Long time readers of my blogservations about the world will know that Joy to the World is one of the two approved Christmas carols.
It is a song that celebrates the arrival of the great king that the earth has needed, and lacked, since almost the very beginning. God creates humanity to rule the world on God’s behalf, and the remainder of the story unfolds the quest to find the king who will faithfully discharge this duty.
The advent of the king is not simply about the loyalty of human hearts—though it is about this in part: “let every heart prepare him room.”
The advent of the king is also about the entirety of the cosmos being restored to order. Not only human hearts, but also “heaven and nature sing.”
This holistic reign of the king we receive is nowhere captured with as much force and brevity as we sing in the words, “No more let sins and sorrows grow, or thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.”
And, this song was not written for Christmas.
The song was originally penned as a song celebrating the anticipated second Advent, a looking forward to the return of the King who had once been born, died, risen, and ascended.
And this is precisely why it is the perfect Christmas song.
Our time of “waiting,” has not been, even through the season of “Advent,” a time of waiting for Christmas per se. Christmas happened two thousand years ago. But in that time of waiting for the arrival, we are reminded that the Christian life is always, at least in part, a looking forward to the time when the reign of Christ will be fulfilled.
God has placed all things in subjection under his feet, we confess alongside the church throughout the ages. And yet, Paul hastens to add (1 Cor 15), we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
We await the coming of the king. We await the time when every ear is wiped away, when the cursed ground produces abundance rather than thorns, when the cosmos is set in harmony from the dirt below to the heavens above and everything in between.
We live between the times. Christmas tells us that the reign of God has begun. The king is here.
And yet, the full restoration of the people of God, and the full restoration of the cosmos still awaits its consummation.
Joy the world is magnificent because, singing it at Christmas, we celebrate the reign that is rightfully that of the newborn king. It forces that vision of the glorious future for which we still long and wait back into our present, showing us what should be breaking through even now.
And, with such a vision of glory, we are driven back to the prayer we have prayed with the church for the past four weeks of Advent, the prayer for the Advent yet to come: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”