Joy to the World
Joy to the World

The gifts are wrapped and tagged. Cookies are baked and decorated. I’ve watched Christmas made-for-TV movies until even I’ve had enough…and that’s saying something!

Yes, I’m one of those people. You know, the ones who play Christmas carols in July and put up their tree before Thanksgiving. There’s just something contagious about the joy of Christmas.

Apart from the Christmas season, we don’t use the word joy very much. We speak more often of happiness. But happiness is changeable. It’s dependent on our circumstances.

True joy wells up from a source greater than us and our circumstances. And one of the greatest, purest joys comes from the reason for Christmas.

Now in the glow of the Christmas tree lights, I’m thinking again of the reason for the season. Joy to the World is streaming while I type. As I listen to the words written by Isaac Watts, I’m reminded of who the baby in the manger really is.

He is the Lord, the One who created heaven and earth.
He is the King. Because He created our world, He has the right to rule over it…and us.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.

He is the Savior, the One who conquered sin and death to live and reign for eternity.

Joy to the earth, 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.

He is the source of blessing. In every corner of the world where sin lurks and sorrow results, His blessings will flow, all because God became man.

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.

His nature is the essence of truth. Even though we may not always like what He says, it is always true. We don’t deserve the salvation He provides, but by His grace He offers us His righteousness so that we can stand before our holy God. And He does it because of His great love for us.

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, and wonders of His love,

Jesus is Lord, King, and Savior. He is truth and grace, righteousness, and love. He is the reason for our joy!

Will you join me in singing for joy this Christmas?

They’re Not Just Christmas Carols
Christmas Carols

What puts a song in your heart?

  • Your favorite playlist?
  • Your wedding song?
  • Christmas carols?

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is the music. You may be tired of hearing Christmas carols that have already been playing since Halloween. For many, the joy of those carols slowly dissipates until we have nothing left by December 25th.

But Christmas carols can provide more than mere distraction and entertainment. They communicate spiritual truths in wonderfully memorable ways. If you’re like me, you may have a difficult time with memorization, including memorizing Scripture verses. But if you know the words to many familiar Christmas carols, you probably have more Bible verses memorized or paraphrased than you realize!

For example, consider the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” originally written by Charles Wesley. Before you groan at the thought of listening to yet another Christmas carol, read the words as if for the first time…

Hark! the herald angels sing:
“Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God” (Luke 2:13).

Glory to the newborn King:
“Glory to God in the highest…” (Luke 2:14).

Peace on earth, and mercy mild:
“…and on earth peace…” (Luke 2:14).

God and sinners reconciled!:
“…to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies:
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).

With the angelic host proclaim:
“Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God” (Luke 2:13).

Christ is born in Bethlehem!:
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Hark! the herald angels sing:
“Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God” (Luke 2:13).

Glory to the newborn King!:
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2).

Enjoy the carols of Christmas. And while you’re at it, enjoy the amount of Scripture you didn’t know you knew!

Think of your favorite Christmas carol – how many Bible verses can you identify in its lyrics?

More Than a Baby Jesus
More Than a Baby

I love Christmas. The music, lights, and decorations. Trees with their ornaments, Christmas villages, and especially nativity scenes. Of all my Christmas decorations, my favorite is a large tabletop display that includes a manger set in the midst of a hustling, bustling Bethlehem.

A friend has a tradition regarding the nativity scene to remind her young family of the central focus of Christmas. She sets up the crèche with Mary, Joseph, the animals, and the shepherds. On Christmas morning, they read the Nativity story and one of her children places the baby Jesus in the manger. Then they sing a Christmas carol about the birth of the Savior.

Think about Christmas carols such as “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger,” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” What do they have in common? A baby. Cute. Helpless. Non-threatening. Christmas overflows with images of a Babe whose first bed was a livestock feeding trough.

The images are there, but it seems the Babe in the manger is being pushed out of His own birthday. Why are people so against the One whose birthday we celebrate?

More Than a Baby

Because He did not stay a baby. Jesus grew up and went about His Father’s business. He stepped on toes. He pushed people’s buttons—especially religious people.

