The words are familiar to us all, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” The tune is burned into our heads as we dutifully hum along while battling the hustle and bustle of short tempered crowds, eager to assuage the greedy expectations of friends and family on Christmas morning.
But if we’re honest, sometimes it might be a little difficult to remember why this is known as the season of joy.
Maybe we need to take a few minutes to open up our Bibles and pull together some verses that remind us again of the truth in those lyrics.
Luke 2:10-11 – “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great JOY to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!
There is JOY in the Presence of the Lord.
1 Chronicles 16:26-27 – The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the Lord made the heavens! Honor and majesty surround Him; strength and JOY fill His dwelling.
The Bible gives a lot of reasons for joy. It says there is joy in obedience, and joy in the special moments of life like weddings and the birth of a baby. If you look at the all the verses about joy, you’ll find that there is joy in wisdom, and in justice, and in the fear of the Lord.
But as I combed through the Bible looking at each verse that included the word joy, something really jumped out at me as a recurring theme. There is great joy in the presence of the Lord!
Now, before Jesus came to the world as a baby, the presence of the Lord was associated with things like the Ark of the Covenant, and the Temple of God in Jerusalem. These were the places in which He chose to reside.
Look at some of these verses that describe the joy the people of Israel felt when these vessels for the presence of the Lord were either built or restored to them.
The Joy in the Presence of the Lord in the Old Testament
1 Chronicles 15:28 – So all Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant with shouts of JOY, the blowing of ram’s horns and trumpets, the crashing of cymbals, and loud playing on harps and lyres.
1 Kings 1:40 – And all the people followed Solomon into Jerusalem, playing flutes and shouting for JOY. The celebration was so joyous and noisy that the earth shook with the sound.
Ezra 3:13 & 16 – The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance… The temple of God was then dedicated with great JOY by the people of Israel, the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the people who had returned from exile.
Our Joy is in the Presence of the Lord too!
Should it be any different for us, now that the presence of the Lord is no longer contained within physical structures of wood and stone? Surely the knowledge that His presence now indwells our very bodies, and the anticipation of an eternity spent with Him should inspire even more joy than an Ark or a Temple could muster!
Psalm 16:11 – You will show me the way of life, granting me the JOY of Your presence and the pleasure of living with You forever.
Psalm 68:3 – But let the godly rejoice. Let them be glad in God’s presence. Let them be filled with JOY.
Joy to the World, the Lord has Come!
But wait. Before we go too much further into the joy we have in knowing we’re never far from God’s presence, let’s talk a little bit about WHY that is true.
Matthew 2:10 – When they saw the star, they were filled with JOY!
The Bible tells us when the wise men saw the star announcing the coming of Messiah they were filled with joy! All creation had been waiting for this moment since that fateful moment when Adam’s teeth sank into the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
For thousands of years, the world had waited. Though God had walked in the garden with Adam and Eve, for millennia that abiding presence of God had been missing, and creation held it’s breath.
And then… the star!
Isaiah 52:8 – The watchmen shout and sing for JOY, for before their very eyes they see the Lord returning to Jerusalem.
JOY to the world, the Lord has come!!! Let earth receive her King!
It was indeed a joyous occasion, just as the angel had promised to Mary. And throughout Jesus’s life on earth we find that there was great joy in His presence. Even the Father Himself said on several occasions that His Son brought Him great joy.
And then there was the cross. The world found herself once again void of the presence of God.
The followers of Jesus mourned. Those who had been with Him were consumed with sadness when He was no longer there. Because there is NO joy in the absence of God!
The Joy of the Resurrection
The disciples didn’t understand yet what a wonderful thing they had just experienced. They didn’t know what the crucifixion of Jesus was just yet. That is, until something even more wonderful happened!
Jesus rose from the dead. That grave could not hold Him! As His followers once again found themselves in the presence of their Lord, they were filled with a joy we probably can’t even imagine.
Once again, the sentiment must have been, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King!”
John 20:20 – As He spoke, He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side. They were filled with JOY when they saw the Lord!
Luke 24:41 – Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with JOY and wonder…
Joy to the World, the Lord has Come!
The plans of God were not finished though. Not yet. The Lord HAD come, and He had conquered sin and death, but there were still many who belonged to God who had not yet come into His presence to experience the joy found there.
Because of His great love for us, God brought Jesus to heaven for a time, giving each of us the opportunity to be saved. But this time, He wasn’t leaving the world with the aching absence of His abiding presence.
This time, He sent His Holy Spirit to take up residence in our hearts. He indwells every man, woman, boy, and girl who will repent of their sin and turn to Him. And it didn’t just bring GREAT joy to the world. The Bible tells us that God, too, delights in His abiding presence among His people.
Acts 13:52 – And the believers were filled with JOY and with the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 – But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
18. Zephaniah 3:17 – For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with JOYful songs.
The JOY of Salvation
That’s right, our salvation brings joy, not just to us, but to God. When we repent of our sins, and turn to Him, the chasm that separates us from Him (which is created by our sin) is removed and we are once again free to enter His presence.
Psalm 32:1-2 – Oh, what JOY for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what JOY for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
Romans 5:1-2 – Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and JOYfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
1 Peter 1:8-9 – You love Him even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexplicable JOY. The reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls.
Isaiah 61:10 – I am overwhelmed with JOY in the Lord my God! For He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels.
Our Joy in Christ
Psalm 70:4 – But may all who search for You be filled with JOY and gladness in You. May those who love Your salvation repeatedly shout, “God is great!”
Psalm 65:4 – What JOY for those You choose to bring near, those who live in Your holy courts. What festivities await us inside Your holy Temple!
As we spend our lives in pursuit of Christ, asking the Holy Spirit to draw us in closer and closer, we will learn some interesting things about the joy that is ours in Christ.
First of all, we discover that time spent in the Word of God and in prayer is time spent in intimate fellowship with our Lord. It will truly bring us into His presence in a very personal way, and so it will produce great joy!
Jeremiah 15:16 – When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my JOY and my heart’s delight, for I bear Your name, oh Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.
But here is something REALLY cool about this New Testament age, and the reality of God’s presence in it. Because He indwells the hearts of His people, time spent with fellow members of the church, that is, the body of Christ, is time spent in the presence of God!!!! How awesome is that?
We can find SO MUCH JOY as we meet together within the church.
1 Thessalonians 3:9 – How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great JOY as we enter God’s presence.
Of course, the Bible also talks about the joy we have, as believers, to share in Christ’s suffering. It talks about having joy, even through trials. From the outside looking in, that seems a little crazy. But when we’re right down in the middle of God’s abiding presence, it makes a whole lot of sense.
Because, the deep down truth about the joy we have as followers of Christ is that it just isn’t about this place. Our joy comes from our confident hope in the reality that we WILL spend eternity… ETERNITY, you guys, in the presence of God.
And the presence of God in heaven will be something this world has not experienced since the fall. For it will not be simply the flesh-and-blood company of Jesus, as the world experienced for a time. Neither will it be exclusive to the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit, as we experience today.
Instead, on that glorious day, we will be welcomed into the presence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for all eternity!
1 Peter 1:6 – So be truly glad. There is wonderful JOY ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.
Jude 1:24 – Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great JOY into His glorious presence without a single fault.
So I leave you with this final verse, my friends, because we have SO MUCH in which to rejoice! Let there be joy to the world, the Lord has come, and He IS coming again!
Philippians 4:4 – Always be full of JOY in the Lord. I say it again – REJOICE!!!