us. We’re just so glad you’re here.
All I’m asking is that you really think about the relevance of what we’re talking about today, because we’re going to speak to a need that is universal to all people at all times. It was relevant when it was written over 2,000 years ago. It was relevant when Linus quoted it in 1965. And it’s relevant today.
In the gospel of Luke, Luke tells us about the birth of Christ. And he tells us that an angel appeared to a group of shepherds to announce His birth.
Here’s what Luke writes in chapter 2, starting in verse 10. “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11, NIV 1984)
This birth announcement changed the course of history. Jesus, the Son of God, had been born. Emmanuel, God with us, was finally here.
And key in on what the angel said about it His birth. He said it was “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
The birth of Jesus was good news. And His birth brought great joy that is for all the people. In other words, it’s for everybody.
So let me ask you a question? Are you living a life of joy? And I don’t just mean at Christmastime. I mean all the time. Are you living a life of joy?
If we’re honest, a lot of us would say no. Joy isn’t how we would describe our lives. Stressed, burdened, and overwhelmed are much better descriptions of life right now.
Let me point out something. The angel didn’t say, “I bring you bad news of great stress that will be for all the people.”
He didn’t say, “I bring you horrible news of great burdens that will be for all the people.”
He said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
If you’re not living a life of joy, then you are not living the life that God intended for you to live. Joy is why Jesus came.
But so many of us miss it. And part of the reason could be because so many churches miss it. The church is supposed to be the people who tell the story of Jesus. It’s a story of joy, and yet a lot of churches are filled with people who look like their faces would break if they smiled.
They get together this time of year and sing Joy To The World, but it really looks like they’d rather give the world the finger. Maybe you’ve been to that church. I have. And maybe that’s one reason why joy is so lacking today. Because the people who have been charged with spreading that joy don’t even understand it themselves.
Here’s what we believe at Connect. The church is a place of celebration.
Think about this verse from the Old Testament book of 1 Chronicles. “David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets.” (1 Chronicles 13:8, NIV)
Does that sound like a reserved, stuffy, buttoned-down, boring church service? No. It sounds a whole lot more like a party! It was loud. It was a crazy celebration.
But when you fast-forward to today, you see church services that feel a whole lot more like funeral services. But here’s what I don’t understand about that. Our God is alive!
If Jesus died on the cross and that was that, then yeah…have a funeral. But three days after His death, Jesus rose to life again. That means that our Savior conquered death itself. He is alive and He is with us. And if Jesus is alive and Jesus is here, then let’s have a party!
In fact, the church ought to throw the best parties. The church ought to be the most creative, most vibrant, most fun place in the world, because we have the most to celebrate.
But instead, a lot of people grew up in churches that were filled with people who were grouches and grinches. Don’t you dare be creative. Don’t you dare try something new. And most important of all, don’t you DARE have fun! Their biggest concern was making sure that no one brought coffee in the sanctuary because it would stain the carpet.
I’ve been in those churches. And now that I’m a pastor, I’m committed to leading a different kind of church. When the angel came to announce the birth of Jesus, he said that His coming is good news of great joy for all the people.
So if you’re visiting today, just checking things out, you might not believe everything you hear today. And that’s ok. But one thing I hope you don’t miss is the joy. There is joy in this place because there is joy in our people. And that joy isn’t fake. It’s not a show. It’s real. It’s authentic. It’s genuine. It’s because Jesus is alive. He loves us. He is with us. He is for us. And that’s something worth celebrating, isn’t it church?
The angel came to announce good news of great joy that is for all the people. All people. That means this joy is for me. And that means this joy is for you.
All people means all people. If your life is good right now, this joy is for you. If your life is rough right now, this joy is for you.
How is that possible? How can we have joy when things in our life are tough? How can we have joy when we’re hurting?
We can have joy even in those times for one simple reason: joy is not a feeling. A lot of people think joy and happiness are the same thing. They’re not. Joy and happiness are two totally different things.
Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Happiness depends on right happenings, but even when things go wrong you can have joy.”
Happiness is directly tied to your circumstances. If things are good, you’re happy. If things are bad, you’re not happy. But you can have joy in all circumstances because happiness and joy are two different things.
Listen to how the Apostle Peter described it in the book of 1 Peter. He wrote, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. [We all go through it. We all go through times of suffering and grief and pain. It’s absolutely universal. But Peter said that even in those times, we can “greatly rejoice.” That’s the part that sounds a little off. How can we have joy in the tough seasons of life? Keep reading.]
These have come [meaning the times of suffering] so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. [Look at what Peter is doing here, He changes our focus from our situation to our Savior. Joy doesn’t come from our circumstances. It doesn’t come from our situation. It comes from our Savior.]
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him
and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9, NIV)
Peter changes our focus from our situation to our Savior, and then he reminds us what that means. It means that this is not the end for us. We are receiving the salvation of our souls, meaning that we have hope that extends beyond this life. This isn’t the end for us. The tough season that you’re in right now is not the end of the line for you. And that’s why we can have joy, even in really tough circumstances.
