No self-respecting Christmas carol list would be complete without this popular song. And though we sing it in celebration of the Christmas season, it may surprise you to learn that the true inspiration behind the hymn was not actually the Savior’s birth, but rather His return.
I asked the Lord to reveal the message He wanted me to share with you this Christmas season. I pray from the bottom of my heart that this message of joy and hope inspires and touches your hearts as it did mine. May He be glorified in all the Earth.
In the classic Christmas message, we hear of the baby Jesus born in a manager. It’s a stunningly beautiful message. At Christmas Eve church service, without fail, the Lord positions me within sight of a fragile, peacefully sleeping, newborn baby held tenderly in its mother’s arms. It touches the deepest parts of my heart and always leaves me weeping with awe and praise. I adore that part of the Christmas story. This year though, I felt the Lord leading me to write about joy – true joy – not happiness, but joy based on the second half of the Christmas story, and the true meaning behind the famous Christmas hymn Joy to the World.
When Jesus came from heaven to earth in the form of a tiny, delicate baby, He fulfilled the promise of a savior. An atoning sacrifice to stand in our place; He who would forever change eternity. Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there - Jesus is coming again!
Psalm 98:4 declares, “Shout to the Lord, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy…Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the earth and all living things join in. Let the rivers clap their hands in glee! Let the hills sing out their songs of joy before the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth (v.7-9).” Psalm 98 is the basis for the song Joy to the World. The songwriter Isaac Watts wanted to convey the true Christmas experience. Most people think of the song in terms of the birth of Christ. Notice though that as we sing the lyrics, never once do we sing about a baby, a manager, wise men, or a silent night. That’s because the true meaning of this famous song is about the second coming of Christ. And, nothing about the second half of the Christmas story will be silent! There will be shouts of joy, trumpets ringing, rivers clapping, and mountains singing! Everyone – everyone – will see and know that Christ is the final King.
While it may not be the traditional Christmas message, I believe the Lord gave me the message of Christ’s return to encourage you, and to offer you hope and joy this season. The reality is you may not feel hope or joy this Christmas. In a turbulent time that can easily steal, kill and destroy any remnant of hope or joy we may have, the cares of the world may simply feel crushing. As you sing this hymn, truth be known, it may just be rote words recited from an easily memorized song. If joy is lacking this Christmas season take heart, be encouraged, praise Him because He has promised to save you AND to return again!
The story began at the arrival of the most precious baby boy, and climaxed at His death to save us. Despite that, if life on this earth right now feels like too much to bear, may the end of the story uplift you and give reason for good cheer! Oh friends, the Savior is coming again. As you sing Joy to the World this Christmas, may you not only rejoice over the birth of the Mighty Savior, but be moved with hope as you focus on the reason Jesus came down from heaven in the first place. He came to save the world and to restore God’s children to himself once and for all. Prepare him room in your hearts because He is coming again! And when He does, the whole earth will sing. What a day that will be and we will indeed cry out joy to the world, the Lord HAS come!!! May you be blessed with hope, joy and peace in your hearts this Christmas.
I bless you and pray this prayer over you today. May it be our hearts cry all year long:
Jesus, you are amazing. You came into the world to save it. You are indeed the beginning and the end. Thank you for beginning the greatest story of all time by coming as a baby. And, thank you for the hope that you are coming again to end all sadness, fear, pain and suffering for good. We sing hallelujah. We declare the glories of your righteousness, and the wonders of your love. We repeat the sounds of joy at the promise of your return. The savior reign! Will you reign in our hearts and lives Lord? As we wait on you Lord, restore us in your presence. Give us courage and strength as we cling to your promises. Inspire us to make time in your Word a priority and a deep desire of our hearts. Until we enjoy you again in the flesh, remind us that in the beginning you, the Word already existed. Jesus, you are The Word, so as we spend time in scripture we actually spend time WITH you. We thank you for true joy this year. May we keep our minds on the reason you came, thank you that by your mercy we are saved. You are indeed a mighty savior! In the grand, powerful, kind, name of Jesus we pray. Amen.