Advent Reflections: Joy

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, December 14, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let Earth receive her King:
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

How many times have you sung that familiar Christmas carol? Probably plenty, and perhaps even at least once already this Christmas season. But the question I want you to consider today is this: What exactly does "joy to the world" look like? How does nature react to the coming of her King, like the song says? Does nature really sing?

Interestingly, the answer to this question can be found in the Old Testament - which was written long before Jesus came to earth as the baby in Bethlehem. Go read Isaiah 35. There is a lot of imagery in Isaiah 35 that points to joy, renewal, healing, hope, and salvation; did you notice it? All the earth is rejoicing, and healing is taking place!

Isaiah was a prophet to the people of Israel more than 700 years before Christ. At this time, the people of Israel were worshiping idols and living in cycles of sinful practices. It was a time of economic prosperity, but there was a large gap between the rich and the poor and it was only getting wider during this time. Unfortunately, this fact led to lots of social vices among the people such as dishonesty, drunkenness, immorality, and idolatry.

This particular passage of Isaiah 35 comes at a transition point in the book overall. The chapters before it discuss judgment on Israel for all the wrongs they have done. The chapters after it promise comfort and salvation for Israel. This chapter shows the transition between judgment and salvation for the people, with all of the creation rejoicing.

So for pretty much the entire book of Isaiah up to this passage, the people of Israel were experiencing judgment. The prophet Isaiah was prophesying all sorts of condemnation on them. He reminds them of their sin and also of what will happen to them because of their sins. That is a lot of condemnation – 34 chapters worth! Think about if someone you know, especially somebody sent by God, spent so much time reminding you of everything you’ve done wrong in your entire life. As human beings, we typically don’t like criticism at all, and we really don’t like it when someone lists off everything we’ve ever done wrong.

But, there was hope for Israel and there is hope for us too. After Isaiah recounts all of the nation’s wrongs, the rest of the book starting in chapter 40 is all prophecies of salvation and comfort for Israel. Even though they messed up, they could still experience salvation. And even though each one of us sins and messes up all the time, we will experience salvation too through our faith in Jesus.

Why else would the whole creation rejoice so much, but for the coming of the long-awaited Savior? Not only were the people given joy through the event of Jesus' birth, but nature rejoiced as well. As the Christmas carol goes, "And heaven and nature sing!" The entire universe would rejoice at the birth of the Savior Jesus. All of creation was thrown into sinfulness when the first people sinned, so all of creation rejoices when the promised savior arrives. God is reconciling all creation to Himself

Just like the whole creation in this passage from Isaiah, we too can rejoice and experience salvation and healing, even though that may not be physical healing in our lifetime. We have the joy of Christ, even when life is hard, and we can know Him personally through the Bible and our relationship with Him. We too can rejoice greatly and shout for joy along with Israel, because we can have salvation through Jesus!

This joy does not have to be contained only within the Christmas season either. We tend to focus on joy this time of year because of the birth of Jesus, the gift-giving, seeing friends and family, and other earthly pleasures - like Christmas cookies and good meals, and singing our favorite Christmas carols. But our joy does not need to stop (and it should not stop) after December 25. Our joy can continue through every single day of the year because God is the same yesterday, today, and every day in the future. The joy of our salvation should not depend on any season of the year, and it should never go away. God is always with us and he can always give us joy.

We may not always feel joyful in our lives, since being a follower of Jesus Christ is not all fun and games. The Bible and even Jesus himself promised that we will definitely have difficult times. I’m sure each one of us here could recount many times that being a Christian has not been easy and where the experiences of life really haven’t gone how we wanted them to. We’ve all experienced and been affected by the sin and sickness and pain that come with living in this world.

But, being joyful is different than being happy. Happiness is a fleeting emotion that changes with our circumstances. I may be happy because it's sunny outside, or happy because I get to spend time with family this week. But true joy is present in our lives regardless of our circumstances. We can be joyful even when life is tough if the reason for our joy is Jesus.

The reason for our joy in Jesus is not only because Jesus left all the glory and splendor of heaven to come down to earth as a little baby. The reason for our joy is what that little baby grew up to do – he grew up to be the Savior of the entire world through his obedience to God and his death and resurrection!

The whole creation has joy because Jesus came to earth, and we can too. With all of creation, we can sing, "Joy to the World!" and truly mean it.

For more on joy and how it’s spoken of in the Bible, check out this post.

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