“Joy To The World”
Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart, prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing
“Joy to the world!” is the great pronouncement of Isaac Watts’ famous carol and the first declaration of my new holiday album, “Christmas.”
Joy is not synonymous with happiness. You can be happy without joy. You can have joy without happiness. You can have pain without injury and anger without sin. These proverbs swirl around as we try to make sense of our lives. Prayer is what is happening in the dynamic passage in chapter 4 of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
In verses 4-7, Paul says to his friends, “You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as His children because God sent the Spirit of His Son into our lives crying out, ‘Papa! Father!’ Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child?”
We belong to God as a child belongs to a loving Father. But there is a dialog back and forth as we struggle to believe this reality. The rhythm of doubt and faith is always in motion like a moving river, carrying us along.
If life is like a river, then joy is the evidence that we are connected to an underground spring. Happiness is like the weather outside, the seasons, and the circumstances that shift. Joy is underneath the surface. You can’t always see it, but you know it’s there. Joy can be tears or belly laughs, it can be excited inhales or sighs of relief.
Joy to the world is a big promise. It’s an important promise. Joy to the world is a commitment that in spite of all the evidence of brokenness, Jesus came to make His blessings flow as far as the curse is found.
In order to receive this promise, we have to receive the lordship of the King. But the kingdom that Jesus came to usher in is not the one that we expected. His kingdom is upside down. It is reverse order. The first shall be the last. It is humility and strength. Life by way of death. It is the slow work of God.
Truth be told, this well-known carol isn’t technically a Christmas song. Isaac Watts wrote it about the second coming of Jesus. I sometimes sing it in the summertime or just anytime, which is why I’m not ashamed to put it at the front of my album.
We are a people who live in need of this promise daily. The promise of Jesus’ return. This second promise calls us back to the first. A baby child was promised, anticipated and celebrated in the story of the incarnation… and that same Savior died on a cross, rose from the dead, defeated the sins of the world, and is promised to come again! We live in the in-between, the already but not yet. As we wait, we must learn to sit in the tension of longing and unfulfilled expectations. But have joy, because God will fulfill His promise. He has come and will come again, and you’re invited to receive Him.
Jesus, I do now receive you, more than all in you I find.
You have granted me forgiveness.
I am yours and you are mine.
Hallelujah, what a savior, hallelujah what a friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving, you are with me to the end. Amen.
(Adapted from Jesus What A Friend For Sinners)