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Christmas Comfort And Joy

Preached 12/14/2008

Text: Zephaniah 3:14-17. “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.

15 The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, He hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.

16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.

17 The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.”

Introduction: When we think of Christmas and various Christmas texts, we usually don’t think of Zephaniah. As a matter of fact, we hardly think of Zephaniah at all, anytime of the year! Who was Zephaniah? Zephaniah was an Old Testament prophet, who happened to be a descendant of Hezekiah. King Hezekiah was one of the good, godly kings of Judah, who reigned during the time of the divided kingdom of Israel. Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of King Josiah, who ascended his throne in 639 BC. at the age of eight. You can read of King Josiah’s life and reign in II Chronicles 34-35.

The book of Zephaniah, was written before 629 BC, about the time when Josiah eagerly read a copy of the Holy Scriptures that had been discovered in the Temple. This stirred the heart of King Josiah, and started a revival. Josiah cleansed the Temple as well as the priesthood, and led his people in a great Passover feast celebration. Josiah turned his nation around during his reign. It is a good thing too, because at that time, Assyria had already captured the northern kingdom of Israel. God was ready to destroy Judah, the southern kingdom as well, but because of Josiah's reform, the fall of Judea was postponed until shortly after Josiah's reign. It is without doubt that Zephaniah's prophetic ministry and message played a key role in this national revival and return to God.

What was Zephaniah’s message? To keep it short, his message was the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord! Zephaniah contains more references to "the day of the LORD," than any other Old Testament book. This phrase “day of the Lord,” sometimes refers to the past, sometimes to the near future, sometimes to the distant future, and sometimes to the far distant, eschatological future. The “the day of the Lord,” always refers to some period of time in which God is working, intervening in the world, in a recognizable way to bring judgment. Like all the prophets, Zephaniah reminded his people that God does not take sin lightly, and while He is slow to wrath, judgment will eventually fall, and when it does, it will fall quickly! We know that Babylon’s invasion of Judah and Jerusalem under King Nebuchadnezzar, was the first, immediate “day of the Lord” ahead of the nation Judah. The greater fulfillment of God’s judgment however, is yet to come.

Beginning in Zephaniah 3:9, the prophet’s message takes a turn. Zephaniah moves on to instill hope. After the blast of God’s judgment, comes blessing, renewal and restoration! When a forest fire ravages the forest, it burns everything in sight. Everything is charred and destroyed, but just months later, we see the green twig of new life springing up. Zephanaih is faithful to remind us that while God’s judgment is real, so is His consistent, overcoming, conquering love for His people. God’s people had forsaken Him, but He would not forsake them. Verses 9-13 speak of a time when the Lord would purify, unify, and restore His people. This was partially fulfilled after the captivity and rebuilding of the Temple. However, the ultimate fulfillment will be at the end of the age. The world will one day be brought to an end, and all evil will be put away forever! The time is coming when sin will be totally irradiated, and all creation renewed. One day, were will be a “new heaven and earth” and a New Heavenly Jerusalem!

So, how is our text passage related to Christmas? The answer is not a politician, or a political party, but a person, the coming of Messiah. God’s eternal purpose and plan of redemption, centers and hinges upon the coming of the promised One. God has not given up on Israel, He has not given up on the world, and He has not given up on us! How do we know? Some 2,000 years ago, God sent His Son into the world as proof of His great, undying love for us! Because of Christmas, the first coming of Jesus Christ, we can have comfort and joy!

Zephaniah 3:17, is a marvelous verse that comforts us and assures us of the deep, passionate, persistent love God has for us! Each line of this verse deserves our attention as we partake in:

Christmas Comfort And Joy!

First: Christmas comfort and joy comes as we, Focus on God’s great presence. God is with us at all times! Verse 17a says, “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee.” In verse 15b it says, “the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee.” Christmas is the celebration of God’s incarnation! Matthew 1:23 reads, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

This Christmas, it should cheer our hearts to know that God is with us! We have His continued presence in our lives! We are never alone! We should never feel abandoned! God has arrived to live with us, and to dwell in us!

