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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - Christmas Eve (Joy To The World)

Craig Smith - Christmas Eve (Joy To The World)


Craig Smith - Christmas Eve (Joy To The World)
TOPICS: Joy To The World, Christmas, Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas. Welcome to Mission Hills, Littleton. We are so glad you are with us today. I want to give a shout out — we know there are thousands of people watching online right now from all over the world. I thought it might be fun if we did a shout out from the Littleton campus to all of the people watching online, so I’m going to do three, two, one, and we are going to yell Merry Christmas as loud as we can. They are all online, so you are going to need the mics. I get that, but let’s try to make it so loud that they would hear it even if we didn’t have microphones and we were broadcasting. Ready?

Three, two, one — Merry Christmas!

Yeah, no matter where you are in the world, we are here at Littleton love you, and we are so glad that you are with us in Littleton as well as online for Christmas Eve. How much fun was that moment just a second ago? How much fun was it to be part of that? Was that cool or what? Yeah? We have had nine of those minutes throughout the nine services that our three campuses are doing here in Denver. Every one of them has been awesome. We did them for two different reasons. One of them was, I don’t know about you, but I can find Christmas just the tiniest bit stressful. Anyone else? It’s possible to get to Christmas Eve and honestly, with all of the business and everything, my heart feels a little bit constricted and tight. I watch a moment like that, and I feel like my heart starts to loosen up a little bit, maybe even grow, one, two, three sizes this day, right?

And I know my heart needs to be bigger to receive the joy that Christmas is supposed to be because it’s so much bigger than anything else we experience. It’s good that we take a breath, and we expand and make room for what Christmas is all about. The second reason we wanted to do the Joy Moments is, we thought it would be a good reminder to everybody of what Christmas is all about, and Christmas, as everybody knows, is all about getting, right? I don’t know why — like every service has laughed about that. I know what’s happened. You bought into the lie. This is one of the few places that the world tries to out spiritualize the Church and the world loves to say things that sound super spiritual like — ’tis better to give than to receive. Every kid knows, no, it’s not, right?

And here’s the crazy thing that when it comes to Christmas, honestly, it really isn’t about giving. Christmas really is all about getting. Not the latest tech or the hottest toy. It’s about getting joy. It’s about receiving joy. And we actually — we knew we were taking a risk with the Joy Moments. We call them Joy Moments, but in the back of our heads we always knew, honestly, they are not Joy Moments. What we were doing there wasn’t giving joy. What we were doing there was giving happiness. Happiness is great, but it doesn’t hold a candle to joy. Happiness is rooted in circumstances. Happiness just happens. It’s how we feel when something good happens to us — when our circumstances are good. It’s great. It’s fine. The problem is, happiness doesn’t last — because the circumstance change, and how we feel about our circumstances changes, and happiness goes away, but what the Bible calls joy is something completely different.

Joy isn’t actually the result of our circumstances. One thing we have seen throughout the study of joy throughout the last month here at Mission Hills, joy is not the result of our circumstances, it’s actually the remedy for them, do you know that? Joy is not how we feel about our circumstances. Joy is what actually allows us to go through bad times to better ones. It’s the engine that keeps us moving forward when things are hard and happiness isn’t happening, so my question for you tonight here on Christmas Eve at Mission Hills is, do you have joy. I would like you to actually ask that for just a second. Do — I have joy. Or? We are going to fix that, then. We are going to take care of it. He’s taking me seriously. I love that. Everybody else, ask yourself, do I have joy or am I at the mercy of my circumstances? That’s the question I want you to ask. Do I have joy or am I at the mercy of my circumstances?

Because the reality is, our circumstances aren’t always good. No matter how good things might be right now, every one of us has a place in our lives where we feel like happy isn’t happening, don’t we? A few places in our lives we are going, man, I hope it isn’t always going to be this way, and so this question of do we have joy or not is really important because joy is what moves us through bad times to better ones. My hope is that a lot of you are here today because you can answer that question with, yes. Yes, I have joy. I know the joy you are talking about, and it is what enables me to move through bad times to better ones. I know that. In that case, you are here to celebrate, and that’s awesome, but I also believe a lot of you are hearing that and you’re going, I don’t actually know. I’m not sure that I do have that kind of joy.

