“Joy to the world the Lord is come!”

The familiar opening lines to a famous Christmas carol brings a smile to our face but can fade when the song is over.  It seems many of us have substituted the emotion“happy” for the word “joy”. 

To do so robs us of joy and probably happiness too!  They are not synonymous.

In the time of the 8th century B.C. prophet, Isaiah, happiness was NOT what the people of God were feeling.  Quite the contrary.  They had witnessed the destruction of the northern kingdom (Israel) at the hands of the Assyrians and they knew it was the Lord’s judgment.

Now, Judah (the southern kingdom) was heading down the same path and the Lord was poised to bring his punishment on His wayward children.  It was not a “happy” time.

In the bleakness of his world, Isaiah is inspired by the Holy Spirit to write in Isaiah 12:2-6:

2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 In that day you will say: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. 6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Isaiah 12:2-6
New International Version

The trust and faith the Lord’s people were called to have were not because God’s punishment at the sword and spear of the Babylonians was going to be stayed.  Instead, it was seeing past that point.  It was seeing the end result.  It was seeing that through the calamity about to befall them, the Lord was going to do something glorious again.

Their joy was not found in their present circumstances; it was found in trusting the Lord’s goodness, grace, and mercy.  It was exercising faith in the Lord alone. 

And in this future deliverance, they were called to rejoice.

For us on this side of the events of Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, we see the “wells of salvation” they were called to see by faith.  We look back while they had to strain forward by faith.

But in a similar way, we are also looking forward.  We look forward to when Jesus returns.  The first time He came, it was quiet, humble, and with hardly anyone noticing.  The next time He comes, it will be glorious, loud, noticeable and the world will see Him for Who we know Him as: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

While we wait in the anticipation of that joyful day for disciples of Jesus, we also draw joy from the events of the manger and the prophecy of Isaiah.  The Lord will finish what He has started.

I offer three suggestions for finding joy when happiness is absent.

  1. Count your blessings.  More than just an old gospel song, it’s good medicine for the soul.  List how the Lord has blessed you in the past.
  2. Sing songs of praise.  There is power in praising the Lord.  When we don’t feel like singing—especially then—we lift our voices to the Lord in joy. 
  3. Encourage someone else.  It’s remarkable how quickly we can forget about ourselves when we focus on others.  Spiritual naval gazing has its place but when it comes to being joyful, a Christian is most fulfilled in giving themselves away.

Joy to the world!  The Lord has come.  The Lord is coming.  Until He comes, be joyful in His salvation and care.

Happy Advent!

Looking for a spiritually-themed Christmas gift?

Would you consider my book, 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom, based on a study in Proverbs?  It’s available either in print or on Kindle.