Imagine that I invited you to my house for a Christmas party. When you arrived, I greeted you at the door with a cheerful hello and warmly welcomed you into my home. But as you hung out with the other guests, you might begin to wonder if we were truly celebrating Christmas. After all, when you looked around my house, you saw no Christmas tree, no ornaments, no wrapped gifts, no mistletoe, no Christmas stockings, no manger scene. You might be tempted to say that you were invited to a non-Christmas Christmas party! (By the way: my house IS fully decorated for the season!)
One of our 300-year-old Christmas carols sounds remarkably like my make-believe party. Joy To The World has no mention of angels, no wisemen, no manger, no nativity scene, no virgin birth, no star in the east. It seems like a non-Christmas Christmas carol!
That’s because at this time of year, Christians aren’t celebrating Christmas, but we’re celebrating Advent. Actually we’re celebrating both Advents.
Jesus was born in a Bethlehem manger (His First Advent), but He is also coming again to bring all of earth’s history to a close (His Second Advent). So we celebrate the First Advent, and then look with hopeful anticipation to the Second Advent. That’s exactly what Joy To The World does!
Each of the stanzas of this well-known hymn looks forward with joy to Christ’s ultimate fulfillment of all the prophesies of the Bible. The final joy comes when He reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But we can still live with joy right now!
The third stanza of this hymn says that Christ has come to make His blessings known far as the curse is found. The Apostle Paul says the same thing—sin used to reign, but the grace of God far exceeds the thorns of sin (see Romans 5:19-21; 6:8-12).
Our ultimate joy comes at the Second Advent of Christ when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
So the next time you hear the non-Christmas Christmas carol Joy To The World, be reminded that it’s not Christmas we are celebrating, but Christ’s First Advent. And it’s not some shapeless, indefinable future that awaits us, but we can live in the joy of anticipating Christ’s Second Advent.
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If you have missed any of the messages in our series The Carols Of Christmas, you can find the full list by clicking here.