Imagine yourself as a shepherd in the countryside around Bethlehem on the first Christmas night over 2000 years ago. An angel suddenly appears to you and your fellow shepherds, surrounded by “the glory of the Lord” and announces that the long-awaited savior of your people, the Jews, had come on that very day! A multitude of angels then join the original one and began “praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Luke 3:13, 14).
What specifically were in those praises to God? I am going to speculate that they included the praises included in Psalm 96 and 98, the Psalms that form the foundation of Isaac Watts’ powerful 1720 Christmas hymn, Joy to the World. I will also add my own prescient commentary to help you and your fellow shepherds understand what those angels are saying!
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing.”
This is the time to rejoice! The “fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4) has finally arrived, so get ready. A tectonic shift has just occurred. The Lamb who was “slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) has finally come in history. What God has planned for all eternity is happening right now, the fulcrum upon which all history turns! He comes on this first Christmas morning—not only as our Savior but as our King, to rule—not just in our hearts, but over all heaven and earth.
“Joy to the world, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains, Repeat the sounding joy.”
This joy is not for some distant, future event, but the Savior has come as a baby for the express purpose of defeating the usurper king, Satan, and reclaiming God’s earth. This mission will be accomplished in 33 years at the cross. Jesus will then ascend to heaven and be enthroned as the new King over all the earth at His Father’s right hand in Heaven! That is cause for men and women to sing for joy and for all fallen creation to join with them.
“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.”
That rule, in individual hearts and over all creation, is universal, in every heart and over every piece of real estate. No part of the curse is left unredeemed. What else could “far as the curse is found” mean?.
That flow involves not only the incredible blessing of victory over sin and sorrow right now, but also the blessing of the progressive redemption (gradually removing the thorns) of the fallen earth. Over the next 2000 years of Jesus’ rule those blessings will flow enough to feed, clothe, and house the world’s population of 7.5 billion, to double man’s life expectancy, and to provide the energy necessary to transport them all around the world and even to the moon. Are those thorns being pulled, or what?.
“He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove, the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love.”
His rule is according to God’s law (“truth”) and God’s gospel of full and free salvation at the cross (“grace”). The inevitable, irresistible, inexorable result of this grace-filled rule over the nations is to demonstrate to all the world, and to spiritual principalities and powers, that He is a perfectly righteous and perfectly loving God.
Isaiah prophesies this result: “And all nations shall flow to it (Zion, any nation that is ruled by Jesus Christ, i.e., all of them!). Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2, 3).
The future attempt by immigrants from around the world to get into America at any cost is a fulfilment of this prophecy—the waning, residual effect of the de facto rule of Jesus in our land established by our founding fathers.
So, the first Christmas started it all; God’s eternal purpose was put into motion, and He will not be denied. He blessings will flow “far as the curse is found.” He will save a fallen and broken world. Christmas is proof. Go tell it on the mountain, shepherd boy. Joy to the world!
Thank you Robert – Great message using my favorite Christmas song, and now I have even more reason for it to be my favorite.
Like the little girl at church said last night, after several others had read the main body of the Christmas story and she was reading the last few verses, she added, “the end – but not really, it was really just the beginning.”