Nobleton Community Church December 17, 2023
Third Sunday of Advent
Text: Psalm 126; Philippians 4:4-7
Pastor Paul V. Lehmann

My friend and former colleague David Ens, who was a missionary in Paris, France when we were there, tells about a Cambodian refugee girl named Chanta, who was a single parent and lived in an apartment complex called Camembert where she lived with her three sons. The structure is so called because it resembles two wheels of camembert cheese on their sides.

The complex is located in the section of Paris called Noisy le Grand, close to a major shopping mall. It was from here one winter that Chanta was returning home with her hands full of groceries, on this day it was a typical winter day in Paris, which usually means wind and rain that sometimes turns to sleet. She had her umbrella but it was hard to hold against the wind. From the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of a dark-complexioned youth in the shadow of an archway. She passed by, thinking he was simply seeking shelter from the drizzle. Then, the sound of footsteps and Chanta felt her purse being wrenched from her grasp. Au secours! (“Help”) she screamed as the boy ran off. Two would-be Samaritans took chase. But they soon returned with nothing to offer but their condolences. Tearfully Chanta made her way back to her apartment. Gone were the documents which were so important that gave her the legal right to be in France. Gone were her credit cards, her money, her checkbook, her expensive new prescription glasses and her house keys.

Fortunately she had left the boys at home and would be able to gain entry. This was little comfort, however, knowing that she had no way to have another key made and a replacement lock would cost nearly
$300. As Chanta rode the elevator to the sixth floor she called out to the only One she knew could really help her—Jesus. Only He could

set things right. After putting the groceries away and the children to bed, she retired for the night.
The next day, Chanta made her way to the police station to report the theft. While she gave her report, the desk sergeant was interrupted to book two young men arrested for possession of stolen goods. Among the incriminating evidence in their possession were two of Chanta’s credit cards. Thank you, God, “she prayed quietly as the officer handed her the cards.
Back at home, Chanta was informed that the train station had called. They were holding her purse and her keys. Again, she thanked God. One more call came that day from the caretaker of a nearby apartment complex. He explained that, while cleaning the grounds, he had found her identification papers and two checkbooks. Chanta raced to reclaim these precious items, her heart full of joy. Truly her Savior had come through for her again.
That evening she took inventory of what had been lost and what had been found. The cash was gone and so were her precious glasses. She would need to reorder them and perhaps even be required to have her eyes tested again. The following day, at the optometrist’s office, Chanta was pleased to find that her test results were still in the computer and she had only to order new glasses. She cringed as she paid for them though, but it had to be done. Now she only needed to wait the week or so before she could pick them up.
During that week Chanta had the opportunity to tell her story at her Cambodian Evangelical Church in Marne la Valee. The congregation joined their prayers with hers.
One week had gone by since the robbery. Chanta was at home when the phone rang. A Frenchman identified himself and asked if she was Madame Noun Chanta. When she confirmed this, he went on to say that a pair of glasses had been turned into the lost and found at the mall and that from the receipt inside the case, they had traced them through the optometrist back to her.
Chanta ran to the office to make her claim. Another brief prayer of praise. With her glasses back in her possession she realized there

was now no need to order—and pay for—the new pair. When the clerk agreed to refund her money, Chanta breathed yet another “thank you” to the Lord.
The following Sunday she gave her testimony in church for what Jesus Christ had done for her. Everyone was reminded of John 16:24 which says; Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
How often do we fret and worry when something like this happens, instead of praying and trusting, moving forward with what we need to do, but not allowing our circumstances to affect our inner joy. When we trust God our joy increases even more when he answers our prayer. Certainly receiving your I.D. papers and credit cards are a big deal in France, especially for someone who is not a citizen. The miraculous way that Chanta got these back is a cause for JOY.
Our problem is, even though we know better in our hearts, as Christians, we still depend on good happenings to make us “happy.” We still believe that it takes happy things to make us happy, and we still confuse that with inner joy, that only Jesus Christ can give.
The fact is, that often our joy comes, when we suffer the most. We experience the effect of the suffering, with joy after the trial is over, but the truth is, for the Christian we have the joy in our hearts, in our inner being already—through the suffering.
The Greek word for “joy” is derived from the word for grace. This is important to note, for it tells us categorically that joy is produced by God’s grace. This means “joy” isn’t a human based happiness that comes and goes. Rather, true joy is divine in origin, a fruit of the Spirit that is manifested particularly in hard times. Someone may feel happiness, exuberance, excitement or be in “high spirits,” but all of these are fleeting emotions. On the other hand, “joy” is a Spirit-given expression that flourishes best, when times are strenuous and stressful, daunting and tough!
In the example that we have in First Thessalonians 1:6, the Thessalonians were under great stress due to persecution; yet in the midst of it all, they continued to experience great JOY. In fact, the Greek strongly implies that their supernatural joy was due to the Holy

