Jesus Christ – the Word made flesh, the Lamb of God, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd - He is the One we celebrate today. For the past four weeks, we have anticipated His arrival, and today, we celebrate Him!
He came to fulfil our hope, giving His life to pay a debt that we could never pay ourselves. He made it possible for us to have a restored relationship with God, the One Who created us. He also gave us the confident expectation that, one day, all that is wrong with the world will be made right, and we will live with Him forever.
He brought peace into a turbulent world. Those who allow His peace to permeate their lives enjoy peace in their hearts, even if their circumstances are far from peaceful. God’s peace restores relationships among one another, regardless of gender or ethnicity. We also look toward the day He returns, to make an end to all war, and bring His perfect peace.
He gave us joy. We have been forgiven by the very One Who was wronged by our sin - why wouldn’t we rejoice?! We also rejoice that the Almighty God, creator of the universe, cared enough about lowly man that He sent His Son for us. He gives us joy even when we walk through unhappy times; and, as we look forward, we anticipate ever-increasing joy.
He showed us love. Jesus’s great love for us motivated His arrival and life on this earth, and Scripture records many times where He demonstrated love to those He encountered. He bore our sin because of His great love for us. As we look to His return, we anticipate living under His loving care forever.
Today, as we light the Christ candle, we celebrate the One Who brought hope, peace, joy, and love into our lives, and continue to look forward to His second Advent, when He restores original, sinless perfection.
Joy is one of the most common terms associated with our culture’s current Christmas celebrations. More than a seasonal emotion, though, joy is God’s gift to His people as we live in this fallen world. It goes far deeper than simple, momentary, transient feelings of happiness.
God’s commands to the children of Israel included joy as an act of worship. As they celebrated the various feasts throughout the year, they were to “rejoice before the Lord” (Deuteronomy 16:11). Joy permeated their songs, which we have recorded in the book of Psalms. Even the prophets, who often delivered news of God’s judgment, pointed to a coming time of rejoicing. These commands to rejoice were not given in a vacuum; remembering Who God is and what He had done should motivate them to express this joy in shouts of praise. Isaiah described it as putting on “the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isaiah 61:1-3).
God doesn’t stop there, though; what He commands and motivates, He also provides. His arrival, two thousand years ago, brought an overflowing joy to the angels and shepherds. In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), Jesus told us to rejoice if we were treated poorly for righteousness’ sake, because our reward was yet to come. He also told His disciples that they should rejoice that their names were written in heaven more than for any earthly blessing. Paul continued this eternal perspective, encouraging the Roman church to rejoice in their salvation (Romans 5:11), and telling the church in Philippi – from prison – that they should rejoice in whatever circumstances come their way (Philippians 4:4-7). James took it a step further, telling his readers to consider it joy when they go through various trials (James 1:2-4).
Today, as we light the candle of joy, we rejoice that our Savior provides us with a reason to rejoice; and we look forward to the day when He returns to make our joy complete.
Last year, I wrote 5 Advent readings for our church, which we read in our services just before we lit each candle. Each candle (before Christmas) points to an aspect of the prophesied Redeemer:
The center candle, which we light on the Sunday on/after Christmas, represents Christ, the greatest gift.
Over the next 5 Saturdays, I’ll be sharing each of these. My prayer is that they encourage you and focus your heart as we remember that, not only was a Redeemer promised, He was given; and, when He returns, He will bring each of these aspects to their perfect completion on this earth!
(Since there aren’t 3 chapters in Jude, this “3:16” isn’t actually a 3:16.)
24Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, 25to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now, and forever. Amen.
This is my favorite benediction in the entire Bible. It’s a blessing to the church to whom Jude had written, but in the process, Jude writes a great summary of the power of God.
The entire book of Jude is not very large - only one chapter of 25 verses. In it, though, Jude was addressing the apostasy (a total desertion of belief) of some people who had come into the church. In verse 3, he encourages them to “contend for the faith,” because people were trying to destroy it.
In this context, verse 24 begins by telling them that Jesus can “protect you from stumbling…” This was an encouragement that this church needed. It is often difficult to resist people, especially when they have fervor and passion on their side. Jude reminds these church members that they are not alone, and that the Lord can keep them from falling into the seduction of sin.
He then continues “…and to make you stand in the presence of His glory…” This was the reward for which they were working, and Jude reaffirms to them that they will receive it. Many times, we do not see the destination when we begin our journey; but, if we persevere, we will get there. This also let the church know that if they did not abandon Jesus, He would not abandon them - they would stand in His presence!
Jude ends that verse with “…blameless and with great joy…” When they arrive in Jesus’ presence, they would be “blameless,” even though they may not have been perfect here on earth. What a transformation! And Jude isn’t making this up himself; Paul told the Corinthian church the same thing.
8He will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If we’re preserved blameless, and are in the presence of God, no wonder there’s great joy!
In verse 25, Jude leaves no doubt as to the identity of the One the church should follow - “The only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord…” Some of the people who had come to destroy the church were trying to get them to follow other gods, but Jude reminds them that they serve the one true God. He continues with “glory, majesty, power, and authority,” which speaks to the totality of God’s being, and His control over them. Finally, “before all time, now, and forever” refers to God’s eternity and infinity - He was, is, and is to come.
These days, we’ll usually just end our letters with “Love” or “Sincerely.” But what an encouragement this must have been to the church! Not only did it bless them personally, it reminded them of Who and why they were serving, and what the fruits of their labor would be. I pray that you will also be encouraged from these words today.
Daniel is a man who wants to be used of God however He sees fit.