Monday, December 12, 2011

More than a Melody: Joy to the World

As Natalie shared last week, I have found that over the years, Christmas carols have blended right into the seasonal decor, much like lights, and Santa, and snow(mythical white stuff that falls from the sky). Of course, I know that what the Christmas hymns speak of is true, but they became common place. Let's be honest, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."...No one says hark anymore. Half the time I check out because I'm singing words that aren't really a part of my vocabulary.

Joy to the World is a hymn that has been redeemed for me this year. I've never been to fond of it, mostly for musical reasons, but also because it feels a little silly to sing about "Joy to the world" when you don't really know if you can sing "joy to myself". Christmas has, over the last few years become increasing lonely. Not because I'm alone. I have family. I have friends. I am with people ALL the time. But, at 28, spending Christmas with siblings and cousins and friends that have significant others and sitting at the kids table that you sat at when you were 5, just is a sharp reminder of the state of singleness and perpetual kid-dom in which one can feel stuck. And on top of that, the shiny presents all wrapped up under the tree had been losing their appeal for awhile. I love giving presents and I won't argue if someone wants to give me one, but it just began to feel awkward and more like an obligation that a joy. So, how does one sing about joy in the midst of all of that?

However, this year, my focus is changing. At work, I teach bible study and lead worship with kindergarten through 5th graders every afternoon. I wanted to spend December talking about Christmas(imagine that). So, I have been using the Joshua Tree format that Michelle shared with us. For the past three weeks, I have been looking at Christmas with a wide lens. Creation, the fall of man and the promise of Christ, Abraham and Issac, Jacob's ladder, Jonah, and all the rest of scripture all points to Christ. Christmas is one short season we jam full of parties and presents and pageants, but it is one short season where all the world is looking to The Savior whether they realize it or not.  I have found joy wrapped up in history. It is wrapped in some of the most heartbreaking, heart-wrenching stories of scripture. It is in a promise of a boy when the ones God created in His image turned their backs. It is in a ram caught in the thicket and an angel who stops the willing hand of a father who is about to sacrifice his promised son. There is joy in the story of a queen braving possible death to approach a king on behalf of her people and the grace of king who loved her enough to not only spare her life but hear her plea. There is joy in the story of a man running from God in blatant disobedience because he hated the people God loved. And in a merciful God scooping him up inside a fish and using Jonah anyways. Do you see it? Do you see the joy in the sadness?

A broken relationship on its own is awful, but with a whispered promise of hope...
A father sacrificing his son is gut wrenching, but with the sacrificial substitue...
A man swallowed by a ginormous fish is terrifying, but with the changed heart of God towards a rebellious people...


And in your 2011 Christmas story? Maybe you lost someone dear to you. Maybe you are financially in the hardest place you've ever been. Maybe you are running from God. I don't know. But I know that your story in 2011 is only a part. Your story is not over. Abraham watched his boy grow up. Jonah was used by God. Esther saw her people saved. Mary held the savior of the world in her arms. So, this Christmas, I encourage you to listen for the whisper of hope. Watch for the ram in the thicket. Wait for the mercy of a King. Because your story, just like the ones in scripture point to a God who rules the world with truth and grace and lavishes on His people all the wonders of His love.

 Joy to The World
by Isaac Watts

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.

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.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules 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, wonders, of His love.

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