Christmas creates more expectations than most any other time of the year. We are tempted to cram all our hopes for mankind into our celebrations. That sets us up for conflict and disappointment. “Joy to the world” is what we long for…frustration and failure is often what we feel. When Isaac Watts wrote Joy to the World, he intended it as a year-round hymn. The hopes we have at Christmas-time don’t fit in a day, a week or even a season. Let this be the Christmas that launches you on a Joy Journey that lasts into eternity.
Our hearts naturally thrill to Christmas. We know that the truth of Christ’s coming is joy. Knowing truth is never enough; it must be lived. At Christmas time, especially, we try very hard to LIVE IT. We haul out the decorations, empty out our bank accounts and flood our schedules in a frenzy of anticipatory joy.
The frustration comes when our hearts respond with a hollow ring…or even anger at the emptiness and chaos. The trappings of Christmas point out the vast canyon between our hopes and what we can produce. Earthly joys are a gift from God above. Christmas tends to fix our eyes on the present moment–and God is here, but He is so much more!
The celebration of birth is sweet to consider but it is only the beginning! The infant Jesus, Emmanuel–God with us–was nurtured and instructed. Scripture tells us He grew in grace and knowledge; He learned obedience by suffering, and ultimately gave His life for us. The fullness of the story takes us to the Cross and the Resurrection. One day Jesus will reign as King of Kings–that is our joy! In the meantime, we must nurture our souls and learn as He did. We are to grow in obedience and surrender to His Lordship in our lives.
Joy to the World is a great song to guide us to the journey of faith we really seek. Isaac Watts wrote this looking toward the ruling and reigning of Christ. The hymn is actually based on Psalm 98, and I love the guidelines it offers for planning our celebrations of joy!
First, we must remember to receive the King! Christmas celebrations need to help us open our hearts for the life of Christ. We need to choose activities that encourage us to welcome the presence of divinity. That will mean declining some invites and relaxing our demands for perfection–from decorations, from people and activities. The stuff is extra; His presence, the necessity. Our gatherings do not create unity in our family…God alone creates that. We must welcome Him and let Him do His work!
Then, the song reminds us ‘Our Savior Reigns!’ Despite the morning news, this world is unfolding under His watchful eye. The things that happen in our lives are filtered by our loving Father. Just as we received Jesus into our lives, we are to receive the stuff of life with faith in our Deliverer!
Just as Jesus grew in grace and knowledge, we must too. ‘No more let sins and sorrows grow’ rings out in the third verse. We live in a broken world, a world affected by the curse of disobedience. Learning to walk out the joy of Jesus brings a balm to our world. Introduce others to the King by letting them see Him in you this Christmas!
And finally…enjoy the journey. The wonders of His love are so amazing we need eternity to enjoy them. Relax with your Christmas plans…the journey continues!