Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music. Psalm 98:4
Since this is Christmas monologue Sunday I thought I would remind you of last year’s monologue. Not that you need reminding, of course, as I’m sure it is seared in your brain, but I did a characterization of Isaac Watts, the famous 18th-century hymn-writer, whose most famous hymn (or one of the few anyway) was Joy to the World. What’s interesting about a person whose swansong was about joy, lived a life of struggle. Watts dealt with infirmities all his life, often leading to mental stress. Though he served as a pastor, his condition got to the point that he had to give up his duties. This took a toll on his physical appearance. The only woman he loved broke off their engagement saying, “I loved the jewel, I just didn’t admire the case that contained it.” Watts never married.
Yet, his magnum opus was about joy. What a conundrum it is that many of the greatest songwriters, inventors, leaders, heroes of history were/are people who faced significant challenges. From orphans to abandonment to disability to failure, many people discover joy out of these experiences. Christmas reminds us of God’s power to bring joy to the world that is not in denial of difficulty but in spite of it. Knowing the backstories of hymns like Joy to the World, we can accept our setbacks and challenges as gifts in very good disguise, or at least the packages that can open to amazing discoveries.
In the traditional services on Christmas Eve we will sing Joy to the World just like we do at the concerts. It is nearly bombastic in its triumphal quality. It boldly declares that Christmas brings joy in the face of our adversities and says, “Stand down! You are not in charge here!”
Joy to the world, the Lord IS come!