JOY TO THE WORLD
Pastor Dennis Miller
I think that some churches squeeze the fun right out of people.
“My dad was a minister. And when we were growing up we could never have fun. We couldn’t let people see us joking and laughing and singing at the top of our lungs and having a good time. And I have harbored resentment toward the church ever since.” -Former churchgoer
Attitudes like that are probably what prompted Billy Joel to write, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners, than cry with the saints, cause sinners are much more fun.”
I want to know, who started that ugly rumor? To become a follow of Jesus, does it really mean you have to drain the delight right out of your life?
“There is a time to weep, but there is a time also to laugh. There is a time to mourn, but there also is a time to dance.” -Ecclesiastes 3:4
In fact, if you look through the pages of the Bible, you will find all kinds of examples of celebrations, and parties, and festivals, and feasts, and outrageous joy! In Galatians 5:22, it says that when you become a follower of Jesus Christ, over time the Holy Spirit will begin to develop some Christ-like qualities in your life. The first one on the list is love. The second one is joy!
Now you would think that if joy was important, it would be mentioned a lot in the Bible, and it is! The word “joy” is mentioned 108 times alone in the Old Testament and 156 times in the New Testament.
Watch the full message:
Now, turn with me in your Bibles to the Christmas story found in Luke 2. Look what happened when a handful of shepherds were completely ambushed by joy.
“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.” -Luke 2:8-11
That word “joy” in Greek is simply the word for “surprise.” C.S. Lewis wrote a book that had a play on words for the title. It was called Surprised by Joy! Now in the Greek it is simply saying “surprised by surprise.”
Can you imagine the surprise that those shepherds must have felt when an angel of God appeared to them? Now angels had come to priests. And angels had come to prophets, but not to shepherds. I can imagine that they rubbed their eyes in unbelief. When will sing this carol “Joy to the World” we are saying, “SURPRISE WORLD! THE KING IS HERE!”
Joy To The World
When Isaac Watts was an 18-year-old teenager, he hated church. He thought it was boring. One day, his father said to him, “Listen, if you don’t like the music down at church, see if you can do any better.”
So, Isaac said, “I will, dad.” And he wrote a song, and they sang it the next week at church, and everyone loved it. And they said, “Would you do it again next week, and the next, and the next week?” And so, for 222 consecutive Sundays, Isaac Watts wrote a new hymn for his church and thereby revolutionized hymn singing in the English-speaking world.
It’s interesting that at the time Joy to the World was written in 1719, It never really received the blessing of the church. During that time, the established church in England would only sing the very words of the Psalms. But Watts took the words of the Psalms, filled them with New Testament theology, and put them to the contemporary music of that day. And it was controversial because the church said it gave license for people to express unfettered joy. And that was very dangerous! Can you imagine?
Let heaven and nature sing!
“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn— shout for joy before the LORD, the King. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, Let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.” -Psalm 98:4-9
All of creation is singing that the King is here!
Look at what Luke says next about the shepherds after they heard the angel’s announcement:
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So, they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. -Luke 2:15-18
It says they spread the word! Has Christmas joy made such a difference that you aren’t ashamed to share it? Don’t be afraid to say, “Merry Christmas!” instead of the “Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays” fluff! It is the Christ of Christmas that brings the true joy!
I know of a pastor who recently met with a group of Jewish rabbis. One of the rabbis said to him, “We find it odd that you Christians agonize over whether or not to say, “Merry Christmas!” We think that’s so funny!” He says, “It is who you are, it’s what you believe. Why are you afraid to affirm who you are!” Then this rabbi smiled and said, “Since you wouldn’t say it, let me say it to you, Merry Christmas!”
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Let us join with the shepherds, and with angels in heaven and even nature, and sing joy to the world.
Let every heart prepare him room!
Surprise world! The King is on the scene. We sing, the Lord is come. It’s not “will come or has come.” He is here! But you better make room for him!
Joy is a gift that you have receive this Christmas!
But it is not a gift you will find under your Christmas tree this year. You can find it, however, on another tree; the cross of Jesus Christ. If you will accept Him as your Savior. You can have that gift of joy in your life.