Joy to the World: Cookies & Carols Sermon

Joy to the World: Cookies & Carols Sermon

(The following is the sermon [somewhat edited] I gave at our Cookies & Carols event in Naperville in Dec 2106)

Good evening everyone. My name is Tom, and I am a pastor of Cross of Christ Fellowship, the church hosting tonight’s Carol Service; our church meets here on Sunday mornings at 9:30; if you would like more information about us, please be sure to sign up at the back.
Tonight we are going to spend a few minutes considering the Christmas carol: JOY TO THE WORLD.

FIRST, LET’S PRAY. You can see the lyrics of the carol in your bulletins. Joy to the World was written by Isaac Watts, an English hymn writer, and was first published in 1719. It has been a favorite to many over the years and today.  Feel free to follow along in your bulletin:

Verse 1
Joy to the world! The Lord is 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.


Verse 2
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.

Verse 3
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.

 

Verse 4
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.

If we had to use one word to summarize the theme of this carol it would be JOY. This carol is about joy, namely, the joy we experience in the presence and care of Christ our God and King. It is an invitation to enter into that joy, to join in w/all Creation!  Tonight, let’s consider 3 things from the Carol:
1. Christ brings true joy 2. Christ defeats what steals our joy 3. Living under Christ as King is Joyful.

1 Christ Brings TRUE Joy

Maybe you’re not a Christian and you are here tonight. We are THRILLED you are here. It is important for you to know first this: Christianity is not about keeping rules in an attempt to earn our way into heaven. It is not about trying to be a moral or good person. Rather, the heart of the Christian Faith is experiencing, treasuring, and knowing the one true and Living God who made us and loves us. The Bible, in Ps 42:4, describes God as our “exceeding joy” (Ps 43:4). Knowing God brings joy to our hearts, in fact better than anything we could experience. God is our exceeding joy.

Yet joy itself is a hard concept to define. What is it exactly? C.S. Lewis the author of Chronicles of Narnia defines joy as a “pleasurable longing.” It is an aching in our hearts for God, but it’s a good kind of ache, the kind you want. Sometimes joy is accompanied with moments of thrill, delight, and wonder, but it can be present even when we are sad or discouraged.  You and I were made to experience this joy.

Our carol begins with an invitation to take part in this joy: it says “Joy to the World the Lord is come! Here we see here a call to enter into joy. And the reason is this: “THE LORD IS COME!” That is, God Himself has come to earth. This is what the Bible teaches, the Lord Jesus, the eternal Son, God Himself came to us; he took on flesh as the God Man and dwelt among us. For hundreds of years the people of God waited for their Savior to come, and now He has finally arrived in Jesus! And not only has he come, he is also a good King who reigns and care for his people. This leads to more joy! And this joy bursts out singing, and the imagery here is of God’s people and even Creation singing because of the wonderful joy we have in Christ.

Our carol also reminds us that this joy is experienced in the heart. It says “Let every heart prepare him room.” This speaks of the reality that if we are to have a relationship with God, it must be experienced in our hearts as we receive Christ as Lord and treasure him. The Christian has a relationship with God and loves Him in his heart. I first experienced when I became a Christian at 18.

What about you, have you experienced the joy of knowing Christ in your heart? Is church something you do because you are supposed to do, or because Christ is your treasure?

2 Christ defeats what steals our joy (v 3)

The Bible teaches that joy no longer comes naturally to us. Something has gone TERRIBLY wrong. We seek joy in all the wrong places or find our hearts thrill in that which is selfish, dark, and evil. We don’t want God. The Bible teaches us that this is because of SIN, which is the enemy of true joy. Sin is turning away from God and His ways for our life. It is to choose self above God. The ways of sin might bring a fleeting pleasure, but actually they only lead to sorrow and death. Sin cuts us off from the life of God and all that He has for us, it closes our hearts so that we don’t want to experience the line “let every heart prepare Him room.” It makes it so we only have room for self and self-interest. Ultimately, sin destroys us and robs us of experiencing joy.

Yet, the third verse of our carol reminds us of how Christ defeats sin and rescues us to experience joy in God. This verse contains a plea and a hope. First, there’s a plea. The plea is that “No more let sins and sorrows may no longer grow, nor thorns infest the ground.” Here is a plea to see an end to sin, which brings sorrow and destroys us and the world. Sin leads to sorrow. Sin also leads to God’s good and right judgment of sin, which is where the imagery of thorns infesting the ground appears, which is an allusion to Genesis 3. Thus, we have here a plea for God’s mercy and restoration and rescue from sin.

But the verse is not only a plea, it is also a hope. The hope is this, “He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found.” The “he” here is refers to Jesus, who came to make things right and bring life where there was death, and light where there was darkness. He did this through his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus, who never sinned, came and defeated sin, and sorrow, and death. How did he do this: by dying for sinners on a cross. He paid the penalty for our sins and died in our place. He took the judgment we deserved! This was an astonishing act of love, he died for you and me! He didn’t do this because we earned it but because He is kind and loves us. And after he died, Jesus rose again from the grave and 40 days later ascended into heaven. Now, all who admit their rebellion against God and place their faith in Jesus are made spiritually alive and forgiven of sin. The curse of sin, the penalty, the condemnation are removed! Now blessing flow and JOY enters in.

So even though sin steals our joy, we can have hope in this objective truth: Jesus defeated sin and gives us the gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

3 Living Under Christ as King is Joyful (4)

What is life like under the care and rule of Christ? It is joy experienced in truth and grace. Our 4th verse begins “He rules the world with truth and grace.” This speaks to our present experience under Christ’s rule and reign. He brings us into truth, so that we can know how things really are. Yet he is gracious to us, as one who is gentle and merciful. This leads to fresh joy and wonder.

Yet the carol closes with this line about Christ: “he makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love.” What does this mean? It refers to the spread of the gospel around the world and the fact that Christ as King is subduing proud and arrogant hearts. He is doing this as individuals hear the message of Jesus and become Christians. Their lives are changed and they seek to bring about truth and grace in the world. In this, the world sees the righteousness of Christ and more and more marvel at the wonders of His love.

Do you know this joy? Have you experienced the wonder of knowing Christ and living under his care? We urge you: don’t leave tonight without experiencing this joy. Come to the Lord Jesus, place your faith and hope in him. Admit you are a sinner, trust in Christ who saves sinners like us.
And if you are a Christian but are not part of a local church, join us on a Sunday morning here at the Dupage Children’s Museum.

Christian, husband of Rach, Church Planter,musician,

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