He’s still stepping on toes and pushing our buttons by touching the idols that compete with Him for our attention and worship. Even religious activities that make it easy to avoid intimacy with our heavenly Father.

Yet that’s the reason the Word became flesh. The God of the universe took human form—not as an adult, but as a helpless baby. Still, when Jesus was born, something happened beyond the simple birth of a baby. The infinite, sovereign, creator God chose to temporarily limit Himself within the body of a finite human being.

J.I. Packer wrote, “The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.”

Charles Stanley put it this way: “Christmas is that moment in time when God, in His unconditional love, stepped out of heaven onto earth, in order that we might one day step out of earth into heaven.”

And C.S. Lewis wrote, “Once in our world, a Stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.”

Is Your Jesus Too Small?

If you think of Jesus Christ as nothing more than an innocent baby surrounded by animals and shepherds, then your Jesus is too small. And if your Jesus is too small, your problems are too big. Your temptations are too powerful. A world filled with terrorism is too fearful. And your hope is swallowed up in despair’s darkness.

But John, the gospel writer, tells us Jesus is both life and light. His light cuts through our darkness. Here’s another description of Jesus from Revelation 1:12-18 (NIV):

Among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

Jesus is more than a baby. He is the glorious, majestic Son of God! There isn’t a manger big enough to hold Him anymore because the universe itself isn’t big enough to hold Him.

What will you do with Jesus Christ? I’m not talking about the baby lying on a manger. I’m talking about the Son of God who brings light and life.

Will you surrender to, and honor, the Son of God who entered this world as a tiny baby, but didn’t stay a baby? Then, during this Christmas season, will you purpose to tell someone else about your Savior?

We celebrate the birth of baby Jesus at Christmas, but He is more than a baby!

Complaints About Christmas
Complaints about Christmas

You may be reading this on Thanksgiving, but complaints about Christmas already abound. Have you heard them?

Christmas has become too commercial!

  • Actually, this one isn’t really new. Remember the 1947 classic movie, Miracle on 34th Street? More than 70 years ago, people were complaining about Christmas commercialism. One of my favorite quotes from that movie is:

“Yeah, there’s a lot of bad ‘isms’ floatin’ around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism. Make a buck, make a buck. Even in Brooklyn it’s the same–don’t care what Christmas stands for, just make a buck, make a buck.” ~ Alfred, the janitor at Macy’s in Miracle on 34th Street

Christmas is being ruined by the politically correct crowd!

  • “Merry Christmas” might offend someone, so how about “Happy Holidays”? If you don’t like that one, feel free to wish people a “Merry Coffee.” Yes, that phrase is now appearing on the cups of a certain national coffee chain.

We’ve lost the true spirit of Christmas!

  • What’s the true spirit of Christmas? Ask five people and you’ll receive six answers, and most of them are usually found in a Hallmark Christmas movie. The spirit of Christmas is Love. Giving. Family. In one Christmas movie, the spirit of Christmas is an actual spirit who hasn’t “crossed over” yet!

Perhaps you’ve shared these same complaints. Maybe you have a few of your own about the Christmas season.

We can dwell on the complaints or we can change our perspective and our behavior:

Instead of complaining about commercialism, just don’t buy into it (pun intended!). Declare your family gift exchange a “homemade zone.” All gifts must be homemade or services offered. No purchase required!

Instead of getting upset over politically correct greetings, extend a little grace. Perhaps the store employee is simply following her manager’s instructions. The next time someone wishes you a “Happy Holiday,” why not respond with a dose of kindness. I try to respond with, “Thank you. And if you celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas!”

And the true spirit of Christmas? I love those Hallmark movies as much as anyone, but they miss the boat on this one. The spirit of Christmas isn’t any of the things usually mentioned. The spirit of Christmas is Jesus! All those other things—love, giving, family—they’re all made so much better because of the birth of the One who came to restore us to our heavenly Father.

So as we enter the Christmas season, the next time we feel the urge to complain, let’s just flip it around. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution. Grumbling about “those people who are tarnishing our Christmas celebration” won’t win them over and will only reinforce negative stereotypes about Christians.

When we reflect Christ to a hostile world, we proclaim the real reason for the season. Let’s start today!

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