Joy to the world!
The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart, prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing!
Here, in this third week of Advent, we celebrate a third virtue that Jesus brings to us; Joy.
You likely know the song pretty well.
It’s been covered at Christmas in a variety of arrangements by everyone from Frederic Handel to Mariah Carey…even Clark Griswold has his rendition.
But it might surprise you as it did me to learn that most of us have been singing the second line in the song wrong.
Joy to the world! The Lord (fill in how you normally sing it here) come.
Yeah, that’s the way I’ve been singing it, too.
But the word English Christian minister and songwriter Isaac Watts used is not “the Lord HAS come,” but the Lord IS come.
I know…that sounds really awkward, right? The Lord IS come?
You see, when Watts originally wrote these words in the early 1700s, he used what sounds to us like an archaic form of English that was very common in his time.
And more than just semantical, in this case, “is” vs. “has” is one of those differences that we might call subtle yet significant.
Watts is said to have based “Joy to the World” on Psalm 98 as part of a larger piece he was writing at the time.
Listen while you read and see if you hear the similarity in verses 4-6:
4 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
5 make music to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the Lord, the King.
Like King David, Watts wrote “Joy to the World” to encourage all of humanity to make a joyful noise about Jesus.
And not to burst any bubbles, but he didn’t write it as a Christmas song about the coming Christ but rather, the Christ who has already come. The Christ who knocks and asks to be invited into our hearts today.
As one writer puts it, “the lyrics indicate that Christ is come and is already here among us. Jesus didn’t just come – He is here and present with us now.
The Bible teaches, in the book the Apostle John wrote from his eyewitness account, that Jesus told his disciples, “26When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15: 26-17)
We all have things from our past that could threaten to steal our joy if we continue to focus upon them.
But what if today, right now, we began to make that ever-so-slight shift in our attitude to begin to see things through the lens of hope and truth that “the Lord IS come.”
That He is here with us right now, in whatever circumstance or situation we find ourselves facing.
And by the limitless power of the Holy Spirit, we can begin to experience real joy – in all circumstances.
To be clear, we recognize that this is not some flip-switch proposition; that it will take some intentional effort, practice and renewing of our minds in order to accomplish and maintain such an attitude.
But if we can begin to practice some of the disciplines that were shared in the North Coast Daily Dose podcasts aired throughout this week, little by little, we can begin to find ourselves rejoicing; even in the not-so-great times; truly receiving our King and knowing that He is with and working through us in every circumstance.
This is what it means to make disciples.
It’s like that great philosopher, “someone,” once said; If you’re persistent, you’ll get it. If you’re consistent, you’ll keep it.
It’s that daily practice of recognizing and acknowledging realistically, the things placed before us but then also taking our thoughts captive and allowing the potter to mold and shape us to see things from a broader perspective. What we might learn and who else might benefit from the knowledge we’ve gained and how our faith has been strengthened through our experience.
The author I mentioned earlier goes on to say, “Joy is rooted in who God is. It is not fleeting or based on circumstances. Worldly possessions, accomplishments – even the people in our lives are blessings that make us happy and fuel joyfulness.
However, the Bible teaches that the source of all joy is Jesus; God’s plan from the beginning. The word made flesh to dwell among us is never failing; allowing us to navigate difficult situations in the absence of happiness while sustaining our joy.”
Isn’t that great?
But, aren’t joy and happiness pretty much the same thing?
I’d argue that happiness may be a part of joy but that joy is much bigger; a deeper sense of comfort or contentment, regardless of our circumstances.
The biblical definition of joy says that joy is a feeling of good pleasure and happiness that is dependent upon who Jesus is rather than who we are or what is happening around us.
Joy comes from the Holy Spirit abiding in God’s presence and from hope in His Word.
And, since it depends upon who Jesus is and God’s presence in us through the Holy Spirit, biblical joy is accessible to us even in the worst of times, and it can never be taken away from us.
Biblical joy is knowing Jesus and rejoicing in him.
But how can we rejoice in the Lord, if we don’t know who he is?
