Following Jesus

Joy to the World, the Lord is Come!

December 24, 2020 by

Christmas Day is here, and this year especially it clashes against a backdrop of fear, illness, death, and all kinds of trouble around the world. We need a Savior more than ever before; we need Christmas.

The coming of Jesus is the birth of hope, healing, and truth in this world. It is truly Joy to all people. When we say “Merry Christmas,” we are proclaiming that Joy.

One of the most iconic Christmas carols says it well: "Joy to the World, the Lord is come!" … "Let Heaven and Nature Sing!" This joy is what we celebrate at Christmas. It is not the warm fireplaces, the lights, the gifts, or even the gatherings of family and friends that are the most important. That is good and beautiful, and we nostalgically will miss some of that this year, but what is the heart of Christmas is the Joy of the message of the Angels as recorded in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

The Gospel message is one of Joy, great joy for all people! But what really is joy? Is it the Christmas version of happiness?

Joy is deeper and stronger than happiness. It is a connection with God and His Spirit.Happiness is great. It is the antonym of sadness or depression. We all like to be happy. But true joy is more than feeling happy and light-hearted, or the enjoyment of pleasant people and places. Joy is deeper and stronger than happiness. It is a connection with God and His Spirit. It is happiness on steroids because it is everlasting. It is the glory and the power of God’s love and salvation. Joy is eternal. Joy is the recognition of the grace of God’s love to us. We can’t always feel happy, but we can always choose Joy, no matter what our surroundings and circumstances are. This is so important today, in the midst of pandemic, sickness, death, violence, political strife, poverty and loneliness. Choose Joy. Claim the glory. Trust in God’s salvation.

The Bible is full of promises of Joy and salvation. The prophet Isaiah spoke poetically of joy and salvation in the twelfth chapter of his book:

Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Nehemiah famously said, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). And David the psalmist sang, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy” (Psalm 126:5).

Jesus talked about joy when he told his followers to keep his commandments and remain in his love. In the Gospel of John, chapter 15, verse 11, he said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Yes, our joy is complete when we invite Jesus into our hearts and lives, and keep his word; when we obey his commandments about love, generosity, forgiveness, kindness, and thankfulness to God.

StarEmbed"Star" by Gill Barth

And back to the story of the birth of Christ, the Gospel of Matthew tells about the Magi, or the “Kings” as we often call them, who came to Jerusalem from the East asking “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” It tells how the star, the Christmas star, went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” And they went in and worshiped the child and gave their gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh.

Talking about the star that led the Magi to Jesus: the whole world just witnessed a spectacular conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in the evening skies a few days ago on the twenty-first of December, the longest night of the year! That is our Christmas star. We should look for it, see it, and rejoice! It should remind us that our search for the Christ Child has been blessed. We have found him. We should rejoice and praise God and worship our Lord and King. Our gifts should be full hearts of joy, our lives lived in the love of Jesus.

As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

And so the Christmas message, the Gospel message, is one of Joy. Joy, no matter how dark and painful a place we might be trapped in. Joy is a real gift from God. It is more than a fleeting feeling. It is healing and hope wrapped up in the present; a Christmas gift bar none, complete with a ribbon of truth and bow of grace. And wonders of His love. We should repeat the sounding Joy.

Merry Christmas!

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About the author

Heinrich Arnold 1

J. Heinrich Arnold

J. Heinrich Arnold serves as a senior pastor for the Bruderhof in the United States and abroad.

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