Joy to the World

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The holiday season evokes a number of emotions. For some, the holidays are marked by anxiety over finding the perfect gifts or spending time with people they might not like. For others, it is a time of sadness as they remember loved ones they’ve lost. There is another emotion, though, that might emerge when one sings some of the traditional Christmas carols:

Joy to the world! The Lord has come…”
“O Come All Ye Faithful, joyful and triumphant…”
“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel / Shall come to thee, O Israel.”
Joyful, all ye nations rise…”
“A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

JOY. And no wonder, for the birth of the Savior was an occasion marked by much joy:  “And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people’” (Luke 2:10). Later, the wise men “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Mt. 2:10) when they saw the star leading them to where they could find the newborn King.

As many Christian pastors and teachers have noted, joy is not dependent on outward circumstances. No, for the Christian, joy is rooted in a realization of who God is, what he has done, what he is doing and what he has promised. He is a joyful God and in his presence is “fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). John Piper defines Christian joy as “a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world.”

The good tidings shared with the shepherds that night more than 2,000 years ago pointed to a Lord and Savior who had come to save and redeem people from the ends of the earth. This coming was cause for much rejoicing—then and now. God had not forgotten his people; he was coming to the rescue.

The world is still “weary,” as the carol says, but that same Jesus, born on Christmas day, is still cause for everlasting hope and joy, for us and for the nations. Thus, it should be noted, joy and mission are intimately connected. A joyful heart overflows to others in Christ-like love and proclamation of the “good news of great joy.” “Restore to me the joy of my salvation,” David prayed. “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.  (Psalm 51:12-13). As the redeemed of the Lord celebrate another Christmas season this year, let us regain the awe and wonder of that first Christmas when Emmanuel showed up in a miraculous way. Let us rejoice!

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