Here’s the truth about joy. Joy isn’t the absence of bad. Joy is the assurance of better.
This is what is so beautifully weird about following Jesus. When I understand that Jesus loves me, Jesus is with me, and Jesus is for me, then all of a sudden, my circumstances don’t define me. Jesus defines me. And in Jesus, I know that I have hope of something far better than what I’m experiencing now. That allows me to have joy, no matter what is going on in my life.
There has been an incredible reminder of this truth in the news recently. You’re probably familiar with the story.
This is the Blackburn family. Davey, Amanda, and their little boy, Weston. Davey is the pastor of Resonate Church in Indianapolis.
Last month, while Davey was at the gym, Amanda was shot during a home invasion while their little boy Weston was asleep in another room. Amanda was 12 weeks pregnant. She and their unborn daughter both died as a result of the gunshot wounds.
This story stopped me in my tracks. Being a pastor is also being part of a pretty cool fraternity. There is a kinship among people who are in ministry. There is a connection that we share. And when I heard this news, my heart just broke.
I’ve never met Davey Blackburn, but I hope one day I will. Not just to express sympathy, but to tell him how much he has encouraged and challenged me.
Listen to what Davey wrote after the murder suspect was arrested. He said, “My hope is for 3 things in the weeks and months to come:
(1) That the court system would have wisdom on how to prosecute this man, so that no one else endures the pain Amanda and our family have had to endure because of his actions.
(2) That through all of this and although there will be great consequences for his actions, he would become truly sorry for what he has done and would even begin to experience the life-transforming power of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.
(3) That Jesus would give me and our family a heart of forgiveness.
Though everything inside of me wants to hate, be angry, and slip into despair I choose the route of forgiveness, grace and hope. If there is one thing I’ve learned from Amanda in the 10 years we were together, it’s this: choosing to let my emotions drive my decisions is recipe for a hopeless and fruitless life. Today I am deciding to love, not hate. Today I am deciding to extend forgiveness, not bitterness. Today I am deciding to hope, not despair. By Jesus’ power at work within us, the best is STILL yet to come. Even when I don’t see it, I believe it to be true.”
Is that not amazing? It’s absolutely incredible. And only someone who is a follower of Jesus could write those words. His wife and his unborn daughter were murdered for absolutely no reason. It was completely senseless. And yet, in the middle of this devastating grief, Davey has hope. Davey has joy. Only Jesus can do that.
Joy isn’t the absence of bad. Joy is the assurance of better. Because Davey is in Christ, he is assured of something better. He is assured that the best is yet to come.
And the same thing is true for you and me. Whatever you’re going through right now, you can go through it with joy. Joy isn’t the absence of bad. Joy is the assurance of better. When Jesus is involved, the best really is yet to come.
Jesus Himself is living proof of this truth. Jesus was crucified, even though He had done nothing wrong. You want to talk about a senseless murder? You don’t have to look any further than Jesus. He was killed for the sins of other people. Namely you and me. When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the penalty for our sins in full. His death means that the price for our sin has been paid and we are set free.
But then three days later, He rose to life again. And His resurrection to life gives us a brand new life. A life that is rooted in the joy that only Jesus can bring.
When Jesus was crucified, His followers ran away. They hid. They mourned. They were in despair, because everything they had believed seemed to be coming undone. They believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but now He was dying on a cross.
But three days later, their despair turned into hope because Jesus turned a crucifixion into a resurrection. That’s what He does. He turns crucifixions into resurrections, which means that the best really is yet to come.
Joy isn’t the absence of bad. Joy is the assurance of better. And when Jesus is involved, you can be assured that better will always win out in the end.
And that’s why we have joy. No matter what is happening, no matter what is going on in our lives, we have joy because our joy isn’t based on our situation. It’s based on our Savior.
And we remember that every week here at Connect when we take the Lord’s Supper together. The Lord’s Supper, or communion, is a reminder of what Jesus did for us.
The bread represents His body that He gave for us on the cross. The juice represents the blood that He shed for us, just so He could be with us. Just so He could forgive us and set us free.
There is incredible joy in the incredible sacrifice that Jesus made for us. And we’re going to celebrate that right now. We invite you to take the bread and the juice as the trays are passed down your row. And as you take communion today, let the joy of this celebration resonate in your mind and in your heart. We are remembering the death of Jesus for our sins, but we are also celebrating His resurrection because He is present with us right now.
Our God died for us. Our God rose for us. And our God is with us. And that’s something to celebrate!
The church should be the most fun, vibrant, and joyful place on the planet. And I think we just proved that we really believe that here at Connect.
We have a reason to celebrate. We have a reason to be joyful. And it’s the same reason that the angel gave to the shepherds over 2,000 years ago.
It’s Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. He has come to us. He gave His life for us. He rose again to free us.
And we want you to know Him. We want you to live in the joy that only He can bring. Our Care Team is ready to talk with you. To listen. To pray with you.
If you have questions or need someone to pray with you, don’t leave without going to them today.
Jesus loves us. He is for us. And He is with us. And that’s why we’re going to spend the rest of our time today celebrating. Let’s fire it up right now!