A Joy-Filled Song

There are two distinct memories I have from Christmas concerts I was involved in as a kid.
In first grade, I remember standing on a stage with all my other classmates, all of us donning antlers and glowing red noses as we sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I think out of the group of forty, three were actually in some kind of tune. The rest of us? Well let’s just say we made a joyful noise for our parents to remember.

My second memory is of a concert in a very large church.  There was a children’s choir, an orchestra, a pipe organ, and the adult choir in the back. I can remember the whole audience standing for the last song, which was, “Joy to the World.” As we sang, I could literally imagine the angel’s chorus joining in as they used their wings to hover in the rafters of the church. I imagined that our audience wasn’t the people in the pews, but the Savior of the world who was the focus of our singing. And as I pictured Jesus listening to our song, I could see a smile on his face that wouldn’t quit.

In childhood, all the magic that Christmas can bring (from a jolly old man who brings you toys, sugar treats aplenty, to all the stories that put a twinkle in the eye of any child) serves up all kinds of joyful anticipation.  But as a follower of Jesus, the incarnation involving the God of the universe becoming a babe in a manger is to me the most joy producing truth in all of history.
In fact, did you know that the root form of the Greek word translated as “joy” is the same root word for “grace.” Some scholars suggest that because of this, true joy in a person’s life is when the grace of God is recognized. When we realize that the God of the universe loves us more than any wrong we could ever commit, and that at “just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly...God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5: 6, 8, NIV)
A God who becomes one of His own creation in order to save them? A God who would allow Himself to be beaten, spit on, and killed in the most gruesome way ever invented by human beings to prove to the universe that He actually is a God of love, He actually is good, and His love knows no bounds? It’s a grace that is hard to fathom, but as we try, the fruit produced in us in joy.
I know the holiday’s can be tough for so many of us. Some of us have lost loved ones recently, and spending the holidays without them is a special feeling of pain and emptiness. Others of us are experiencing the pain of broken relationships, the worry over financial hardships, the struggle of health concerns, and all other sorts of uncertainty.  
My prayer for all of us at this time of year, is that no matter what we’re going through, we could take time to tear our eyes off of our own circumstances, even if just for a moment, and reflect on the fuel that provides the true joy of the world, Jesus the Christ. Because one day, there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain and His own, nail-scarred hand, will wipe every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21: 4).

One day, we will recognize grace fully because we will look it in His face, and one day, all heaven and nature will join our voices and sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” Until then, let us hold each other up; help each other recognize the grace in our lives, and lean into joy. Peace be with you, and a very Merry Joy-filled Christmas to you and yours.
Paddy McCoy
Lead Pastor at Crosswalk Portland
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