CHRISTMAS23-01 The Circle of Joy, pt. 1

The Circle of Joy, pt. 1
Bill Giovannetti
Welcome to Christmas at Pathway.
And welcome to this wonderful setting. Isn't it beautiful?

Our theme is JOY. Didn't you just feel some joy when you walk in?

Even as our theme is joy, I am very aware that for many people, Christmas can bring the opposite. For so many, this time of year brings sadness. Memories of loss. Reminders of pain. Levels of stress that are hard to bear.

If that's your story, I understand. You make sense to me. I'm not here to shame you for not feeling all that "merry" this time of year. My heart is with you. I pray that this year can be different for you. I pray that this Christmas will mark the beginnings of a turning point for you.

I have a fun challenge for you. Let's see how fast you can identify six traditional Christmas movies. I'll show a picture, you say the movie.
Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
It's a Wonderful Life
Miracle on 34th Street
Home Alone
A Christmas Carol

Christmas is the season we celebrate when God became human without ceasing to be God.

He did this by being born of Mary, in the most wondrous and humble and counterintuitive way possible.

"And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Fear not! For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:7-11)

When the angels described that first Christmas, they said it was good news of great joy to all people. Great joy. There it is.

Later, Jesus would say,

"These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11)

There has never been a system of faith and teaching as dedicated to human joy as the message of Jesus.

Authentic Christianity is about human flourishing. It is about joy.

That is the essence of the birth of Christ. The angels said so and Jesus said so too.

In fact, every ingredient for human flourishing and joy is wrapped in the Gift of Christmas.

The title of my talk is: The Circle of Joy
"These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11)

The Circle of Joy

God Brought You Here

I believe that you are here today for a reason. Yes, you made your choice and you came (or clicked) here. But I think it's deeper than that.

I think you're here because God influenced you. He brought you here because he loves you.

We've been asking God to do something very special this Christmas. We've been specifically praying that this Christmas would be your first Christmas where you are officially a member of the family of God. We're praying that you actually know it because you have made it official.

I want to show you how to do that today. That's coming at the end of my talk.

The Circle of Joy:

I picked these six movies specifically. Each movie represents a key ingredient of joy.

I'm not saying that you will always be happy or that God will erase your heartaches and take away your pains.
What I am saying is that when you put these ingredients together, you will have a recipe for a kind of joy that undergirds your life. A kind of joy where hope shines through, even in your darkest days.

Here are the six indispensable ingredients in the Circle of Joy:

IDENTITY - Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys
I picked Rudolph because he represents IDENTITY. That's the first ingredient.

FREEDOM - The Grinch
I picked the Grinch because he represents FREEDOM. Every kind of freedom, including freedom from the darkness in our hearts, the second ingredient.

MEANING - It's a Wonderful Life
George and Mary Bailey from It's a Wonderful Life... they represent MEANING. Having meaning in your life. Ingredient 3.

WONDER - Miracle on 34th Street
I'm using Miracle on 34th Street to represent ingredient number 4. That is a sense of WONDER. There's more to this world than meets the eye.

LOVE - Home Alone
Number 5 is LOVE. Kevin McAllister in Home Alone... Everything is a struggle until he's safe in the arms of love.

The last ingredient in a life of joy... Old Ebenezer Scrooge represents the opposite of the last ingredient, which is COMPASSION.

Identity, freedom, meaning, wonder, love, compassion. This is everything a heart desires. It is what we were created for.

I'm calling this the Circle of Joy because when you have these six ingredients, you have the best possible foundation for joy—one that doesn't evaporate when life gets hard.

I want to make the case that of all the philosophies of the world, all the psychological systems and religions of the world... you will never find one that provides these ingredients as well as Christianity.

And that is because of Christmas.