We are soon to close out this year. Stop and reflect over all that has happened this year, and realize that in all of your frustrations, trials, and disappointments, God was there! How comforting it is to know that!

As I was with Bro. Rob Lee our missionary at the Missions Conference sponsored by this church in Monterrey, Mexico, it was evident that he was Mr. Fix-It. If there was a problem with one of the missionary’s vehicles as they reached their destination, Bro. Rob was dispatched to “fix it.” Bro. Rob told me he learned how to repair machinery from his grandfather, Bro. Jack Rushing. As a young man, if he had a problem with anything, whether it was a washing machine or a washed out car, all he had to do was call his grandfather. Bro. Rob said it was comforting to have him around, to know that he was there if he needed him. If he had made a complete mess of things, grandpa Rushing would be there to intervene with his tools, strength, experience, and wisdom. It was obvious that his grandfather, Jack Rushing still had a great presence in Bro. Rob’s life.

In a much more powerful and comforting way, God is with us, in the midst of us today! Right now, some of you are troubled and anxious over some problem, some situation that is beyond your control. The real problem is, you have not stopped to consider that God is with you in the midst of this problem or situation. Your anxious heart and stressed out nerves are evidence that though you may have prayed, you have yet to fully trust God! Like Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, we must let our eyes rest upon Jesus, and realize that God is with us, He is in us, He is for us, and He will help us. Today, God says, “Do not be afraid, I am with you.”

Second: Christmas comfort and joy comes as we Focus on God’s great power. Verse 17 continues, “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save.” God is mighty, powerful, to save us. Christmas involves a great demonstration of God’s power. In Luke 1:37, after rehearsing to Mary the miracle of her conception and birth being a virgin, as well as Elisabeth’s conception in her old age, he said, “For with God, nothing shall be impossible!”

In the fulness of time, God sent His Son Jesus, to accomplish something else that is humanly impossible. Jesus came to save us from our sins! God sent us a Savior! Matthew 1:21 says, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.” The word “mighty” here in 17, is the same word used to describe David's mighty men. God through Jesus Christ, is a mighty hero who came to save His people from their sin!

We see it clearly on the cross. It was there Jesus as a mighty warrior, took Satan and sin by the throat, on our behalf. The apostle Paul gives us this picture in Colossians 2:13-15. It reads, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”

On the cross, there was never any doubt about the outcome. Jesus is the warrior who triumphs over Satan and sin. John in I John 3:8, tells us that Jesus was “....manifested to destroy the works of the devil.”

Jesus is the One who always causes us to triumph in every situation! Our God is a mighty warrior who overpowers His enemies. God is in the midst of His people fighting for us and with us, casting His arms around us like a mighty shield. This Christmas, be renewed in your struggle against self and sin. Hebrews 12:1 speaks of a sin that “so easily besets us.” We all possess a besetting sin that would trip us up and knock us out of the Christian race. Be encouraged this Christmas! A mighty warrior is in our midst! Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world! You are not alone! You can “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” With Jesus, you have a mighty conqueror in your life!

Third: Christmas comfort and joy comes as we Focus on God’s great persistent love. At Christmas, we are reminded that we can rest in God’s love. Verse 17 continues, “He (God) will rejoice over thee with joy; He (God) will rest in His love, He (God) will joy over thee with singing.” Now we are getting to the part that blows us away! Here, we are presented with a picture that is beyond belief. Our mighty God, is portrayed as a loving, overjoyed father. In all His holiness, we see how He feels about His children.

Picture if you will a husband/father with his wife and mother of his newborn child. One moment, he is overcome with joy and delight; the next minute he holds his child quietly, experiencing a loss for words; and the next minute his heart bursts forth with joy as he sings his way down the hospital corridor, and all the way out to the car. This is the picture we have presented in the remainder of this verse! Verse 17b says, “He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.” God takes delight and rejoices over us with joy and gladness. As God looks at you, His heart is not made sad, but glad. Never once does God regret the price He paid to redeem you!

