Joy to the World
‘Joy to the world, the Lord is come!’ So goes the popular Christmas Carol. Two questions must accompany it: What is true joy according to the Bible? Does the incarnation of God bring you the same joy that we see in the shepherds and wise men?
In John 15, Jesus describes to His disciples the great love of God, and what happens as His love is perfected in those who ‘abide’ or live in it (under it’s protection or care). Then in verse 11, Jesus states that He had spoken of these things so that they would have ‘joy’ from Him, even a joy that is full! So, it would seem that joy is a character trait of God that is given to mankind as a result of living within the realm of God’s love.
In Hebrews 12, we see another description of this joy. Verse two describes the joy that Jesus had as a motivator, which helped Him endure suffering and death. What was it that gave Him this joy? The verse hints at it, saying ‘the joy that was set before Him.’ This seems to indicate that He had joy because of what the cross would accomplish, which is our salvation and the reconciliation of mankind to their creator. Paul’s first book to the Thessalonians (1:6) describes joy as a gift of the Holy Spirit, again to endure suffering as Christ did.
To put this all together, joy is a chosen attitude, a character trait of God’s people, that comes from a peace-filled heart, and confidence (or settled assurance) that God is in control of all the details of your life. It is a determined choice to give God praise and thanks in every circumstance and situation, knowing that His plans never fail. It is looking forward to the end benefits of the trials and sufferings to motivate us, and get us through them. A key detail that must be mentioned is this: happiness and joy are NOT synonyms! Happiness is an emotion based on the present circumstances. It is possible to be ‘happy’ or feel good in a circumstance, but not have true inner joy. It is also possible to be unhappy with our circumstances, but to have inner joy because we look to God’s plan. When we choose joy, often it leads to times of happiness. What we must remember is that happiness is most often fleeting, but joy can be permanent as we learn to trust in God and abide in His love.
At Christmas time, we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ. What make Him the joy of the world? His name is Immanuel, which means “God with us,” so from birth to death, His person would reveal the character of God, part of which is joy. Just as Jesus Himself looked to the joy of what the cross would accomplish, so we see the wise men filled with joy at the hope of the Messiah King and the reason He came. Throughout His life, we see Jesus demonstrating an attitude of joy, keeping His focus on God the Father, and staying dependent on His Spirit.
So, what about you?
Can you honestly sing:
“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart ...”
“Joyful, joyful, Lord we adore Thee ...”
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”
May the ‘joy of the Lord’ be your strength this Christmas season as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!