I have many favorite Christmas carols. One of them is “Joy to the World.” It has such an upbeat tune, and it fills my heart with joy. For many years I thought this song was about Jesus’ birth and the joy it brought to the world. I was surprised to discover that it is actually about the second coming of Christ, which gives me a more profound appreciation for this song.
When Isaac Watts wrote this hymn in 1719, he was inspired by Psalm 98:4:
“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!”
Watts imagined the joyous occasion on the day of Jesus’ return and penned these words to this now popular Christmas carol:
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King.”
When Jesus came the first time, he came as a baby—Emmanuel, God with us—who would be our Prince of Peace and Savior. He wasn’t received with a warm welcome, but when he returns, “every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10-11), “and he will have on his robe and on his thigh a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16).
Heaven and nature are weary and groaning (Rom. 8:22-23), but the words of “Joy to the World” show us that at Christ’s second coming, heaven and nature will sing, fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains will repeat the sounding joy. The Savior will reign with truth and grace. He won’t let sins and sorrows grow, nor allow thorns to infest the ground, and He will make His blessings flow. If this isn’t reason enough to shout for joy, I don’t know what is!
We have read the last chapter of the Bible and know the happy ending—Jesus is coming back and the victory is ours. Despite knowing this truth, I must admit that it’s getting harder and harder to feel joy. Life is fast-paced. There is too much bad news, too many uncertainties, too many challenges, and joy is often quenched with weariness. We fill up our joy tank on Sunday at church, but by Monday the cares of this world squeeze out what was supplied a day before.
Many times, we take the posture of an exhausted, defeated person, and overwhelmed we utter, “Come, Lord Jesus!” This is usually not a cheerful invitation for Jesus to come, but is more like waving the white flag, yearning for escape from our daily drudgery. We know when Jesus comes, “He will wipe every tear. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,” (Rev. 21:4). But we forget that when Jesus returns, he will come as our Bridegroom, and he is expecting to see us, his beautiful bride, his church, full of anticipation, radiant, and ready to receive him with great joy.
How are we to be joyful, radiant, and prepared for Christ’s second coming if many times we struggle to get ourselves ready for the day? “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” (Matt. 19:26). “We can be confident of this, that he who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 1:6). We have to realize that God is our source and our resource, and as joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, he will help us produce this fruit.
Jesus said, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit,” (John 15:4-5).
Jesus also commanded us “to abide in his love,” and he promised that “his joy will be in us, and our joy may be full” (John 15:10-11).
So, this Christmas season, no matter what challenges we’re facing, let us resolve to remain in Christ and abide in his love so that we can bear the fruit of joy. Let us sing wholeheartedly,
Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ!”
Yes, employ your songs with joy! The Lord is coming! Spread his joy and light the way so those who are seeking may find him and sing “Joy to the World” as well.