A Gift for Christmas: “Joy!” by Ben Sadler

To help prepare your heart for the worship of Christ this Christmas, we are re-posting by permission a wonderful 3-part study on “Joy” by our son-in-law, Ben Sadler. To read more about their ministry, visit their site – Chasing Ebenezer.

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Joy – Part 1 by Ben Sadler

 What would be good news to you today?  For me?

In the book of Luke, a variety of characters receive good news in the midst of difficult circumstances.

At the time of Christ’s birth, Augustus, who was the emperor of Rome, called for a census of the people.  For Jesus’ parents Joseph and Mary, this meant tax season.  And not only was it time to register, but they would have to travel 80 miles in order to do so.

Meanwhile, a group of shepherds were in the fields tending their flocks of sheep.  Due to the nature of their work, these men were often ceremonially unclean.  They would work all hours of the day, and they could have been excluded from corporate worship.

In Jerusalem, a man named Simeon ingers in the temple, grieving over the condition of his country.  Widowed for most of her life, Anna the prophetess also spends her days in the temple, praying and fasting.

What do you think would be good news for each of these people?

From my perspective, I could look at each one and come up with practical good news that I would want to hear if I were in their situation.   It would seem logical that good news for Mary and Joseph would be the cancellation of taxes.  Or possibly a car to drive to Bethlehem.  A comfortable hotel room waiting for them.  A good health plan with a clean hospital where Jesus could be delivered.  This would seem like good news to me.

As a shepherd, good news would be a promotion, a chance to worship with family.  If I were Simeon, the restoration of my country would be on the top of my list.  And a husband for Anna would seem to be a source of joy.

Our society teaches that happiness is the absence of pain.  So we seek joy in anything that allows us to escape.  Some seek this through addictive behaviors like sex and drugs.  Others pursue a more acceptable means of escape: possessions, success, power.  Unfortunately like drugs, the high feeling dissipates and we are left with the pain.

And yet in the midst of all this pain, God’s good news is, “Unto you a Son has been born.”  While many of the characters in the book of Luke would not live to see the ministry of Jesus on earth, they were filled with God’s joy because His very presence was with them.

True joy is found in the Presence of God, not the presents of men.  It isn’t wrong to pursue joy.  But we must remember that the source of all joy is in Jesus Christ alone.

Where are you seeking joy?

1(Tomorrow – Part 2 of “Joy” by Ben Sadler)

 

 

3 responses to “A Gift for Christmas: “Joy!” by Ben Sadler

  1. Hello Ben
    Much as I like your approach on joy and finding it in no other than Jesus, there are several points to consider in your storyline. The shepherds around Bethlehem were levitical priests tending the flocks to produce the 2 unblemished lambs per day needed for the morning and evening sacrifices let alone who knows how many for Passover etc. They were told that they would find a sign..being a child wrapped in swaddling clothes…they had huge joy at this ..why? Well swaddling clothes have a 2 fold purpose , in that the priests wrapped unblemished new born lambs in them for their first formative moments so they didn’t hurt themselves and possibly disqualify themselves in the first few hours, they were also wrapped in them again , for the same reason , just before they were sacrificed. Swaddling cloth was also carried by all travelling Jews in case they died on their travels, they had to be buried within a day and the cloth eased this process. So when the shepherds turned up they saw both a sacrifice bound and a baby in grave cloths they rejoiced! I don’t understand this… Mary giving birth would certainly carry an “uncleanness” and to avoid “contaminating” every one in the house needing ritual cleansing , She and Joseph would move out of the house to await the birth , as most Jews would have done .
    With regard to other historical records at the time with regard to the census of Augustus, no one can find any records of him ever asking for one, it would also destabilise the whole empire as everyone travelled around! Quirinius (The Syrian Prefect) in around AD6 did have a census to establish tax revenues that could be achieved, people did not need to move for this, but if this is what Luke is talking about it has the added advantage that if Joseph and Mary had gone to his home town, the residents of Nazareth, would not be able to deduce that Mary’s confinement date was out of kilter with her marriage date by about 3 months, this move saved many awkward questions!
    The whole birth of Jesus , other than to establish Him on the earth, is never picked up by any NT writer , in fact 2 of the gospels don’t even see it as important enough to include it, the good news is that Jesus was born , the fantastic news was he was wrapped in swaddling cloths.
    Happy Christmas
    Ian Banks

    • Thanks for your comment, Ian! I’ll forward it to Ben, so he can read it and reply to it if he likes. Happy Christmas to you too! Gary

    • Hi Ian! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post. I agree with the notion that the shepherds were keeping sacrificial sheep. Since Christ fulfilled every aspect of Old Testament law, the connection of the swaddling cloth to Him being our Sacrificial Lamb is completely plausible. The fact remains that His Presence is the source of our joy. While we may not be in complete agreement on every historical detail, it is good to be able dialogue about it. Many blessings on you this Christmas! Ben

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