For a lot of you, this is the first time you are hearing that joy and happiness is not the same thing. Because I think we have a tendency to think that joy is just happiness on steroids, right? You win a Chick-fil-A sandwich, you are happy. You win a thousand Chick-fil-A sandwiches, and you have joy, right? And here I am standing up here telling you, no. That’s just a big happy. That’s not joy. Joy is something else entirely. And maybe you are here today saying, I don’t think I do have that joy. In that case, you are in the right place because Christmas is all about getting joy. I want to make sure you don’t leave today without the gift of joy.

But whether you are here to celebrate or to search, the question we need to wrestle with is where does joy come from? Where does that joy come from? If it’s not from circumstances, where does it come from? I would love for you to grab your Bible, or if you have a phone, pull it up on your phone. I would love to have you join me in the Gospel of Luke. We are going to be picking up in chapter 2 of Luke. We are going to talk about a familiar story. Somebody asked me, what are you going to be preaching about on Christmas Eve? Baby Jesus. No big surprises here. I would love for us to unpack this story with this eye toward what does this teach us about where joy comes from? Luke says this, In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.

This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was the Governor of Syria, and everyone went to their own town to register. We need to understand that Luke is telling us that for the Jewish people, for the nation of Israel, happy wasn’t happening, times were hard, circumstances were difficult, and there wasn’t a lot of happiness going on. The possession of the Roman Empire, and really, the Roman Empire is the latest in a long line or foreign empires that possessed them and treated them like — possessions. I mean, they are counting them like you would count cattle or sheep, right? And of course, they are counting them for the purpose of collecting from them. It’s all about taxes. They want to make sure they extract every last penny out of this people. This isn’t the first census that’s happened. It’s not going to be the last one. It’s just the most recent one, but it’s all a reminder that the circumstances Israel is facing, they are difficult. They are hard.

But even in the midst of these hard times, there is this hint of hope. Verse 4 says, So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and the line of David, and that’s the first hint of hope. You see, Israel was in hard times, in bad circumstances because of their own choices. They had rebelled against God. They had said in a certain point in history, hey, God, thank You for all you have done for us. We really appreciate it. It’s been great, but from here on out, we’ll take care of it. We’ll handle the decision making. We’ll design our own destiny. They turned their backs on God, and they walked away from Him.

That’s what led them into their difficult circumstances, because that’s the way it works, right? If you walk away from light, where do you end up? You end up in the dark. If you walk away from light, you end up in the — let’s all say it — you end up in the dark. They had walked away from the light of God, and they ended up in these hard circumstances, but God hadn’t turned his back on them. They had turned their back on God, but God hasn’t turned His back on them. He continued to love them, and He continued to pursue them, and He had given them a promise. He said, one day, I’m going to send you a Savior. I’ll send you a Messiah. I’m going to send you a King who will descend from the line of David. The greatest King of Israel, he will sit on the throne of David, and so suddenly Luke tells us, even though times are hard, we have a descendant of David going to the town of David, and we go, Aha. I wonder. I wonder if this is it. I wonder if this is when our circumstances change.

And he went there to register with Mary who was pledged to be married to him. She was expecting a child. Can we just agree that, that’s what we call and “understatement,” right? I mean an angel has said, I know you are a virgin, but you are pregnant because the power of the Holy Spirit has overshadowed you, and the child is going to be the Son of God. I’m thinking her expectations were high. While this were there the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manager, because there was no guest room available for them. There is an important lesson in that. I don’t know if you make this mistake, but I know I make it a lot.