Spirit working inside them. Paul even called it the “JOY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.”
I like the interpretive translation of this passage that Rick Renner gives us:
“You throw your arms open wide and gladly welcomed the Word into your lives with great enthusiasm. And you did it even in the midst of mind-bobbling sufferings—a level of stress and intensity that would be suffocating and crushing for most people. But while you were going through all these hardships and hassles, you were simultaneously experiencing the supreme ecstasy and joy of the Holy Spirit.”
In our text that we read from Psalm 126, we see that when the Lord restored his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream to them because they were filled with laughter, and they sang for joy.
Now the Holy Spirit was not yet given to be in them, but the joy was still supernaturally supplied to them in their singing. In verse 3, they recognized that the Lord had done amazing things for them!—What Joy!
God is able to restore our joy, when we are not experiencing it like we would want to. Our tears can be seeds that will grow into a harvest of joy because God is able to bring good out of tragedy. When burdened by sorrow, know that your times of grief will end and that you will again find joy. We must be patient as we wait. God’s great harvest of joy is coming! Remember; “those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.”
Jesus reassured his disciples in John 16:1-33, that he was going to be taken from them for a short time, and then they would see him again. He was referring to his death, and then his resurrection. He said to them that they would weep and mourn over what is going to happen to Him, but the world will rejoice. (Now the world still rejoices, every chance they get to eliminate Jesus, even the name of Jesus), but here he tells the disciples that their anguish will turn to wonderful joy when they will see Him again. He is not talking about His second coming, but when they saw Him after He rose from the dead. He said that; “ You have sorrow now, but I will see you again then you will

rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. The truth is, you can go directly to the Father and ask him, and he will grant your request because you use my name.” He points out to them that they haven’t done this before. Then he says: “ Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have ABUNDANT JOY.
You see, when we ask our heavenly father in prayer for what is on our hearts, –in the name of Jesus—this should give us much joy. But I’m afraid that too often, we don’t experience any joy when we pray. We just go through the motions, or repeat prayers because we think it is our duty to pray.
C.S. Lewis described joy in his book “Surprised by Joy” as:” an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it, would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.”
We can manipulate circumstances to our own advantage to obtain what we think will bring happiness, or expend great efforts in pleasure-seeking, but joy is entirely free. You cannot earn it, buy it or deserve it. It is a divine gift to receive rather than a selfish goal to pursue. The opposite of joy is not sadness or sorrow but anxiety.
Jesus encouraged his followers by saying; “do not worry about your life.” Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” He tells them to consider the joy of the birds who sing for joy, or the flowers in their glory, and if the Lord of the universe clothes creation with such extravagance, then we can rejoice in his love regardless of our circumstances. Jesus says that we rest in God’s love so that our joy may be in us, and that our joy may be complete. (John 15:11)
We see that the joy that was announced by the angels—“I bring you good news of great joy” is intertwined with peace and love. We will talk more about God’s LOVE next week for our fourth Sunday of Advent.
In closing today, remember that the best that the lost world has to offer is a temporary happiness. But when the seed of God has been placed inside your human spirit, that divine seed produces a ‘joy” that isn’t based on outward events or circumstance. In fact, when
times get very challenging, the supernatural life of God rises up inside you to defy that awful pressure! This supernatural “JOY” will sustain you in even the hardest of times!