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Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
December 15, 2010

Lottery winners and Advent joy

A substitute teacher in Arizona has won a $95.3 million Powerball jackpot. Sheila Verke presented her winning ticket to lottery officials on Monday. According to today’s Reuters website, she plans to buy a recreational vehicle and travel the country. “It’s going to change my life and the life of my children and my grandchildren and my friends,” she claims.

Probably not. Research indicates that most lottery winners return to their previous levels of happiness within a year. Money can apparently buy happiness, but not for long.

That’s why I’m glad we have an Advent “week of joy.” We have learned that biblical joy is a sense of well-being which transcends circumstances. While happenings can produce happiness, only God can give us joy.

Actress Katharine Hepburn illustrated the point: “I don’t know what one means by ‘happy.’ I’m happy spasmodically. If I eat a chocolate Turtle, I’m happy. When the box is empty, I’m unhappy. When I get another box, I’m happy again.”

True joy was born on Christmas Day. The angelic announcement to the shepherds is God’s word to us: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

In response, the shepherds “hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger” (v. 16). They “found him”—the original word describes a search in order to find. The went from stable to stable until they found this child lying in a feed trough. And they knew they had found the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord.

Note that they walked uninvited into the cave which was his birthing room. I never visit a newborn baby in a hospital without checking first with the nurse, washing my hands, and knocking at the door. These rough, dirty, smelly field hands rushed right in. Jesus was born in a place which had no doors, no locks, no way to keep people out. He was born there on purpose, for anyone can come into a cave. Anyone can come to the Christ.

And find in him true joy. The joy of salvation is found only in Jesus: “We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11). Jesus told his followers: “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

How long has it been since you considered your salvation in Christ? If Jesus is your Lord, you will live forever in God’s perfect and glorious heaven. What happened when you made this decision? “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7). Heaven rejoices in your salvation this morning. Do you?

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