That is that I fall into the trap of believing that if God loves me, if God is involved in my life, if God is paying attention to me and caring for me, then my circumstances should be easy, right? Anybody else feel like that? It feels like that’s how it should be, right? If God is paying attention, if God loves me, then God should be making all of my circumstances smooth sailing, but what I see in Mary’s life really puts that notion to the test because there is no question that God is moving in Mary’s life. She’s pregnant as a virgin. The power of the Holy Spirit has overshadowed her. He is bringing the Son of God to Earth through her, no question He is moving in her life, but her circumstances are not easy. I mean, she delivers this incredible child in where? A barn. I don’t know about you, but I think most of us at some point had moms who asked us this question — hey, were you born in a barn, right?

We leave the door open. We track in, were you born in a barn? Jesus is the only one I know that was like, yeah. I don’t know if Mary ever asked him that when he was a kid, but he was like, yeah, mom. You were there, right? It’s not a pleasant place to give birth to a baby. It’s not pristine. It’s not sterile. It’s difficult. It’s rough, and she laid this incredible child in a manager which is a feeding trough, you understand that, right? Which means there’s like donkeys and horses and cows — they are like, that’s not supposed to be in there. That’s not what I was expecting. This is not comfortable. This is not pleasant. This is hard.

And there’s an important thing we need to understand that I think we lose track of is this, our circumstances are not a good indicator of God’s presence, do you hear me? Our circumstances are not a good indicator of God’s presence. We have a tendency to think that our circumstances tell us whether or not God is paying attention, but the reality is, our circumstances are not a good indicator of God’s presence. Sometimes the more difficult our circumstances are, the nearer God draws to us, but our eyes are so fixed on the circumstances that we can’t see Him because we are not looking in the right place.

And there were shepherds, Luke says, there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, and they were keeping watch over their flocks at night. I think that might be my favorite line in the whole thing. Because you understand what’s happening is the most important thing God has ever done in the world is being announced to some of the least important people in the world. Shepherds were at the bottom of everybody’s list. They didn’t get invited to any of the good parties. Because they were kind of the bottom of the social ladder. You know what Luke says, he didn’t say they visited the fields, he said they were living in the fields. You know what happens when you live in the fields?

The fields get on you. You get dirty. You hang out with sheep. You get smelly, and you don’t develop what we call refined social graces out in the fields with sheep and other shepherds. They are kind of at the bottom of the social ladder. I love what happens here, because what this tells us is that God’s best isn’t reserved for the world’s favorites. You hear me? God’s best isn’t reserved for the world’s favorites. You don’t have to be someone that the world thinks really highly of to receive God’s best. I don’t know where you think of yourself on the spectrum. Maybe you think of yourself as being able to relate to the shepherds. You look around, and it seems like the world’s best is always for someone else. The best opportunities, the best promotions, the best finances, the best families. It just feels like, other people get those and you never do. Maybe you go, I get it.

That’s good news. It’s good news that God’s best isn’t reserved for the world’s favorites. Maybe you are on the other end of the spectrum. Maybe you feel like one of the world’s favorites, I don’t know. There’s a lot of people here. Anyone here feel like you were mom or dad’s favorite? Oh, hands went up. Wow, okay. No. That wasn’t supposed to happen. I just messed up a whole bunch of family Christmases. I’m so sorry. Whoa. Okay. If that’s you, maybe you do feel like the world’s best, that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that, but understand that if you hang your hopes on that, if you hang your hopes on your standing in the world’s eyes, you may find out you don’t have a leg to stand on in God’s.

Don’t hang your hope on that. God’s best isn’t reserved for the world’s favorites. He announces this incredible thing to the shepherds. Verse 9 says, An angel of the world appeared to them. The glory of the Lord shown around them and they were terrified. That’s what happens when angels show up in the middle of the night in the dark field, right? Like an angel doesn’t pop into the place and you go, huh. Interesting. No. Like terror is the appropriate response for that. Then the angel says the most useless thing ever. He says, do not be afraid. You are like, too late, dude. We are way past that. He says, I bring you great news that will cause you great joy for all of the people. I want you to pay attention to that.

