Joy to the World: Part 1—A World of RISING SADNESS

Joy to the World!
How Can JESUS Be the JOY for THIS World?

General Overview of the Series

Will Christmas 2022 fulfill for you the angel’s promise of “good tidings of great joy that shall be for all people” (Luke 2:10)? Or might it prove to be something somewhat less than that?

The dictionary defines JOY this way:

The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; a source, a cause, or a person of keen delight or greatly valued.

How about for the world at large? Can God’s eternal Son, coming in the flesh as humankind’s Redeemer, truly unleash in today’s world what the angels promised the shepherds would be a GREAT JOY?

I intend to answer that question with my four-part Christmas 2022 blog series. Together, we’ll confront four troubling realities in our generation that challenge the truths of the verses in the universally loved Christmas Carol “Joy to the World.”

Where are we headed? Here are the topics I’ll be exploring with the carol’s verses that apply to each one:

(1) A World of RISING SADNESS:
How Can Jesus Be the Joy HERE?
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains,
repeat the sounding joy . . .
How Can Jesus Be the Joy HERE?
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 . . .
How Can Jesus Be the Joy HERE?
He rules the world with truth and grace
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness
and wonders of his love . . .
How Can Jesus Be the Joy HERE?
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
let every heart prepare him room
and heaven and nature sing . . .

Part 1
A World of
How Can Jesus Be the Joy HERE?
David Bryant

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains,
repeat the sounding joy . . .

Increasingly, “sadness” in its various forms appears to mark this generation of Americans, even at—maybe especially at—Christmastime.

Scrutinizing the Sadness

Recent research analyzed more than 150,000 popular songs over the past 50 years. It was discovered that the use of the word “love” was cut by 50% while negative words like “hate” took its place. One conclusion: This is sign of a general, pernicious unhappiness.

Another study of 23 million headlines from nearly 50 major news sources over the past 20 years found that negativity grew exponentially, highlighting words like anger, fear, and disgust. In fact, our culture’s growing disillusionment and discontent with where we are—90% of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction—seems to be at the root of a wide-spreading despondency and despair.

No wonder another national study of the past two decades revealed that the share of Americans who put themselves in the lowest happiness category increased by more than 50%—and that was pre-COVID. Subsequently, the numbers have grown by millions more.

I was made keenly aware of these disturbing trends in a November column by the social commentator David Brooks in his well-researched article “The Rising Tide of Global Sadness.” And yes, this phenomenon is found not only in our nation but throughout the earth.

Brooks suggests that part of the problem is a decline of the sense of “community,” with many people confessing debilitating loneliness. Another factor is the growth of world hunger, including among millions in our own land. And with that comes the grievous impact of declining health worldwide, with 45% of those surveyed confessing they live with daily pain.

Or consider the oppressive experience of over one million COVID deaths in just the past two years—which directly or indirectly dampens all our spirits.

Let’s also not forget how the news on climate change bombards us daily with a sense of foreboding and hopelessness about the future of the entire human race.

And possibly as happiness-robbing as any other trend is the bitterness, division, confusion, and anxiety that has enveloped all of us Americans as we continue to breathe the toxic air of our political dysfunctionality, paralysis, and warfare.

One more illustration: Brooks identifies the widening economic inequality—not in spite of but because of the global growth in GDP—producing the intensifying pressure of more acute misery, discontent, and desperation for the 80% of American society at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale.

On top of that, multitudes of Americans have lost much of their retirement savings with recent stock market dives, exacerbated by the crippling curse of rising inflation.

The combination of these factors, Brooks concludes, is “shattering the emotional health” of many in America this Christmas season.

Does singing “Joy to the World” today mock us?

Into the arena of this “rising tide of sadness” stride the words written in 1719 by the English minister and hymnwriter Isaac Watts, whose lyrics are an interpretation of Psalm 98 to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ:

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains,
repeat the sounding joy.

According to this verse, the immediate effect of the reign of earth’s Savior is to motivate all of creation, but most of all those made in God’s image, to raise songs of celebration that cause JOY to echo and re-echo among us—repeatedly, unceasingly. This is precisely what God calls for in Psalm 98 when it commands (emphasis added):

Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him . . . all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, shout for joy before the LORD, the King . . . let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.

Here we see a joy that does not begin inside our hearts but rather rises from outside ourselves—out of God’s mighty, saving, victorious works. Note these declarations: done marvelous things; worked salvation; before the Lord, the King; he comes to judge; with righteousness; with equity.

It is only as we behold the wonders God has performed on behalf of earth’s peoples, causing his righteous purposes to prevail, that the joy surrounding God’s throne arrives to abide within our lives as well.

Of course, as Isaac Watts understood, along with Christians of all ages, the truths of Psalm 98 have been fulfilled beyond what the psalmist could have ever imagined by the advent of our Savior Jesus, recounted every December.

In fact, it is Christ’s kingship that secures for us every reason to rejoice and sing—to do so to the ends of the earth. As 1 Peter 1 reports about the believers under his ministry (emphasis added):

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

And Romans 5 declares this about every Jesus follower, even in and especially in a day when there’s a “rising tide of sadness” all around us (emphasis added):

through Christ we have gained access by faith into God’s grace in which we now stand. And therefore, we rejoice in the hope of seeing even more of the glory of God.

The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that “Jesus’ name is not so much written as ploughed into the history of the world.” This is certainly true the more we heed Scripture to “rejoice, and again I say rejoice—the Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4). Joy in the ascended Lord Jesus Christ is being “ploughed” into our very beings every day by the Holy Spirit, who fills us with exuberance with no limits as we walk with our Lord. See Galatians 5:22-23.

The angels that appeared to the shepherds on the miraculous night Jesus was born proclaimed that their “glad tidings” were about “a great joy.” Why did they say this? The answer comes in the next breath: “unto you is born this day in the city of David a SAVIOR who is CHRIST the LORD.” From that hour to this moment—despite all people may suffer, fear, or grieve, and despite all our disappointments and disillusionments—nothing less than “a great joy” continues to be plowed into the lives of believers as more and more of Jesus is revealed to us to produce in us a life of unending praise.

What gives the world its truest joy?
“The Lord has come!”

I suggest we each take a few moments this Christmas to meditate on these five questions:

  • What qualities about the person of our reigning Redeemer give you a significant measure of happiness whenever you think about them?
  • What insights into all Christ has done for us cause you to overflow with “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5)?
  • What promises of God fulfilled by the reign of his dear Son lead you to swell with thanksgiving to him?
  • What is there about the greatness, glory, and goodness of Jesus that so thrills you that, in turn, you want to share this with others, inviting them to share with you in your joy?
  • How would you define the kind of “joy to the world” you are praying that the Lord Jesus Christ would become for fellow Americans around you during Christmas 2022?

Next step? Expand your joy in Jesus by spending a few minutes a day this month viewing some of CHRIST NOW’s short video clips introducing you to a host of reasons to “repeat the sounding joy” throughout these days and on into the new year. Visit our unique YouTube channel HERE.

Let me close with joyful words from Ephesians 1, written not just for you and me but to become the JOY our Father offers to the whole world in his Son (from The Message, emphasis added):

How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love . . . decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!)

He wanted us to enter into the CELEBRATION of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son . . . He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making . . . It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.

Hallelujah! Repeat the sounding joy!

About the Author

Over the past 45 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to and Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ Awakening movements. Order his widely read books at Enjoy his regular Daily CHRIST TODAY podcast.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Similar Posts

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?