Joy to the World
Here’s something interesting you may not know, Isaac Watts never intended his famous song, “Joy to the Word,” to be sung at Christmas time. His intention was to celebrate the joy we will experience when Christ returns.
Even after the Psalmist proclaimed the Messiah’s coming; even after Isaiah prophesied he would be born of virgin, in the town of Bethlehem, thousands of people still missed it!
John 1:10-11 (NLT) even says, 10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.
He Came, We Missed It
My greatest fear for our generation is falling into the same trap as the first century Jews. They didn’t recognize the Messiah when he came the first time, what makes us think that we will recognize him when he comes again? Grant it, he will come with great peals of thunder and the sky will be torn in two, but I’m not talking about his physical return, I’m talking about all the signs leading up to his return.
Are we desperate to see him come again? Are we prepared like a bride waiting for her groom? I’m not so worried about what Christ will think of the world, I’m more worried about what Christ will think of his church. There are scholars who believe that Jesus hasn’t returned yet not because of the condition of the world, but because of the condition of the church!
James 5:7-9 (NLT) 7 Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen.8 You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.
9 Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!
What’s interesting about this reference is James’ use of the analogy of waiting for rain. This is interesting because he references particularly the rain in fall and spring. The early and late rains are the rains of autumn and spring. The first rain germinates the seed; while the second matures it.
Standing at the Door
Based on this usage, James is referencing not only the arrival of Jesus in his birth but also the anticipation of Jesus’ return. The other interesting note from James is note that the Judge is standing at the door!
The challenge from Isaac Watts is found right in (verse 1):
Joy to the world! the Lord is come: let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare him room,
The door that Jesus “the Judge” is standing at is the door of our heart. As we read in Revelation 3:20 (NLT) 20 “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
The Lord came and the Lord is coming again, but in both cases it was the Lord who came and will come again for us.
Kierkegaard, “The Humble Maiden”
Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden. The king was like no other king. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents. And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden. How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist—no one dared resist him. But would she love him?
She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind? Would she be happy at his side? How could he know? If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal. He wanted her to forget that he was a king and she a humble maiden and to let shared love cross the gulf between them. For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal.
The king clothes himself as a beggar and renounces his throne in order to win her hand.