He says, I bring you good news that will cause you great joy. He doesn’t say I bring you joy. He says I bring you good news that will cause joy. He’s not announcing a change in their present circumstances. This is really important to understand. He’s not announcing a change in their present circumstances. He’s not saying, hey, the Roman Empire is gone. He’s not saying the social standings have been reorganized, and you are no longer at the bottom, guys. He’s not announcing a change in their present circumstances. He’s promising a change in their future ones. He’s saying, God has done something that will change everything, and it will bring joy to everyone.

It’s still to come in the future. He’s not announcing a change in their present circumstances. This is what God has done, in verse 11, Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manager, and suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and say, glory to God in the highest heaven, and on Earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests, and this is so interesting because he didn’t announce a change in their present circumstances, but he is announcing peace in the midst of their present circumstances.

He is not saying everything has changed, but he’s saying something has changed that can change your experience of the present. Peace is now possible even in a painful present. That’s something I feel like I need to push into a little bit more because the idea that you can have peace even in the midst of a difficult presence, hard circumstances, I need to know more about that, don’t you? I don’t know about you, but peace is not my natural response to difficult circumstances. My natural response is the opposite of peace. It’s panic, right? The problem with panic when things get hard is that panic makes things worse. When was the last time you panicked and said exactly the right thing? You panicked, and you made exactly the right decision and made everything better. No, panic makes things worse.

Hard things make us panic and panic makes things worse, so I’m desperately interested in this statement from the angels that God has done something that is peace to you right now, not a change in your circumstances, but peace in the midst of them. I go, how is that possible? How is it possible to have peace in the midst of a painful present? The answer is, you need to make sure you understand this, the answer is, it’s impossible. Unless one thing is true — and that one thing is this, that you know that the present is not permanent. You hear me? That’s the only way to have peace in the midst of a painful present is to know that the present is not permanent.

It’s not always going to be like this. I’m not talking about hoping that maybe the present isn’t permanent. I’m talking about knowing it. This is the joy that the angel has announced. It is a the joy that is the peace of knowing that the present is not permanent. That’s the engine that moves us through bad times to better ones, into a future where there is joy. And maybe you are here going, okay, how? How do I get that? Well, the angel told us on one level. He said today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord. What God has done allows you to know that the present is not permanent.

Maybe you go, how? Let me give you four ways that the birth of that child in a barn, in a small middle eastern village almost 2,000 years ago allows us not to hope, but to know that the present is not permanent. One way is that the birth of Jesus means God loves you. God loves you. See, in the same way that Israel was where they were because of their choice to turn their backs on God, the Bible is very clear, we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, every one of us. We all have these moments in our lives, this trajectory that we are on that we basically say to God, hey, I appreciate life and everything else, but I think I’ll be in charge of everything from here on out. I don’t really need You, and so we sin. When we walk away from the light, we end up in the dark.

The dark is a hard place to live, and because we are there because of our own choices, God didn’t have to do anything for us. He didn’t have to send a Savior. He would have been perfectly just to leave us in the consequences of our own sin, but He didn’t. He sent a Savior. Why? Because God so loves the world that He gave His one and only Son and said whoever believes in him will not perish but have life eternal. Why did God do it? Because He loves us. Understand that, that child who has laid in that feeding trough, whose hands were working their way out of the swaddling clothes and reaching to the rough wood of that feeding trough — that’s the hands of God, reaching out for you and I. He is Emmanuel. He is God with us, reaching out for us. The birth of Jesus means that God loves us, which means that the present is not permanent.

Or maybe this one resonates for you. The birth of Jesus means our sin is not our sentence. You see, the Bible has some bleak things to say about this. It’s just telling it like it is. The Bible says the wages of sin is death. Not the punishment of sin. Understand that. This is not God going, you sinned. Okay, you are going to spend eternity separated from Me in a slow fade. No, that’s not it at all. He says the wages, meaning the natural payment. What just happened? If you walk away from the light, you end up in the dark. If you walk away from life, you end up in death. The wages of sin is death. Understand that the hands that were reaching out for the rough wood of the feeding trough, those are the same hands that were nailed to rough wood of a cross. Jesus lived a perfect life.

