“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news
Of great joy…for all the people.”
Luke 2:10 (NIV)
Isaac Watts was one of the earliest hymn writers in the Christian Church. Until his time all that people sang in English churches were the Psalms put to music. Watts dared to defy tradition in church music and wrote poems that were full of Scriptural truth. He wrote hymns for children and also for adults.
One fascinating aspect of Isaac Watt’s history is that though he wrote a much loved hymn commencing with the words, “Joy to the world” Watts, at times was anything but joyful. He, like William Cowper another great hymn writer, suffered from bouts of depression. It seems so sad to think of such a gifted hymn writer who penned such jubilant words could fall into the opposite frame of mind and need others to care for his every need.
For reasons I do not know, the Christian church has taken Watts wonderful hymn about the eternal, visible reign of our Lord Jesus and inserted it into the group of hymns we call Christmas carols. Anyone you ask would consider the hymn Joy to the World to be a Christmas carol. To sing this beautiful hymn during the rest of the year would seem very strange to most Christians.
It is sad that a hymn full of joyful praise to God is only used for a couple of weeks in the year. We all know that the angel said to the shepherds long ago that the message he was giving them was exceedingly joyful. Indeed Christmas time for the Christian church is to be a time of feasting and happiness as we consider the wonderful fact that God has “invaded” His own creation in the form of a man. This “invasion” was for the purpose of redeeming God’s people from their sins.
Going all the way back to the book of Genesis in the Old Testament and chapter 3:15 we read of the very first promise of Christmas. It is a rather unusual prediction saying something about enmity between Satan and the seed of the woman. God clearly stated that a descendent of Eve would triumph over Satan. As we progress through the Old Testament, God makes further prophecies about the One to come and the picture sharpens into a clear image of Jesus Christ.
Some readers are going through really difficult times this Christmas. Maybe it will be your first Christmas without your beloved spouse. Perhaps you have lost your job and so no presents will be under the tree this year. Whatever the reason for your sorrow today, listen to the angel as he spoke to the lowly shepherds and brought them news of abundant joy which was not only for them but for all people.
The angel, speaking to the shepherds that night, was giving you cause for joy right in the midst of your sorrow. Your sorrow can be offset by embracing the truth that God has come into the world in Jesus to deliver people from sin and make them children of the Father. We are told that the shepherds went quickly to see the One the angel spoke about.
Will you come to Jesus in prayer today and humbly ask to be part of His eternal kingdom? Right now we cannot see Jesus as the shepherds did that day, however we can be in His presence through faith. We may take for ourselves the joyful message that His name is Jesus because He came to save His people from their sins. May it not only be joy to the world for you at this Christmas but also joy in your own heart as well!