Joy to the World

On Sunday, we looked at the topic of JOY, based on Psalm 98 and the first two chapters of Luke and linked to the carol ‘Joy to the world’.

Joy is the serious business of heaven.

C. S. Lewis, Prayer: Letters to Malcolm, ch. 17

What is joy?

Joy can be a difficult word to define and even more difficult to live and understand. It is easy to equate it with happiness, but this seems less than adequate.

Psychologists have suggested that a way in to understanding joy might be to begin with its opposite. They go on to suggest that the opposite of joy is fear, whereas the opposite of happiness is sadness or unhappiness.

D Willard wrote that joy is robust (even including outright hilarity!) and that we can experience the joy of being in God’s kingdom even in the midst of suffering and loss.

On Sunday Rob highlighted that joy is a deep underlying constant sense that all will be well.

Allowing joy into our lives

Psalm 98

In reflecting on joy this week

  • perhaps begin with gratitude that:
    • God meets us where we are and does the heavy lifting of rescuing us (vv1&2)
    • God loves us and this love has a global impact (v8)
    • God puts things right (v9)
  • and move to a reflection on the outworking of joy for these people in praise
  • and listen to or sing Joy to the World for yourself…..

Luke 1:5-2:20

Here we can see three interactions with angels, three times when God connected with people – Zechariah, Mary and the shepherds.

All three interactions initially produced fear of some type, but Luke in his account of each interaction moves on from their fear with the word ‘but’ – a word suggesting that something contrary or different was going to happen. Fear was to be set aside and replaced with its opposite – joy.

Some things to reflect on from these interactions:

  1. There was another story going on alongside the day to day lives of these people – Zechariah doing his work as priest, Mary pledged to be married and looking forward to that and the shepherds looking after their sheep in the hills outside Bethlehem.
    • For Zechariah: His prayer has been heard, even though for years Zechariah and Elizabeth may have wondered about that. Yet, they kept on praying.
    • For Mary: God would be with her and as well as that, he would provide some human support through Elizabeth.
    • For the shepherds: there was a sign for them to confirm all that was going on.

Perhaps joy might be inspired by some reflection on the fact that God is working out his big story and invites us to be part of that.

2. The responses to the angels:

  • Zechariah and Mary with a question: ‘How…..’ (Luke 1; 18 & 34)
  • and the shepherds with a plan to explore further: ‘Let’s go and see….’ (Luke 2:15).

Have you a question for or exploration to make with Jesus? Perhaps, a slow re-reading of these accounts might help with that…..

3. And the end of their interactions was joy:

  • For Zechariah in his song (1:67-69)
  • For Mary in her song (1:46-55)
  • For the shepherds on their return to the hills (2:20)

Perhaps re-reading these two songs as your songs, or imaging the conversations among the shepherds as they returned home might inspire your joy.

And finally, why not listen to ‘Joy to the world’ on and off through this week….?

Joy to the world, the Lord has 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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