In the classic 18th, century song, famous hymnist Isaac Watts drew ideas from Psalm 98 and others and penned what we now know as “Joy to the World”. And the world certainly needs it more than ever, don’t we?
It begins, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come.” And I must admit, it’s so much better than He has come, or did come. He IS right now already and continually having arrived. He came and He is still having arrived and His status hasn’t changed. He really is Immanuel: The God who is “with”. Our joy is not just because He was here one night in Bethlehem. Our joy is that He has forever arrived.
In the retelling of Christ’s birth, Luke shares with us that the shepherds on a nearby hillside were filled with awe at the piercing of the veil between heaven and earth as the angelic host declared the coming of Christ and our joy and peace to be one and the same:
“ …an angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds], and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 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. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:9-11)
Did you catch it? “Our news is of great joy” because Jesus is born “unto you this day…”
Okay. Uh, wow. Not just born, but born TO you. He’s the gift of all eternity. And the gift of Christ to you is great joy for you. Just sit with this for a second:
- God came on our terms….
- He came to give His life to us in a way we could grasp…
- and did so that the world might have great joy.
Saint – Joy to the world really does mean you, too. In a world of loss and grief and regret and despair, you have received in Christ the joy and peace and favor of a divine Father.
Our joy is certainly not from the world, but the world’s joy is God’s gift of Himself. It’s not grandiose and domineering, but meek and humble. Why? Well, we know joy isn’t about better circumstances because His joy was delivered in the most humble of circumstances! We also now His joy is not just for a few chosen folks, or a single tribe of people with the right history and genealogy. It’s for everyone.
A joy transcending circumstances that is available to everyone, and everyone includes you.
Whatever you are walking through this holiday season, if you have received Christ and believed upon Him for salvation, you’re not walking that path alone. And you are walking that path in possession of divinely empowered, awe-inspiring, supernatural, world defying, globally accessible joy.
And then there’s the peace thing.
The angel speaking was joined by a multitude of the host of heaven (maybe not everyone in heaven, but more than they could possibly count!), and the entire angelic chorus in unison worshipped. This wasn’t the message. It wasn’t directed at them but was declared in praise. This was a divine worship service filling the sky: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)
That word favor is a little odd. It’s the root of favorable (what someone likes or prefers), and favorite (preferred above all else). In the Greek, it’s the same word we use for grace – “the unmerited-by-us pleasure of God.” Seems like a big deal, God likes you, is pleased with you even when not pleased by you. You aren’t the cause, but it’s no less joyous for Him to be giving joy to you. The favored one’s with whom He is pleased are simply those who will receive Christ and His divine gift of joy, and here it is: peace.
The world knows little of peace and yet peace has come. The world knows little of joy and yet joy has been given. The joy and peace on whom His favor rests came in a person born to us: Immanuel, God with us, liking us, for us, desiring us, for relationship with us, reconciling us to be with us.
And it’s worth repeating: The “us” here includes you.
My friend, this Christmas, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the truth of the gift of Christ born unto you, to be joy and peace for you, as you live not just for better circumstances from Him, but a better life in all circumstances with Him who IS come to be with you. Immanuel.
If you could earn it or cause it, it wouldn’t have been a gift. If you could manipulate circumstances to be the source of His joy and peace, He wouldn’t have arrived in joy-defying manger scene only depicted as delightful hundreds of years later.
He is the joy. Your joy. He’s the peace. Your peace. Not the source of causing joyful everything else, but the joy despite anything else.
So the joy you have in Him is Him. The peace you get to enjoy with Him is despite the brokenness and chaos around you but which no longer defines you.
He indeed IS come! To you and for you to be with you for all the joy and peace and favor for you who have found divine favor and pleasure of God by grace.
Yes, it’s very good that God showed up in the person of Christ. It’s even better that He remains in us upon whom His favor rests. So you today can rest in Him, too.
Merry Christmas, Grace Tribe – you in whom all His pleasure and favor and joy and peace have found a home. Rest well, favored ones in the wonder of His love.