We are told that this is The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, People sing, Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, and the song we’re going to be talking about today: Joy to the World.
I imagine you may be thinking, “That’s a little over the top!” But before that first Christmas, God’s people had been waiting for centuries for God to show up. Finally, at the perfect time in history, it happened just like God promised. “The Word became flesh and made his home with us.” So, we have a reason to have real joy.
The carol Joy to the World was first called The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom way back when it was written in 1719 by Isaac Watts. If you’re a musician, you might recognize that the melody of this song is just the 8 descending notes of a major scale. Today, Joy to the World is the most published Christmas carol in America.
For most people today in 2020, Joy to the World is not their choice of a Christmas song, it’s more like Blue Christmas. There are lots of reasons to be down and depressed right?
But then, the Bible says, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
How could it be possible to always be full of joy? Well, for one thing, we confuse joy and happiness. Happiness is how you feel when things are going your way. But the word happiness comes from the root word HAP, which means to Happen, or just plain luck. If you’re lucky, if you’re having a good day, you will be happy. But what about when you’re not having a good day? One of the problems with happiness is it only lasts as long as the moment lasts. But real joy can last the rest of your life, even through all of the mess and heartache of life.
Joy doesn’t come from what’s happening around you. True joy comes from God. It’s a deeper truth that everything will be alright even when things don’t seem to be going alright.
I have a reason for JOY
One of the most joyful times of life is when a new baby is born. There’s something about that new baby that brings hope and joy, right? Do you remember the Levi’s commercial that went with it with the doctors and the machines bleeping and blooping? Well, when Makenzie was born, Pam had a cesarean, and I was in the room, and the doctors started doing their thing, and I started hearing all those beeps and dings. So at just the right time, I went, “Oh, Tainted Love!” I thought that was a happy moment. Pam didn’t really think so.
There’s something so joyful about the birth of a baby. Christmas is about the birth of a newborn baby, God’s Son was given as a gift to the whole world that brings joy to the darkest moments of life.
Out in the fields near Bethlehem where Jesus was born, some shepherds were out watching their flocks and God brought them a message of joy on that first Christmas.
But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’ Luke 2:10
The first four books of the New Testament are called the Gospels. The word “gospel” literally means the good news about Jesus and why He came and what he did.
The news from the angels wasn’t just for those shepherds, it was for everyone in the world! For “all the people!”
So, how can I experience that joy in my life? This is very counter-intuitive, but when you look into the Bible, you’ll find that this is the key to experiencing joy.
I have joy when I obey God.
How is that joyful? In John 15:10, Jesus said
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 these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. John 15:10-11
When God gives you a direction in the Bible, He’s not trying to control you or take away all your fun. He tells you because he wants to protect you and direct you to what is going to be best in your life.
I remember one Christmas when my girls were little when we would put the kids to bed on Christmas Eve and then we got out the Barbie car that they could actually drive around in. Sure, it said on the box “Some assembly required.” How hard could it be? Little did I know that I would spend the next four hours of Christmas eve trying to assemble this automobile. So I got out the directions and they were indecipherable. Trying to follow those directions is always hard. Forward was reverse and it took me several tries to get the car together.
Sometimes, we put our life together in all the wrong ways. We make dumb decisions and do things that are self-destructive. And you end up in a very dark place that’s far from where God wants you to be. That’s where you lose your joy. You’ve ignored the directions for life and tried to put your life together on your own.
The Bible is like an owner’s manual that was written to help you know and understand how to put your life together in a way that works. That’s when things start to work the way they’re supposed to. You start making choices that honor God. Then, you start adjusting your thinking to what is good and positive and right, instead of the things that move you farther from God. You replace the lies that you hear about yourself from the enemy that say you’re no good with the truth from God’s Word about what He says about you and who He created you to be. You start hearing God say your life matters and that God has great plans for your life. That brings you JOY! Here’s a great promise from Psalm 97:11,
Light shines on the godly, and joy on those who do right. Psalm 97:11
Spend time in God’s Word, the Bible. Read it every day and then, and this is the most important part: do what it says. When you do what God says consistently over a long time, you will end up in a place where you can say, “I’ve got this deep sense of joy in my life that stays with me no matter what’s going on around me.”