The Son of God lived a perfect, sinless life. He had no sin to pay for, no penalty to pay. He said, since I have none of my own, I’ll take yours, and he went to the cross willingly in order to take our sin upon his own shoulder and to pay for our sin with the price of his own blood with his own death. For God so loved the world that whoever believes in him, puts his trust in him and what he did on the cross will not perish but have eternal life. See the birth of Jesus means that our sin doesn’t have to be our sentence, which means that the present doesn’t have to be permanent, or maybe it’s this.

The birth of Jesus means that we are not alone. The birth of Jesus means that we are not alone. Those hands that reached out for the rough wood of the feeding trough were the same hands that were nailed to the rough wood of the cross. They are also the same hands that knock on the rough door of our hearts. Jesus himself said, behold, pay attention, look. Don’t miss this. I stand at the door and I knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into them. You see Jesus wants to come into our lives. God longs to enter into our lives, into the present even as is painful and to walk with us through that, and to lead us out of it into joy. I saw an incredible reminder of that this year.

It brought it home to me in a way I had never really seen. It was a hard lesson. It was about this time last year. There is a woman that is really special to me. She has become dear to Coletta and I. She is my assistant here at Mission Hills. Her name is Judy. Between two of the Christmas Eve services last year, we got word that Judy’s husband Kelton had collapsed and died. It was really hard. Walking with Judy through the loss of her husband this past year, it’s been — it’s been heartbreaking. It’s also been amazing. Because I have seen a woman who has grieved hard. She has gone through difficult circumstances. There is not a lot of happy, happening, but there has been a hope.

There has been a peace from knowing that her present is not permanent, and she’s moved forward. So many people have asked her, and I have heard her answer multiple times. They said how are you doing this? How are you moving forward? And her answer is, because I know I’m not alone. Jesus is with me, and as hard as this is, I know that we are walking this together, and he’s got a very different future, and a very, very different eternity. You see the birth of Jesus means that we are not alone. Which means our present is not permanent, no matter how hard it is.

Or maybe it’s this, that the birth of Jesus means that even our pain has a purpose. You see, we look at pain and we go, it’s random. It’s meaningless. How could a good God allow this, and a good God doesn’t want it. It’s the result of our sin, and the world that we made by our rebellion against Him, but the good God longs to come into us and walk with us through pain and not just to get us through pain but to redeem it. He offers a joy that invades the present, and it redeems the past in ways you and I couldn’t even begin to imagine.

The pain is not meaningless. It has a purpose. This year is a hard year, but I saw this in an incredibly powerful way. Just a few days after we got word that Judy’s husband Kelton had died, we also got another hard phone call which was that deputy Zach Parrish was killed in the line of duty here in Littleton. I see a lot of nodding heads. Zach and his wife Gracie, they are part of the Mission Hills family, and Gracie’s parents Tim and Michelle, they are part of the Mission Hills family, and several of their family member, so that wasn’t just a community tragedy. For us, that was a family tragedy, and walking with Gracie through that grief and through that heartache, it’s been devastating, at the same time, it’s been amazing — because she knows Jesus. She has a hope and joy that comes from the peace that knowing that the present is not permanent.

She walked with Jesus, and as she’s walked with Jesus, Jesus has begun to do something that nobody expected. She began to get phone calls, and people would stop her, and they would ask her questions, and she began to realize that an awful lot of those were first responder wives. They wanted to ask, how are you doing this? How are you moving forward? How are you not only surviving, but how are you moving forward with peace and with hope, because you are living through my worst nightmare. You’re living through the thing that keeps me awake at night. I can’t sleep because I’m afraid what happened to you could happen to me, and you — you’re more at peace than I am, and it hasn’t even happened to me yet.

