If there is a single word to describe Christmas, it would be the word “Joy.” Stop for a moment and name all our Christmas carols that have the word joy in their title or verses.
But how many of you are really joyful this morning?
Joy can be a real challenge for the church, especially at Christmas if you try to connect it to happiness or our busyness in the hustle bustle of the holidays.
Where does Christian joy come from?
Luke 2:8-10 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.”
William Willimon, Dean of the chapel at Duke University , said, “Christmas is a delightful disruption of the way things normally go.” Those two words, “delightful disruption” seem to catch the spirit of Luke chapter 2 so well. One minute the shepherds were out on the hillside tending their sheep in the middle of the night and the next they were scared out of their wits by an angelic choir. Maybe not delightful, but definitely a disruption!
What is the good news of great joy the angels bring? It is of course, the Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”
A young boy once complained to his father that the hymns the church sang were boring. His father challenged him to write better hymns if he could. He went to his room and penned the words to “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross.” The year was 1690 and that boy was Isaac Watts who eventually penned “Joy to the World.”
Though we still sing many of the hymns he wrote, Watts was considered to be a “radical” in his own day. In fact some church leaders insisted that no one should ever sing a song by Isaac Watts!
One of his earliest and most controversial songs has since grown to be one of our most beloved Christmas carols – Joy to the World, written on 1719. We might wonder what made this song so controversial? During his time, church leaders taught that all songs must be written very close to the original wording of scripture. But Watts chose to write Joy to the world as a paraphrase of Psalm 98, verses 4-9.
What would make this young man buck tradition? As a teen he recognized that most people didn’t seem to understand or show their faith while singing the psalms. Out of his own feelings from boyhood, Watts wrote to enhance his understanding of the Word and add more life to his expressions of worship. While he stayed true to scripture, he wrote words people would remember and celebrate.
What does this old favorite hymn teach us about joy?
- The first stanza of this hymn teaches there is joy when the King is received.
- There is joy when the Savior Reigns
- There is joy when the sinner repents
- There is joy when the truth rules with grace
How can we teach the grace and truth of Christmas?
One dad found a way. He set up a large nativity scene in his yard for Christmas. When all the figures were in place, his son brought out an inflatable Tyrannosaurus Rex outside to include in the scene. The father tried to explain why the dinosaur was out of place, but the child looked so forlorn, the father decided to allow it behind the manger scene.
Actually that menacing beast may not have been so out of place as we might think. Revelations 12: 1-5 describes Christmas from a heavenly perspective. “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.”
The truth is that a dinosaur or dragon hovering over the manger scene is more appropriate than we might imagine. For each of us there is a menacing character that threatens to rob us of all our joy. But at Christmas we can remember that the tiny baby in the manger is stronger than all the dinosaurs or dragons in your life or mine. God has given us victory through the gift of his son!
True joy of Christmas will be yours if you will RECEIVE Christ, REPENT of your sins, and let Jesus REIGN in your life with TRUTH and GRACE. We need to look beyond the tinsel and lights and see the real cause of JOY.
Joy to the World, the Lord is come!