Joy To The World, The Lord Is Come, Let Earth Receive Her King. “Joy To The World”, is a hymn I’ve heard sung too many times to count and I bet you have as well. Like many songs associated with Christmas it tends to go in one ear and out another. In many ways I think it is like the birth of Yeshua, we’ve heard it so many times that even if you are not a Believer you could probably tell most of the story.
But when was the last time you stopped to Really consider the birth of the Messiah? The last time that you sang about your joy? It is very easy to go into autopilot and take these basic things for granted. This morning, Lord willing, I want us to spend a few minutes on the true joy that is found in Messiah Yeshua. How he is the source of our joy, how we can have joy even in the middle of darkness, and that being joyful is something expected of us.
The birth of Messiah Yeshua, the Son of God, is the most significant event in human history. The only day that could be argued as more important is the day He died. But it is His birth that we use to divide human history in western civilization and now globally.
The abbreviation B.C. stands for Before Christ, before the birth of the Messiah, and A.D. for after He has been born. While it is now more “politically correct” to use the term “Common Era”, it still represents the birth of the Messiah. All of human history, every accomplishment, the rise and fall of empires, inventions like paper and electricity, your birth and your death, are all plotted based on whether they occur before the birth of the Son of God or after.
Why is time divided by Yeshua’s birth? Because it is the moment that the Lord’s plan for saving humanity began to be fulfilled. In Yeshua’s birth we see fulfilled that words of Psalm 98, which “Joy To The World” is based on. That the Lord has made salvation known to everyone, that through His love and faithfulness to Israel, the promised anointed king, the Messiah, has finally come. The humble and simple physical birth of Yeshua was a spiritual explosion, like a giant meteor smashing into the Earth. Except His birth brings light and growth, not darkness and destruction.
I am reminded of Isaiah 9:1, one of numerous prophecies concerning Yeshua, which declares, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned”. Yeshua is the light of the world, an eternal flame that can never be extinguished, He is the truest source of light in a world covered in darkness, and deep darkness covering us all. Isaiah declares that we will rejoice with this light, that the Lord has brought happiness to the world and it makes us sing and shout for joy. So it is fitting that when an angel appears to the shepherds right after the birth of Yeshua, the angel tells them to rejoice because the Messiah has been born.
The arrival of the Messiah as a source of joy is found throughout the prophecies about him. Zechariah 9:9 loudly proclaims, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Born in a manger, to a poor working family, Messiah Yeshua comes to us simply and humbly. By his appearance He is not a “social influencer”, He was not born a model, and He had a Galilean accent which was looked down upon as unsophisticated.
But it was through someone we did not regard that the Lord chose to save us from our sins, through His sinless sacrifice. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords shed His blood so that through His death we would have eternal life, the spirit of God, and a real personal relationship with Him restored. He is the source of our joy because His strength is available to us right now, in this very moment, regardless of our circumstances. To quote the late and great S.M. Lockridge on what Yeshua provides:
He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes, and He saves. He strengthens and sustains. He guards, and He guides. He heals the sick. He cleanses lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharges debtors. He delivers captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent. And He beautifies the meek.
I could go on but if you are a follower of Yeshua I would ask you to remember all the ways the Lord has blessed you since you’ve put your faith in Him and all the testimonies you have heard from others. And if you are not yet a follower of Messiah Yeshua there are many here today who can testify about all the things you are hearing.
So, Messiah Yeshua is the source of our joy, but it can be hard to have joy in the world we live in. We live in a world covered in deep spiritual darkness. A world that is full of suffering, I can testify to that this week especially. We suffer for various reasons, sometimes from our own choices or from the choices of others. Many of us struggle with loneliness, depression, suicide, sickness, and all sorts of other issues.
Most people in this world are also looking for joy, looking for happiness, and unable to find it in any lasting way. We try stuff, social media, drugs, sex, money, and so many other things to fill that aching void in our lives and hearts. The destructive lie of our culture is that these things will give us lasting joy, but it is never true. To give one example there is no lasting joy to be found on Facebook or Instagram, in fact studies show the more time you spend on them the worse off you feel.