Jesus is the son of God, who has saved us from our sins for a life of freedom with him.
Jesus wants a relationship with us and has given us His Holy Spirit so that we can hear His voice and get to know Him better through God’s word.
When we draw close to Him, we can feel His peace beyond understanding; contentment in any situation and even experience healing through His presence.
It is how we can find joy; in knowing Jesus, who has saved us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of light.
And the best part is we don’t have to wait until heaven to know how good Jesus is; we are called into relationship with Him throughout our daily lives, where we get to worship Him, talk to Him, listen to Him and love Him as He loves us.
Knowing Jesus requires spending time with Him in the word of God. Time spent with Him in His Word can produce a relationship full of abundant peace and joy. There’s really no way to know who Jesus is without reading the Bible.
Joy is also found when we put our faith in God’s word. God’s Word is revelation to us; it’s where we can go to really get to know him and soak in his presence.
No matter what is going on in our life, when we know the blessings that are in God’s Word and that come from remaining in it, we will experience abundant joy. His promises always ring true and never change. Jesus is faithful; He is the same yesterday, today and forever. God’s word makes the path of life visible to us and it is alive and active, bubbling over with truth, hope, and joy.
Even in the hardest times of my life, I am able to experience and feel authentic joy, because I know Jesus is with me and I know who He was.
Experiencing a deep, comforting type of joy like this is such a gift from God; made only more abundant through His Word and spending time in prayer and meditation with Him.
Of course, there’s no way of having joy in God’s word and in his promises if we aren’t aware of them.
God says in his word that He will never leave us or forsake us; He loves us dearly as His treasured creation. He will strengthen us, He will comfort us, and bring us peace. He is near to the brokenhearted and wants to bless us and keep us close to him.
From cover to cover, the Bible is full of God’s promises, and it only takes a little time each day to be ultimately overwhelmed by God’s love for us and transformed by the words He speaks over us.
We are saved from sin and death, for life with Jesus on this earth; to one day enter into the kingdom of heaven in order to worship God; to fellowship with and be loved by Him for eternity.
Our momentary trials and challenges, difficult as they may be, need not rob us of our joy.
In John 16, verses 21 and 22, Jesus says, “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born, she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
At the hideous cruelty of the cross, why did Jesus not give in and call His angels down to save Him? Because he knew His calling and purpose; He was looking forward to the joy of one day being in the Father’s presence with all of us.
Our joy must outweigh and sustain us through every other thing we face in this life.
Without biblical joy, we’d be left to rely solely on the circumstances of life to make us happy and bring us contentment. That might work out alright during things like vacations with family or friends or when things are going our way, but what happens when life gets hard?
We need a joy we can hold onto no matter what is going on in our lives; a joy that is always accessible to us; that’s not found anywhere else other than a relationship with Jesus. With Jesus, we know that we will be in heaven with Him for eternity. And even while we’re still here on earth, He provides us with The Holy Spirit to help bring us joy when we need it even in the darkest, hardest and most chaotic times of our lives.
It’s up to us as to whether or not we choose to accept His gift.
Jesus is here and he is offering us true joy because, as Christians, we know this world is not our home. Every trial we face, with the love, guidance and correction of our Lord and Savior, is minuscule compared to the glory that is coming.
Scripture encourages us to rejoice in the blessings of our life and give glory to God in all things. (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)
May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13). True joy can be obtained in the heartfelt gratitude of God’s love, mercy, and grace!
There are so many more wonderful pieces of Scripture that speak of the true joy we can experience when we have and continue to build a relationship with Jesus. I’ll include some of my favorites in a separate attachment and for now simply close with this truth from the Apostle Peter;
“Though you’ve not seen him you love him and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with them inexpressible and glorious joy; for you are receiving the end result of your faith the salvation of your soul.” (1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV)
Singles Community, may I challenge and encourage you to share the Joy of the Lord IS come to all with whom God places in your path this Christmas season?
Sing it loud and sing it proud; receive your King and stand ready with an example of how His coming is making a difference in your life.
JOY to the world! The Lord IS Come.
Joyful with you,