JOY TO THE WORLD
Luke 2:10: “And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people.”
Have you ever noticed that the most popular Christmas carol is not specifically about the birth of Jesus? When Isaac Watts wrote the words to Joy to the World, he based the hymn on Psalm 98. The Psalmist is encouraging singing and shouting for joy because of the coming of the Lord (Psalm 98:1, 6). However, it is the coming of the Messiah as King to judge the earth that the Psalmist has in view. “Let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.” (Psalm 98:9)
In Joy to the World, Watts did not include any reference to the things that we normally think about concerning the birth of Jesus: the manger, shepherds, angels, or Mary. Instead, he describes the joy when the “earth receives her King” and when “the Savior reigns.” Creation joins in this chorus of joy as the “fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat the sounding joy.” This coming is when “He rules the world with truth and grace.”
Why is a hymn that describes the joy associated with the second coming of Jesus such a popular chorus celebrating His first coming? It is because Jesus brings joy. Luke begins and ends his gospel announcing the joy that comes with Jesus: at His birth (Luke 2:10) and after His resurrection (Luke 24:41). In John 15:11, Jesus told His disciples, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Not only did joy characterize the life and mission of Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), but His joy permeated the hearts of His disciples even in difficult circumstances. Paul and Silas could sing for joy while in prison (Acts 16:25). James encouraged the followers of Jesus to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (James 1:2)
Regardless of what circumstances you find yourself facing during this season, I can think of no more appropriate song to sing that one that affirms that Jesus brings Joy!