Even in our synagogues and churches there is suffering. It was true in the days of the Apostles and it is still true today. Try as we might, we hurt others, are hurt from others, and witness these things happening to other people. There are people today who have walked away from God’s community because of the hurt and betrayals they have suffered in it.
If our happiness and joy is rooted in our circumstances though it will never last. It will be extinguished under the weight of the suffering and persecution in this world. Messiah Yeshua promised us that we will be persecuted for following Him, just as He was persecuted and the prophets like Isaiah before Him. For us to have happiness beyond our circumstances it must be rooted in the God and the joy that He provides through the Holy Spirit.
To do this we must draw close to God through prayer and His Word. To make time for Him in our lives and make time for His community, wherever He has planted us. We are designed to be with other Believers, to encourage one another with joy. We also need to honestly reflect about where we spend our time, talents, and treasures. What place does God really have in our lives? Is He the source of our joy or is something else?
Messiah Yeshua taught us that, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” It is through following God’s plan for our lives that our joy will be complete. We look to the example of our Messiah and through the power of God’s Spirit are transformed more and more like Him every day.
Godly Joy does not usually instantly happen, it is something that we must be deliberate about as a discipline, like prayer and reading God’s Word. To grow in joy, we need to make time for it. This can be done alone or even with other people. In fact, this is a discipline where others can help us grow. We can seek out those around us who seem to just have authentic spiritual joy and ask them to help us as well. The Lord really does comfort us in the middle of tragedy, strengths us when we feel we can’t go any further and gives us peace in the middle of total chaos.
God’s Word also teaches us that being joyful in the Lord isn’t just a nice idea or a good suggestion. To have joy, to experience real happiness is a command of the Lord. As Rabbi Paul writes in Philippians 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” To be always happy is not something we can do on our own, it requires God. In fact, our strength in this life is found in the joy of the Lord. If we do not have any joy in our lives, maybe because of circumstances, we need to ask the Lord to give us strength through His joy.
This was a need for King David in his life, we are in good company when we pray like he did in Psalm 51. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” The Lord wants us to pray for joy, to restore us and sustain us. He is reaching out to us even now and wants us to return to Him and regain our First Love.
We also need to remember that this command to have joy is not just individualistic. The basic assumption in God’s Word about being a follower of Messiah Yeshua is that we are doing it with other people around us. We are meant to be in community, encouraging one another, and not neglecting to do so like some do.
There are some weeks though where the last thing I want to do is be with other people. Where it is a struggle to get out of bed and get to Shema. When I am suffering I don’t always want to be around people, especially happy people. It’s like that old Rolling Stones song, I want to see everything painted black. In those times I have to turn to God for the strength to get out of bed, soften my heart, and interact with my family here at Shema.
Sometimes I don’t want to sing a song to the Lord, but I do as the Lord has commanded me even if I am not always “feeling it”. What I usually find though is by the end of services I am in a better mood than when I started. I have been encouraged by someone, had a moment of laughter, and just feel better than I would have staying at home. It doesn’t make every problem go away but it makes things more manageable.
So, we need to be with others. To genuinely ask people how they are doing, to pray and encourage. Sometimes I am asked, “What is the point of congregations if I am not getting anything out of it?” I have to gently remind people, and myself, that being in God’s community isn’t just about us. Sometimes we are here not to receive but to give. It may be our faithfulness is an encouragement to someone else, or that the minute we take to talk to someone is what God uses to stop them from taking their own life. We need to be focused not just on the joy we are receiving but the joy we are sharing as well.
I started my message this morning with a Christmas Carol, Joy To The World. God really has brought joy to the world through His Son, who reigns right now at the right hand of God the Father. One day soon He will return to us and judge the world in righteousness. In that day we will experience fully what we have only had partially. We will be filled completely with an inexpressible and glorious joy as the Apostle Peter writes. Until our joy is complete we will suffer but through Lord’s strength we will not only endure but encourage others.
May the Lord, the only real source of Joy in this world, give us the strength of His joy. May each one of us experience that joy despite the sufferings and persecutions we are dealing with right now. May He enable each of us to sing with joy, along with all creation, at the wonder of His love for us and share that love with a lost and dying world.