[This post first appeared on December 25, 2009, and has become a tradition, posted every Friday before Christmas.]
|This statue of Isaac Watts, lyricist of Joy To The World, is in Southampton, England, the place of his birth in 1674. Having written some 750 hymns, Watts has been dubbed "The Father of English Hymnody." [Photo public domain, by Northernhenge.]|
One of my favorite hymns is Joy To The World. The words are by Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 98: "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh to judge the earth, with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity."
Some say the hymn is not about the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, but about His second coming. The joy that is sung about, then, is a future joy that will occur when Christ returns, to “make the nations prove the glories of His righteousness,” in that full expression of His Kingdom yet-to-come.
This may be what Watts had in mind, I don't know, but the song makes as much sense to me as a celebration of Christ's first coming. While I’m looking forward to that full and perfect expression of Christ’s Kingdom-yet-to-come, I’m celebrating His Kingdom-already-here. Jesus is Lord of all. Today! Not just in the future, but in the present moment (Acts 10:36-37).
The Kingdom hasn't fully come yet, nor is it perfectly functional now. This will happen when Christ comes the second time. But the domain over which Christ is King (that is, His King-domain) presently includes both heaven and earth.
This is the greatest Christmas gift: that Christ came “to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.” Right now, His blessings are to flow through people who are reconciled to God, and in turn reconciling all things to Him, including the things of Earth. That's the big idea behind Christ's coming in the first place. (See Col. 1:16-20, and To Reconcile Not Only People But Things.)
So, no more let thorns infest the ground. By God's amazing grace, let's put our work gloves on, go to our workplaces after the Christmas celebration, whether at home or in the community, to pull up bramble bushes─and plant redwood trees.
Joy to the Earth! 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!
Far as the curse is found.