Joy to the World

“Joy to the world! The Lord is come!” We have sung those familiar words all of our lives, but do we take the Christmas season to consider the joy that we can experience in Christ? Despite the fact the Christmas is to be a time of great joy, a recent online poll showed that the majority of people feel stressed and depressed rather than joyful at Christmas. These findings are, unfortunately, nothing new. If your calendar is anything like mine this time of year, I understand the reason people feel stressed. I recognize that for some people the holiday season is a difficult time of year for a variety of reasons. But, if God sent His Son to the earth so that He might die for our sins, do we not have an eternal reason to be joyful?

Because joy can so easily be lost in the busyness of the season, I think we need to take a deep breath for a moment and regain some perspective. Go ahead. Take a deep breath and hold it for twenty seconds and ask yourself, “What is it specifically that should cause the Christian to express joy at Christmastime?”

There is one very simple truth that we must remember if we are going to keep our hearts filled with joy no matter the state of our schedules or circumstances this Christmas. God took on flesh, and that is the only reason we need to be joyful. The Gospel of John reminds us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).  The word translated “dwelt” comes from the Greek word “skenoo” meaning “to fix one’s tabernacle.” God took on flesh and “tabernacled” among humanity. God loved the world so much, He sent us His only Son, not to condemn the world, but that those who believe in Christ would receive eternal life (John 3:16-17).

In his first epistle, John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you” (1 John 1:1, 3). God took on the form of a man so that the Apostles could experience Him, and enjoy intimate fellowship with Him. Then the Apostles boldly told others about Jesus, and what they had seen Him do during His earthly ministry. The writers of Scripture recorded the actions and words of the Lord so that we might know Him as well.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ, the moment when God entered this world in human form. The sinless One who created mankind exposed Himself to the sin-stained world with all of its imperfections so that He might die a brutal death for those who rejected Him. The Judge of all things placed Himself under judgment. The One who deserves our worship died as our sacrificial Lamb to pay the penalty for our sin. That’s amazing grace.

The joy of the Christmas season is found in a manger. Joy is found when we remember that God sent His only Son to this sin-filled world so that we might live for all eternity in His presence. Without the baby in the manger, there would be no hope for sinners. Think about it this way, God invaded the world and set up his abode among sinful men, so that the very ones who were living in rebellion against Him and His commandments might enjoy Him for eternity. That’s grace. That’s amazing. That’s where joy is found.

As Christmas morning dawns in a few days, remember the manger. Remember the birth of our Savior, and see His tiny manger as a sign of hope and mercy. The miraculous events of Jesus’s birth point to the uniqueness of His arrival. His mother was a virgin. The angels announced His arrival and told the shepherds they would find Jesus lying in a manger. The angel declared, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). The Messiah had come, bringing with Him an eternal reason for joy. The shepherds would find baby Jesus lying in a manger, just as the angels had promised (Luke 2:16). The Creator of the universe took on the limitations of a helpless infant and began to dwell among the people He had created so that He might save all who believe from their sin. He was despised and rejected so that we might have eternal hope. That’s our gracious God. He’s the source of unending joy.

This Christmas perhaps we should be singing, “Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love!”

Jay Knolls