Week 1 of Advent: Rejoicing

As we are preparing our hearts for the coming Christmas, take a few minutes to examine you heart and attitude about going to church. Do you go just at Easter and Christmas – or maybe just to make a parent or spouse happy? Do you go every week – but out of a sense of obligation or duty – because it’s the “Christian” thing to do? How would our churches be different if we went rejoicing with a sense of expectation or meeting Jesus there? The psalmist wrote in Psalm 122:1-4:

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within they gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord.

Who are you rejoicing to see this Christmas?

Who is someone you are excited to see this holiday season. Maybe you’re going home for the holidays or maybe your kids are coming in for winter break in college. Or maybe someone you’ve not seen in person because of COVID? When we haven’t seen family or friends for a while we’re excited to see them. Maybe you’re counting down the days, your suitcase is already practically packed, the gifts are wrapped, the oil has been changed in the car and you’re just waiting with every tick of the clock to jump in the car and go.

Rejoicing: The Psalmist

So when you examined your heart and attitude about going to church, how do you feel when it’s time to go to church? Do you have the same eager anticipation to visit the Lord in His house that the psalmist did?  Are you more excited to see family and friends this Christmas then spending time with God in church? The psalmist wrote that he was glad when it was time to go to the house of the Lord. What about throughout the week? Do you eagerly anticipate spending time with God by spending time each day studying His Word and talking with Him through prayer? 

Rejoicing: The Shepherds

The shepherds were eager to see the newborn King after the angels visited them in the field and told them about His birth:

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. Luke 2:15-16

They didn’t wait until the sun came up. They didn’t stop to get all the sheep back to the sheep pins. The shepherds didn’t stand around talking about the angels that had just appeared in the night sky. They didn’t critique the heavenly choir. Instead, they went with haste. They were eager to see what the angels had been talking about.

Rejoicing to be in His Presence

The thing about being in the presence of God, even as a baby, is that His presence will always change you. If you leave exactly the same as when you arrived, then you haven’t dwelt in His presence. The shepherds found Mary, Joseph, and the baby just as the angels had told them. But when they left, they went and told everyone what they had seen and heard. Then when they returned to the fields, they glorified and praised God. The were different when they left His presence than before they arrived.

The Shepherds received the first birth announcement

There is significance in the fact that the angels brought the birth announcement of Jesus to shepherds first. In ancient Israel, shepherds were generally considered “unclean” in the community of God’s people because of the work they did. They were in daily contact with dirty, smelly sheep, their manure, their blood from cuts and scrapes, and the insects that buzzed around them. All of this meant that shepherds were almost never clean enough to worship with God’s people in God’s presence. So they were generally treated as outsiders. Yet these are the ones chosen to receive the first birth announcement of Christ.

The King of Glory chose the lowly, outcast shepherds, not royalty, to receive His birth announcement. Throughout His ministry on earth, Jesus constantly reached out to the outcasts. He had dinner with tax collectors. He had a divine appointment with the woman at the well. And He mingled with the sick. Healed the lepers. And they all left his presence differently than when they arrived. So when you feel unworthy to come into the presence of the King of Kings, remember that he chose the shepherds to hear the good news of His birth first.

Rejoicing with the Good Shepherd

In John 10:11, Jesus said, I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. The Greek word kalos, translated “good,” describes that which is noble, wholesome, good, and beautiful, in contrast to that which is wicked, mean, foul, and unlovely. It signifies not only that which is good inwardly—character—but also that which is attractive outwardly. It is an innate goodness. Therefore, in using the phrase “the good shepherd,” Jesus is referencing His inherent goodness, His righteousness, and His beauty. As shepherd of the sheep, He is the one who protects, guides, and nurtures His flock. In fact, He gave His life for the sheep–you and me.

As we focus this week of Advent on preparing for His coming, how can we not look forward with eager anticipation to going to the house of the Lord? How can spending time with Jesus every day be a drudgery or obligation? When we reflect on Christ as our Good Shepherd who sacrificially gave himself for us, we should not only be glad to be in His presence but, like the psalmist, we should give thanks.

Today, focus on Jesus as your Good Shepherd – the one who protects, guides, nurtures and gave His life for you – and go with gladness and rejoicing as you enter His presence today.

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