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Matthew 11:2-11

 “The Joy of Salvation”

I want to start with something funny. I found this story from one internet site: The Sunday after Christmas, Father John looked at the nativity scene before packing away the figures when he noticed the baby Jesus was missing from the scene. Immediately, Father John turned toward the parsonage to call the police. But as he was about to do so, he saw little Harry with a red wagon, and the figure of the little infant, Jesus, was in the wagon. Father John walked up to Harry and said, “Well, Harry, where did you get the little infant?” Harry replied honestly, “I took him from the church, Father John.” “Why did you take him?” With a sheepish smile, Harry said, “Well, about a week before Christmas, I prayed to little Lord Jesus. I told him if he would bring me a red wagon for my Christmas present, I would give him a ride around the block in it.”

What a cute story! He prayed to Jesus making a promise and kept it. He enjoyed his Christmas present with little Jesus. What do you expect for Christmas? You may wish to have a family gathering, exchange gifts, meet with loved ones, and have a Christmas party with good food. Every Christmas season, we have the Advent service, waiting for Christ to bring hope, peace, joy, and love to the world. However, he hasn’t come yet, even though we pray for and expect him yearly. We still live in a chaotic world full of violence, fighting, wars, poverty, disasters, and injustice.

The coming Christ we expect, according to the Scripture Acts, is “The same Jesus, who has been taken from you (us) into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). As we believe in him, we are waiting for the coming of Christ. Nobody knows what the coming Christ looks like. But no one expects baby Jesus to be born again and again every Christmas, but we celebrate Jesus’ birthday with the joy of salvation. As you may know, Christmas is a compound noun, “Christ” and “Mass.” The word “Mass” means “worship service,” as typically the Catholic Church uses the term “Mass.” Therefore, Christmas is “the day we serve Christ.” Hopefully, we can make a real Christmas and serve Christ. Don’t have Christ’s birthday party without him.

The delay in his return does not mean he has broken his promise. There is only one reason that God loves us so much. The Scripture 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Yes, Jesus will come, but he is waiting for his people to repent and come back to him. If the purpose of having Jesus come first was that “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), the purpose of the coming Jesus is also because God loves us so much, God waits for us. You may say, ‘well, we believe in Jesus Christ.’ You might be right, but he still waits for us to bring our families, relatives, and neighbors, who we love, so that they also believe in him and shall not perish but gain eternal life.

I want to share a story I read recently: It is about a man who drove on the road in the countryside of L. A. at midnight a few years ago. At that moment, he felt an earthquake had passed near his place. He pulled his car over for a while, waiting for the earthquake to end. After a few minutes, it was calm, and then he drove again over a bridge. But, about halfway over the bridge, he suddenly noticed a car in front of his car had disappeared. He pulled over and looked at what had happened. He found the bridge destroyed by the earthquake. The car drove fast without noticing the broken bridge and fell under the bridge. At that moment, several cars were cruising toward the broken bridge, and he was waving his hands to stop the cars. But, at midnight, a man who was standing on the road trying to make them stop seemed crazy.

 Nobody stopped, and they all fell to their death. Soon he saw a bus coming. He decided he had to stop the bus even though he would die with the people on the bus. He stood in the middle of the road, waving his hands. The bus drove toward him by honking its horn, but he didn’t move, waving his hands. Finally, the bus stopped, and the driver got out of the bus and saw the dangerous situation. The bus driver blocked the road with the bus to save people. [J. D. Greear, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary]

 If you were in his shoes, what would you do? Would you handle it the same way as he did? Remember, many people run towards death without knowing the way to the salvation of Jesus Christ. Among them, could be your loved ones. If you have family members who don’t believe in Jesus yet, please speak to them about the joy of salvation before it is too late. What would you do if you saw your loved ones die without knowing salvation? You have the chance to speak about Jesus when you gather with your family during the holiday season.

Someone asked Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892, Baptist Pastor) if someone who had never heard about Jesus could get saved. He answered, “well, I don’t think so, but there is a better question if anyone who knows Jesus, but he/she does not speak about the joy of salvation to those who have never heard about Jesus, is he /she saved in Jesus?” I want you to consider how often you speak about the joy of salvation with your loved ones. The kingdom of God begins with you who know Jesus Christ. If you rejoice in Jesus, that joy of salvation must flow from you to your family, friends, relatives, and neighbors.

The king imprisoned John the Baptist because he did the right thing for king Herod. In prison, he heard about what Jesus was doing and was curious if he was Christ. When he baptized Jesus, he was sure he was Christ because he heard a voice from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). He expected that Christ was coming as the Lord of judgment, as he says, “his winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12). However, he heard that Jesus healed the sick, fed the poor, and ate meals with sinners and women. That was not what he expected. So, he sent his disciples to Jesus and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (Matthew 11:3). Jesus said, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” It is the good news that the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed in B.C 8 century: “He will come to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy” (Isaiah 35: 4b-6). If you believe in Jesus, you may praise the Lord for the joy of salvation in everyday life.

However, we easily forget God’s grace in providing fresh air, food, clothes, shelter, and family. Count how God has blessed you! We often forget what Jesus says, “Whatever you did do for one of the least of these, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). We see many little Jesus’ around the world, near and far, such as the least, the powerless, the sick, the oppressed and the poor. I hope you can serve little Jesus during the Christmas season, sharing the joy of salvation. We lit the third advent candle, hoping Christ would bring joy to the world. The joy of salvation should go forward from you. The candle of joy may empower you to bring the good news to your loved ones! Thanks be to God. Amen!