By Joe Chesser
I think I am safe to say that the song “Joy to the World” is a favorite among all of us any time of the year. It certainly is one of my favorites. “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! … Repeat the sounding joy!” First published in 1719, Isaac Watts’ lyrics teamed with music attributed to Handel have produced the most published Christmas hymn in North America. It might be difficult to find any Christmas album that did not include this song. And rightly so.
After millenniums of promise and hope and expectation for a coming Messiah through whom the entire world would be blessed (Genesis 12.3), the time had finally come! While John the Baptist was still in his mother’s womb, he leapt for joy in anticipation of the coming of Jesus (Luke 1.44)! When the angel of the Lord announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, the angel said, “Do not be afraid. I will bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2.10). 2000 plus years later we are still being filled with joy when we think of the birth of Jesus.
Why? The answer is obvious, isn’t it? The depth of joy Jesus brought to the world was unlike anything known before. Before Jesus, the forgiveness of sins was merely a shadow, a promise to be fulfilled in the future, a distant hope. The Old Testament Law itself was but a “shadow of good things to come instead of the true form of these realities” (Hebrews 10.1). At its best, hope was always for better things yet to come.
But in Jesus, that kind of hope was suddenly transformed into an ever-present reality. No more wishful thinking. Although not as expected, the Savior has come (Matthew 1.21). The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world is finally here (John 1.29) to seek and save the lost (Luke 19.10). The blood he shed on the cross not only forgives our sins initially (Ephesians 1.7, Revelation 1.5, Romans 6.3-4), it also continually forgives our sins as we walk in the light (1 John 1.7). In Jesus, light and life have come (John 1.4). Only Jesus can show us the way to the Father (John 14.6).
And that, my friends, is the source of inexpressible joy. In the words of Bernard of Clairvaux, “Jesus, the very thought of thee, with sweetness fills the breast, o hope of every contrite heart, o joy of all the meek … Jesus, our only joy be thou, as thou our prize wilt be; Jesus, be thou our glory now, and through eternity.”
Because Jesus has come we triumphantly sing, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart … I’ve got the peace that passes understanding down in my heart, down in my heart to stay … and if the devil doesn’t like it he can sit on a tack!”
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org