Have you ever found yourself at work, and wondered how you got there? Or tried to give someone directions to a place you visit often, and found yourself struggling to remember the details of how it happens?
It is so easy to slip into autopilot, and let the wonders of the world pass us by.
In the Christmas season, we swaddle evergreen trees in lights and crown them with a star or an angel, then quit seeing them – forgetting how they point to the coming of the Eternal Light of the World. We pay lip-service to gifts being shadows of the Great Gift, but are quickly so distracted by the hustle and bustle of the season that we have checklists and reminders for every gift except the love-gift of the Only Begotten.
In regards to the music, there are two kinds of people: those who have a Christmas Pandora station they listen to all year, and those who cry “Humbug!” and start listening to talk radio when KSBJ switches over at Thanksgiving. But the words, preserved for centuries for their wisdom and beauty, slide over both groups on auto-pilot.
Let me lovingly challenge you to pay a little closer attention. Joy to the World was written in 1719 by Isaac Watts (who also penned When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed?), but it retains its power. It comes from Psalm 98, and was originally intended as a hymn about the second coming, but obviously still speaks powerfully to the work which He began in the first.
Joy to the world!the Lord is come;Let earth receive her KingLet ev’ry heartPrepare Him roomAnd heav’n and nature sing
How many times have you heard these words this year? Have you considered that, although we criticize those who made “no room in the inn” for the newborn King, that there is little room in most of our hearts for Him? How much less is there room to sit, pray and meditate on His person in our busy Christmas season! There are things to do! There are Instagram pictures to filter and Facebook posts to write so everyone will know what a joyous stress-free holiday we are having! I would like to go to church on Christmas Eve, but my family is coming into town and I have so many people to cook for and — It all comes down to a failure to prepare Him room.
Joy to the earth!The Savior reignsLet men their songs employWhile fields and floodsRocks, hills and plainsRepeat the sounding joy
I mentioned in church last week how, when God sent Jonah to Nineveh, there is an interesting paradox. The Ninevites obeyed God, the big fish obeyed God, the storms obeyed God, the pagan sailors obeyed God, the gourd obeyed God and the scorching wind obeyed God. Everyone obeyed God but Jonah. As the leaves fall and the grass dies, all nature sings out to the God who brings new life through His Son. The fields and the hills sing His praises, but His children are silent. There is so much to do! Isaiah 1:3, a prophecy fulfilled when Jesus was born between the animals and ignored by the rulers, still condemns us.
No more let sins and sorrows growNor thorns infest the groundHe comes to make his blessings flowFar as the curse is found
Recall how thorns were part of the curse in Genesis 3 and how the pain of our sin became His crown. Jesus has come, and His glory is ready to heal everywhere the curse has scarred. For the brokenness and chaos of your life, the sinful idolatry of your priorities, the deadness in your heart: Jesus is the only answer.
He rules the world with truth and graceAnd makes the nations proveThe glories of His righteousnessAnd wonders of His love
Jesus is enthroned today at the right hand of God. Because He fulfilled with incredible precision His promise to come the first time, we know He is coming again. The Kingdom that grows in hearts today will encompass the nations with His second advent, and all the power of sin will be broken once and for all. That is much more exciting than a new vacuum cleaner or tablet. The King has come, and He is coming!
How will you regain the real source of joy this holiday? I hope you can join us for some stillness and worship at 10:15 on Sunday.
Merry Christmas – but let’s take it off auto-pilot,