Recently, I was singing “Joy to the World” as I drove to church. This is a song I know quite well, and it’s so familiar to me by this point in my life that I have never give the lyrics or the words any thought or contemplation.
I don’t know what was different this time, compared to the hundreds of times I had sung this song before, but the first stanza stuck out to me, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room.” For many of us, these are seemingly commonplace words from an all too familiar song. They don’t stir much within us become we have heard them many times before, but I believe there is a truth in this song which gets to the very core of the gospel.
But first, let me tell you a story. When I was in elementary school, my mom encouraged me to memorize the Christmas story found in Luke 2. She wanted me to be able to recite this passage for a Christmas program she was putting together. So, like Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas, I set out to learn this passage. I read and reread until I could recite the story by heart. When the time came for me to recite my portion of the Luke 2 narrative, I was ready.
Looking back, there is one part of the story that has always caught my eye.
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,’Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!'” (Luke 2:8-14)
Christmas is a season of Joy. It’s one of the many themes and ideas that we think of this time of year. Though, joy is often confused for happiness, which I think is a mistake because they are actually quite different. Happiness is an external symptom; something we feel because something else happened. It is a cause and effect. Joy, on the other hand, is an internal reality we live from. Joy is the truth that though times may be dark, hope is possible. Joy is an anchor in the rough waters of life. Joy keeps you stable, reminding you that God is faithful. Joy is a necessity, especially in times such as these.
So, what is this good news of great joy that the angels bring?
Jesus is here.
The savior, that so many people have spent their lives waiting for is here among us. Salvation is alive and well. The Lord has come and now Earth can receive her king.
Christmas is already a season that often times feels overstuffed, frantic, busy, stressful, and all-around crazy. But today, these feelings are exasperated and magnified by the difficulty of 2020. This has been a hard year, leaving many feeling emotional whiplash. And the world is desperate for joy.
So today, I want to take a moment and remind you, amidst the craziness of this season, amidst the difficulty of this year, amidst the pain of loss, that Joy is here. Hope is available to us, and we can find it in the Manger. I want to encourage you that the good news, the great joy that the angels bring to the shepherds, is the announcement of an Emmanuel God; a God who is here with us, now and forever.
We were never promised an easy or pain-free life. As John Green once wrote, “Life is not a wish granting factory.” But we were promised a savior, and that’s really good news.
So this Christmas, as we close out, what can only be described as a painfully historic year, may we find joy in the Emmanuel God.
May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)