I have joy when I give God control of my life.
One of the reasons we don’t have joy in our life is because we try to control our circumstances and the people around us. The problem is, most of the things we deal with are out of our control. You can’t control the economy, the weather, the coronavirus, politics, or what people think about you. All of those things are out of our control, but we let those things steal our joy.
Think about what you have control over. You can control how you react to what’s happening around you. You say, “I can’ t control it. They made me.” No, they didn’t, you chose to react. You can control your facial expression, your smile. You can control your words. At the end of the day, you can’t control other people, you can only control yourself!
People who try to control the things that are outside of their control are always frustrated. Reinhold Neibuhr gave us the Serenity Prayer that is used in Celebrate Recovery each week at 6:30 at The Connection Church at the Buda Campus. It goes like this: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” That’s huge. That will bring you joy!
The song Joy to the World, says, “The Lord has come, Let her earth receive her king!” Lord and King mean that God is in control. Give God control over the people and things you have no control over. Resign your position as King of the Universe. Let Jesus be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in your life!
I have joy when I love others
Christmas can be a time for family fights. You see family members you don’t really like. All families have that one weird family member. There’s jealousy, grudges, resentment, and misunderstanding that leads to conflict.
What’s the key to joyful relationships? When Jesus is in me and Jesus is in you, then we will have a joyful relationship.
God can use His church as a living example and a picture to bring healing to the deep wounds in our country by showing how Jesus can bring about reconciliation between different groups of people. That’s what Philippians 2:2 says,
Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:2
God made all races, and He will redeem people from every nation and every tribe and every language.
Jesus can bring us peace when He comes into our hearts. He can make even the most hateful prejudiced person loving and accepting of others.
Who do you need to reach out to this Christmas? Is there someone you need to offer forgiveness to? Who do you need to ask forgiveness from? That will bring you joy.
I have joy when I give generously.
One study was done where 46 people were given money and were told how to spend it. The ones who were told to use the money on someone else, either as a gift or donation, ended up feeling better at the end of the study than those who had to spend it on themselves.
People who donate their dollars to charities or splurge on gifts for others are more joyful than those who squander all the loot on themselves.
They said, “Giving once might make a person happy for a day, but if it becomes a way of living, then it makes a lasting difference.”
Generosity should be a lifestyle! Jesus has been saying this FOREVER! This isn’t new stuff.
…Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed [and brings greater joy] to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35 (AMP)
It has to be a habit! We make it a way of living! Every time I get paid I will give some of it away! That’s how we roll here at The Connection Church. We unleash generosity!
My family has been doing this for 25 years! We give at least 10% of every paycheck we get to our local church! It’s a habit for us!
We love to give. We are blessed to give. It makes us happy to give. And, it’s for the church and God’s kingdom, but it’s for us too!
Generosity makes you more joyful than HOARDING. I’ve never seen a happy hoarder!
I have joy when I trust God.
One of the keys to joy is trusting God about the future. It’s about being positive about what’s happening. Of course, you have a choice whether or you will trust God or not for the future. Choosing to be positive works so much better! Even when things turn out bad, it never hurts to be positive. In fact, it can help things actually turn out positive. That’s living by faith in God and His goodness. That’s the way a positive person of faith chooses to live.
Hope means trusting in God for your future, no matter what you are facing. It doesn’t mean everything will always go your way. But when those bad things happen, the Bible says in James 1:2:
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. James 1:2-3
This is how you will grow spiritually.
It’s not even based on what you have or what you don’t have. In fact, in Hebrews it says that even if you have nothing at all, you can still choose joy.
You even had joy when all that you owned was taken from you, because you knew you had something better and more lasting. Hebrews 10:34 (NCV)
What’s better and more lasting? It’s knowing that your eternity is set and secure. And you can know that when you trust your life to Jesus.
I know that this year has been hard. There’s been a lot of loss. Jobs, relationships, graduations, and birthdays and Christmas parties. It’s okay to mourn the losses you’ve gone through. But through it all, you can hold onto the promise of God in Psalm 126:5:
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5
God wants to give you a lasting joy that comes from deep inside that nothing can take away from you. He can do that for you as you choose to make Him the center of your life today.