How are you doing that? And because of that, Gracie has ended up in a place where she’s leading a huge Bible study with first responder’s wives, and she’s helping them. She’s allowing so many of them to come to understand what it means to trust in Jesus in a way that gives you peace and joy knowing the present is not permanent no matter what the present looks like. So many of those women are making decisions to say, yes to following Jesus, to invite him into their hearts, and to find that same joy, that same peace. It’s been a hard year for Gracie.

I’m sure she would love to not have to have gone through it this way, but she also finds herself, she tells me, in kind of a strange place where she wishes she hadn’t had to go through this, but what God has done through has been so good, so powerful that she doesn’t even know if she would take it back, hard as it’s been. You see, the birth of Jesus means that even our pain can have a purpose, and so this joy invades the present and redeems the past because we know that the present is not permanent. So I’ll ask you again on this Christmas Eve, do you have that joy?

Do you have the joy that comes from knowing that your present, no matter how hard it is, is not permanent? If you do, we need to celebrate that tonight. That’s why you are here. In fact, let’s do that right now. Would you just pray with me? Jesus, we thank you because you are so good to us. We thank you that we as your followers, those of us that have put our faith in you and what you did on the cross and your resurrection three days later, because of our trust in that, we have a joy. Lord, sometimes we can let joy get slippery. We ask that you allow us to hold on to it, hold on to it tight, no matter what circumstances we are facing because we know because of your birth and your death and your new life after the cross, we know that the present is not permanent.

So we are here tonight as your followers to say thank you for coming for us. Thank you for dying for us. Thank you for rising for us. Thank you for being with us. Thank you for leading us into a future that is full of joy. If you are a follower of Jesus, if you have that joy tonight, if you are here to celebrate, I’m going to ask you to do something. I’m going to ask you to start praying. Would you begin praying for the people around you, for the thousands of people that are watching online right now because I believe, when I ask that question, do you have joy, or are you at the mercy of your circumstances, there are an awful lot of people here today and watching online who honestly said, I don’t. If that’s you. If you know that you don’t have that joy, that peace that comes from knowing that the present is not permanent, you can.

You can have that right here, right now. You have it by putting your trust in that child who was born, who grew up and who died and rose from the dead three days later. That child, that man, that Savior, that Messiah, he is offering you new joy right now, new life, hope and peace. Not only for the future, but a joy that invades the present, and if you don’t have that, but you would like to have it, if you are ready to receive that joy, if you will just put your trust in Jesus, if you are ready to do that, ready to receive that joy, to put your trust in Jesus, would you just slip your hand up right now? I see those hands. That’s awesome. Fantastic. If you are watching online, just click the button right below me. That’s so exciting. I’m so glad that I have this opportunity to allow you to receive the true gift of Christmas tonight. If you are ready to do that right now, wherever you are, would you just in your heart to God, say God:

I have done wrong, and I’m sorry. Thank you for sending Jesus to rescue me. Jesus, thank you for coming and dying on the cross for me. Jesus, I believe that you rose from the dead, and that you are offering me new life right now. You are offering me forgiveness. You are offering me hope. You are offering me peace. You are offering me joy. I accept it. I accept you into my life. I’m opening the door. I put my trust in you, right here. Right now. I receive you, and I receive joy. Amen.


There were a lot of people in this place and around the world that gave their lives to Jesus and received that joy. Can we just welcome them to the family of God? That’s awesome. Hey, if you made that decision to say yes to Jesus for the first time tonight, I’m going to ask you to do something. In the seats in front of you, there are little cards that say, “I said, yes.” I would love for you to grab one of those cards, fill it out, and if you made that decision tonight, I’m going to be out in the lobby after the service under the big sign that says “prayer,” over there by the main door. I would love for you to come and hand me that card and say, I said, yes, today. I have a gift I would love to give you, some resources I would love to give you to help you begin this journey of joy with Jesus. Merry Christmas. God bless.
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