Tis the season to be overwhelmed and inundated with signs and decorations telling us how to feel. “Be Merry!”, “Be Joyful!”, “Don’t get your tinsel in a bunch!” are just a few that I’ve seen so far. Of course, this promotion of good attitudes, joy, and peace are a good thing but sadly what people are missing are the signs pointing to where those things come from. It’s not that those signs are not there. They exist. They just often get overlooked in the hustle and bustle or ignored in the tradition of the Christmas season. There is certainly reason to feel joy at Christmas. One way we can remind ourselves of that is by taking a fresh look at a familiar song that has accompanied Christmas for a very long time.
In the early 1700’s Isaac Watts set out to create his own paraphrase of the Psalms. In this process he, unintentionally, wrote the words to, what would become, one of the most popular Christmas carols we have today. Watts’ paraphrases turned into a collection, entitled, “The Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament.” In his writing, Watts set out to see Jesus in the Psalms. In Luke 24:4 this is what Jesus told His disciples they should see when they look there, “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’” As Watts read through Ps. 98:4-9 he could see within the Jewish song for deliverance the Christian’s anticipation and joy in Christ’s return. How could he not be overwhelmed with joy after reading, “Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy before the Lord, for He is coming…”? Yes, joy is commanded, “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth” but it is also enabled at the thought of the Savior’s coming. Originally this song was intended to look ahead at what was to come in Jesus’ return to earth. He would judge and rule with righteousness and equity over His people. Think of what this means in light of the current climate that we live in today. Government will one day, no longer be associated with corruption or controversy because it will all rest on Christ, Himself. Lives will no longer be needlessly taken and peace will no longer be a distant thought because the Prince of Peace will reign.
The thought of Christ’s return was especially joyful to Watts because it meant the end to the suffering and hardships that plagued much of his life. Watts’ family experienced mistreatment and persecution because of issues surrounding his father and the fact that his mother was a refugee. Watt’s also had many health issues. He longed for the day when there would “…no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain…” (Rev. 21:4). We also see in Revelation 22:3 that the curse of sin will no longer be. This is what brings us to Christmas and what Christ came to do in His first coming. In his birth, death, and resurrection Christ “no more let sins and sorrows grow nor thorns infest the ground [because] He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.” You don’t have to look very far to find the curse. We have all been plagued by it in our sin but there is blessing that flows in turning and trusting in the One who came to die in our place and then resurrect for our life. He is the reason for joy! Be joyful knowing He has come and will soon come again!
Praying For Joy In Jesus, Pastor Rudy