As Mary and Joseph looked upon their new born son Jesus, I wonder what was going on in their hearts and minds? This was Joseph’s son, and yet it was not his son. Do you think that Joseph looked at the newborn with a sense of joy? As Jesus grew up, do you think there were moments when Joseph felt that fatherly love and pride in Jesus? One thing is certain, God was overjoyed, not just in the birth of His Son, but throughout His life. In Luke 2:52, we read how that Jesus “...increased in favor with God and man.” Reading the gospels, we hear God the Father on several occasions say, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased! Forget about Moses and Elijah, look at My Son! Listen to Him! Worship Him.”

Can you imagine God taking joy in you? Can you imagine God being proud of you? Can you see God loving you, no matter what? The New Testament says that there is joy in Heaven, over one lost soul that is saved, snatched from the clutches of sin, Satan and Hell!

The Lord looks at us and loves us with the same love He has had for us from the beginning of time! The word used here for “love” in verse 17, is a word that speaks of a father’s intense fondness for his son. Remember how Jacob or Israel favored Joseph? It speaks of a deep heartfelt bond and passionate love. The love God has for us, is the love that never fails, despite our failings. It is a love that believes the best about us, and sees the best in us!

Notice the phrase, “He will rest in His love.” The word “rest” speaks of a silent, quiet, content peace or rest. Some have translated this, “He will be silent in His love.” It speaks of wordless adoration! Imagine a mother or father holding a newborn child and quietly soaking in the joy and wonder of such a miracle.

It is nothing short of amazing that the eternal righteous, holy God, could ever feel this way toward us! Romans 8:29-30 says, “For whom He (God) did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

30 Moreover whom He (God) did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” Hallelujah!! Unbounded by time, God sees us in the same glory and image of His Son, Jesus Christ!

Fourth: Christmas comfort and joy comes as we Focus on God’s great peace. We are comforted by His voice. Verse 17b ends, “He will rejoice over you with singing.” Luke 2:7a says, “And she (Mary) brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger.” There is tenderness in that scene. What mother could not fall in love with her new born child? Like all mothers, Mary most probably sang sweetly over baby Jesus. “Sleep in heavenly peace.”

Can you imagine God singing? Never mind whether He is a tenor, baritone or bass! Can you see God singing over you? As God considers you, He suddenly burst forth in jubilant singing. In the good times and in the bad, how comforting it is to know that God, our Abba Father, takes us up in His arms, and sings over us! In Psalm 27:10, the psalmist says with great peace, comfort and consolation, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.” Our singing God gives us, “ for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” Hallelujah!

This Christmas, bring your cares and heavy heart to Him! We can cast all our cares upon Him, because He cares for us! If this Christmas finds your heart heavy and troubled, hear your Heavenly Father’s voice, singing over you! Let Him speak peace to your soul.

All of this Christmas comfort and joy, is because of Jesus Christ! As a son or daughter of God, a child of Abraham by repentance of sin and placing our faith in Jesus Christ, you are the “apple of His eye.” This is what it is to be “in Christ.” Paul said it this way in Romans 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.”

We cannot be the recipients of such great love, and let it leave us unchanged.

This Christmas, we must be challenged to respond to God’s great love in three ways:

First: Live confidently. When asked how he withstood the pressure of world competition, famous Olympic diver Greg Louganis responded, “I tell myself before each dive, ‘Even if I blow this dive, my mother will still love me.’” Greg would then would go on to pursue excellence! At the beginning of each day, how good it would be, for each of us to take a deep breath and say, "Even if I blow it today, my God will still love me," and then, assured of God’s grace, go into the day seeking to live the best life for God’s glory!

The Christian life is not based on fear, but faith. We must live our lives believing and acting upon God’s promises!

Second: Live obediently. Mary and Joseph were obedient servants of the Lord. Today, we are blessed by their obedience and submissive spirit.

Jesus said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” The best response to God’s great love for us, is to obey His Word and will for your life!

Third: Live enthusiastically. The shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem were overjoyed to share the good news of the newborn King! Knowing the love God has for us, fresh joy, hope, and enthusiasm should spill out of our lives! We must shout and share the love God has for us in Jesus Christ with everyone!

Have you experienced Christmas comfort and joy? “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.”

Leave here challenged and changed, as you recapture God’s love for you!

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