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Joy To The World

December 24, 2021 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
December 25, 2021
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Christmas Day
Joy To The World

On July 17, 1674 Isaac Watts, the godfather of English hymnody, was born in England; and is credited with writing 750 hymns. We know some of them: When I Survey The Wondrous Cross, Our God Our Help In Ages Past, and today’s unparalleled hymn Joy To The World.

Watts took, what was at that time, a new approach to both hymnody and the Psalms. Until that time the singing of the Psalms was done verbatim and any interpretation was looked on with suspicion. But Watts insisted that the Psalms should be sung with their Christian meaning. And thank God for that because the Psalms, as is the entire Old Testament, are Christian worship.

Our hymn, Joy To The World, was fashioned from Psalm 98 which begins:

Oh 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.
The LORD has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is himself the New Song, and the right hand, and holy arm of God who accomplished salvation for us.

Some historians propose that Joy To The World is not a Christmas hymn at all, but that Watts had the Lord’s 2nd coming in mind. This is speculation but in the end it does not matter because there is no appreciable difference between the Lord’s birth, his entrance into his church each Sunday in Word and Sacrament, and his final return. All three of these appearances are part of the same constellation.

In Hebrews 9:28 we learn this difference: “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. We are those people!

And our waiting is marked by our regular Holy Communion with him in which we obtain the benefits of his birth; and which at the same time serves as a “foretaste of the Feast to come.”

The opening verse is dynamite. For it is not only a wish, or even just a prayer, but a benediction to the world to put aside our “present sufferings” (Rom, 8:18) for the Lord is come! And an admonition to the earth to “receive her king.”

Whereas there was no room for him in the inn of Bethlehem Isaac Watts teaches: every heart prepare Him room.

Yes, let every heart, every home, every nation and every earthly institution join heaven and all of nature in singing the praises of the Incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. For if men do not praise him, Jesus tells, the very rocks of the ground will be fitted with eyes, and ears, and mouths and minds, to rise up and praise him.

It is a little known fact these days that from 1807 till 1857, with the full approval of the U.S. congress, Christian worship services were held each Sunday in the nation’s capitol building and that Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both worshiped there.

May America, and all her people, once again recover their Christian heritage, for nothing will make this world a better place than that all men should turn to Christ, to be enlightened, inspired, and redeemed by him. By his incarnation, life, death and resurrection.

It is also a little known fact. as Watts writes in verse 2, that the Savior Jesus the Savior reigns as earth’s sovereign, king and monarch.

Now biblically speaking anyone who rules over another is known as a king, be he president, prime minister of nations, the mayors of a small town, or the head of a business or household. However let all kings remember that they, too, have a king to whom they are answerable, to Jesus who is the King of kings. The Sovereign of all sovereigns. And that when he returns: Every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bend – either willingly or unwillingly, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Let it be known today by the church’s combined voice, in the words of a 300 year old hymn that: He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove “the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love.” But his righteousness and love by which he rules, are only perceptible at this time by the eyes of faith.

And so this Christmas the church’s prayer is nicely stated in verse 3 of our hymn:

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,

If you remember, when Adam sinned God cursed not only cursed him and the woman, but also the ground, which till that time worked in full cooperation with man. But with the coming of sin, comes death also, and now Adam would work hard to plant, by the sweat of his brow, but all that he planted would come up thorns. Now this is emblematic of our whole lives.

We have our hopes, our ambitions, and we pour ourselves into them, but no matter how careful we are, finally, everything comes up as thorns. Our good intentions, our marriages, our children, our culture and institutions. But things are not hopeless.

Not hopeless because when our Lord came into the cosmos to redeem us he was born of woman who rises from the dust of the earth. He was crowned with thorns that shot up from the earth, and nailed to a tree that sprouted from the earth. Then finally he himself was planted in the earth, but unlike Adam the man of dust, this Second Man Christ Jesus sprang forth to bring man’s curse to an end. And that is what we celebrate with great joy, and song this Christmas season.

Things look pretty dim to Christians this Christmas Day. It seems that day by day Christ is excluded from the world. But don’t believe it. The church’s prayer has not gone unanswered.

A secular institution such as the Cuyahoga County Library announces on its sign: Closed December 24th and 25th for Christmas.

And in a show of returning common sense an official of the DeWine administration recently wrote that with this new wave of corona virus the govt. would not be legislating what people must do, but that each person should take responsibility to do the right thing.

Sixty years ago this would not seem unusual, but against the present Christo-phobic backdrop of the day it is a dazzling sign that Christ our God still rules the world with truth and grace. And so let the church continue to pray for the world, so that Joy may fill every field, flood, rock, hill and plain. Amen.