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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Elizabeth Farms Christmas trees, Lancaster County, PA
Christmas trees on Elizabeth Farms (Photo by Mike Martin)

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"The Joy Of The Lord!"

"The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10).

When I pastored in New England I preached a sermon titled, "Where Does The Joy Come From?" I had several people prepared to demonstrate common sources of joy: some good, some neutral, and some bad. One mimicked the "joy" attained through alcohol and drugs, another his enjoyment of skiing and another the joy of a family gathering. But where does deep, real, abiding joy come from?

Look around you today; this week; this season.  Do some people-watching at the local mall, the post office, or even on the highways.  It's likely that you'll see more impatience, stress and inconsideration than people who demonstrate a deep, abiding joy.

Last week we read about shoving and fighting that broke out at a major retail store on Black Friday.  A friend told us that she had filled a shopping cart with special buys at a Toys R Us only to look away momentarily and find that her cart, goods and all, had been taken by another shopper, apparently frustrated that she couldn't find an unused shopping cart!

Greed is certainly at the heart of such actions.  Greed, anger, jealousy, fear and other destructive attitudes have filled the hearts of people since the fall of Adam and Eve. 

Nehemiah encouraged the listeners who gathered at the Water Gate by proclaiming, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." This call to joy was issued to the people after hearing the reading of God's Word. They did not have access to the Scriptures as we do. When, after many years of spiritual desolation they finally heard the Book of the Law read aloud, they stood, lifted their hands and responded "Amen!  Amen!"

The priests further explained the meaning of the Scriptures to them and, when the listeners realized how far they had drifted from God's commands, they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.  They began to weep openly. Nehemiah wanted them to recognize it was a new day and to realize their greatest source of strength would come from having joy in the Lord. It was a joyful occasion that their hearts were tender.  The better we understand God's Word, the more comfort we find in it; the darkness of trouble arises from the darkness of ignorance, but joy comes when we are enlightened and responsive to God's revealed truths.

The very heart of the gospel is the message the angel proclaimed to the shepherds as expressed in Luke 2:10, "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people."  Just ponder the aspect of "great joy" these lowly shepherds received in the message of the Gospel. This event had none of the normal trappings we associate with joy today. It wasn't available to just the Hollywood elite, the intellectual, the wealthy, or the big name politicians. The joy the angel spoke of wasn't related to flashy consumer goods, there was no big sweepstakes giveaway, no great buy at the mall.

Instead the angel spoke of joy that originates from an entirely different source.  This great joy is the result of the birth of Jesus who came to save all people who ask forgiveness for their sins. The angel's message went on to proclaim, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord."

This season look to the genuine Source of deep, real, abiding joy.  Let us express deep and abiding joy daily as a testimony of what Christ has done for us, what He has done in us, and what He will do through us.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Jesus, the media is usually devoid of good news, but rather corruption, murder, greed, and bickering politicians are at the forefront of the daily news.  How marvelous that an announcement made by an angel some 2,000 years ago would bring great joy not only for the people of that generation, but it continues to resound even to our generation and those who follow.  Your coming to earth brings great joy and provides eternal hope to all who believe on You. Today I will not walk under the cloud of bad news but I will soar above the clouds because my steps are ordered by You, not by the news of the day.  You are my strength, my hope and my joy!

Nehemiah 8:1-10 (the context from the first part of today's message.)

"Where Does The Joy Come From?"
Here's the simplified outline to my message. Real joy is a result of:

1. Right relationships (with God and each other) (1 John 1:1-4)
2. Living in obedience to Christ's commands (John 15:9-17)
3. Undergoing trials that develop fruitful character (James 1:2-4)
4. Experiencing God's presence (1 Peter 1:6-9)

Mike and Nicole Martin share some photos today of their trip to Elizabeth Farms here in Lancaster County.

Elizabeth Farms Christmas trees, Lancaster County, PA

Elizabeth Farms Christmas trees, Lancaster County, PA

A thoughtful email we received  in response to the message yesterday:

I’ve been researching our genealogy and have really enjoyed it. I just began a month or so ago. I got so excited one day when I was told that I might be the great great great great grandaughter of a subchief of the Cherokee Nation. But then, I thought about it again and really really got excited when I realized that I was the DAUGHTER OF THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE!!! I’ve got good genes!!! This is not conjecture, but a FACT!! He’s my DADDY!!! What a blessing our families are!! They must be important because of the way they are listed in the Bible with the genealogy lines.!!!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"Joy To The World"
Casting Crowns version Video
Classic version  Video

"How Great Our Joy!"  Video

Resources for Christmas Celebrations

It is our desire to share online resources that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season. We will continue to post these resources through Christmas Day. As we find additional material that we believe will be a blessing we will add it to this list as well.

Christmas Memories  Here's a collection of Christmas memories sent in by daily encouragement readers several years ago, along with an opportunity to share your own story. 

"In Remembrance of Me" pdf  This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services many years.  We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling.

"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with the tune.

Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18  pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him"  

My First Christmas In Heaven  This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year.  This is the poem that Brooksyne read and wrote about in this message.  

Christmas Knowledge Test

have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down).

re you Christmas shopping online?

Christianbook.comDaily Encouragement Net is an affiliate of Christianbook.com. Any orders placed to Christian Book Distributers using this link or any specific product link to a recommended resource in a daily encouragement message will help our Daily Encouragement ministry through a small commission on the sale. Thank you for considering using these links when purchasing online through CBD! Tip: If you are regular CBD customer consider bookmarking this link and using it whenever you shop.

Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your parents?  
Here's an idea!  "The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents"

Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your children?
Here's an idea!  "The Blessing"

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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