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Christmas: 25 days and counting - What About Joy?

This morning at church, the band launched into worship with a familiar song, Joy to the World. Great song to start the service, the message series and an unexpected assignment:

Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King Let every heart Prepare Him room And Heaven and angels sing And Heaven and angels sing And Heaven and Heaven and angels sing Joy to the world, the Savior reigns Let men their songs employ While fields and floods Rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy Repeat the sounding joy Repeat, Repeat, the sounding joy Joy to the world with truth and grace And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness And wonders of His love And wonders of His love And wonders and wonders of His love He rules the world with truth and grace, And to the nations proof The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love; And wonders of His love; And wonders, wonders of His love.

During the song, I sensed that for many in today's world, the words to holiday songs like this one are sung with passive familiarity. After Thanksgiving, it's heard at the mall, the grocery store, on the radio, in commercials on TV or at your child's school program. It's playing non-stop in the book store, the Walmart, the card shops, the open-all-year-Christmas store. It's what you hear driving past the town square. Sometimes you sing along, sometimes it's just background music. Lyrics blend in with the seasonal chaos at every turn.

Today, listening to this song, with it's very upbeat tempo and amazing guitar riffs, it hit me that this gift God gave to the world was, in plain language, joy and love. Who wouldn't want that? Who wouldn't chose that for their loved ones, their friends, their coworkers, their neighbors?  Hearing the news of some sad, sad things that happened today, made me realize that this precious existence we call life, with all the heart-stopping breaking news, with all the turmoil in so many peoples lives, we could use a lot more joy and a lot more love. Sounds contrite, but really, all the negative things we hear in the news, people killing each other, drunk drivers causing car crashes taking young lives, individuals stealing from others, how much love is that? How much joy is in that persons heart? I'm guessing, none. At least none that is recognizable.

It's hard to hear songs about joy, peace and love and reside in this world without a great deal of cognitive dissonance. Our brains just can't wrap our thoughts around what it all means. And if God did send us peace, joy and love, where is it? Some are in tremendous pain, suffering, depression, anxiety. Some feel there are too many layers away from feeling the love to make it worth the effort. Holidays can be the time this is magnified by a thousand, people feel the helplessness and loneliness.

Still, it is what our heart longs for, our spirit longs to connect to. Romans 8:18-21 (the Message) says, "That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens."  Whether we see joy, love and peace in this life, it is promised that it is coming, in all it's fullness, whether creation likes it or not.

Jesus' words in John 15:9-13 are some of the most tender, but most disregarded words. He says,“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." His desire is that we know, feel, and believe we are loved. He is perfectly comfortable existing in God the fathers love and in turn, passionately wants us to be just as comfortable in knowing that He loves us. Think about how much different life is when we know we are known, loved, accepted, celebrated. 

With those in our circles giving us this gift, our hearts are full and overflowing with joy.  Life seems a little more secure, little more manageable, and a lot more sacred. Undoubtedly, there are some in our circles who aren't feeling this joy, or love. And you probably know who they are. If Jesus were here today, I can only imagine that it would be to those he would turn his full attention. The next kind word, the next hug, the next meal served would be to those who are feeling less than, who have no hope for the next minute, or the next hour. In Psalm 30:5, "Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning." This is a promise that life as we see it now, is just for now, but not forever. That is joy worth hoping for, worth seeing around the corner or just over the hill for, or telling our neighbors to hold on for. These days of sadness do pass. It's not where we stay for long. Just knowing that can be the difference between today and tomorrow.

My assignment when I heard the Joy to the World song this morning? First of all, to really ponder the meaning of those words "Joy.To.The.World." Joy. Just a quick Google search for definitions gives depth to this small three letter word: 1) the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires, 2) Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness, 3) To be filled with ecstatic happiness, pleasure, or satisfaction, 4) a very glad feeling. Wow. Can you imagine all of heaven singing and shouting because the Creator wants the whole earth to be happy? The second part of the assignment is to consider all the Christmas songs and to write about them and share. I'm a little nervous, because some might think I'm being preachy, or my writing is boring. That's ok. As this month goes by, I know I'll be more comfortable in the writing piece, and more comfortable in the sharing piece. For now, I'm going to relish in the thought of unmitigated joy, the whole earth embracing the feeling at the same time, pushing out all the negative, all the hate, all the violence, all the bad stuff. And really being happy. Not the happiness you see in movies, or read about others having. But the happiness that each and every person feels deeply in their heart, the close-your-eyes-and-feel-the-love kind of happiness. It really is the wonder of His love.

Your assignment (and mine): think of one person in your sphere of influence who might not be feeling joy or love, and consider how you could give that gift to them in some small way.

Enjoy this Joy in the world moment with Chris Tomlin:

Joy to the World - Chris Tomlin



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