Joy to the World is my favorite Christmas song. “Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing….”
I would sing it every Sunday during December if I could. But I limit myself to singing it as a congregational hymn on the Sunday before Christmas and as the benediction of the Christmas Eve service. I also make sure it is sung when our church has a Christmas Carol Sing.
Joy is one of the keynotes of the spiritual life. When the apostle Paul listed nine spiritual qualities of a Christian’s life he started his list with “love, joy, peace.” Those are the three dominant qualities that I experience in God.
Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness happens. Joy is. Happiness occurs when we believe things are going right in our lives. Joy is unconditional. Joy is always present. It is the substratum of life even in the most difficult of times.
The other day I was driving with my wife. I blurted out that I am happier than I have ever been in my life. That is not what I meant to say. I meant to say that I experience joy more now. Joy, peace and love flow like an ever-present river through my life.
Jesus describes the Life of God as a fountain of living water springing up to eternal life. It is a good description. Joy comes from within. It is not produced by anything that happens in the outside world. It rushes up from the eternal depths of the soul and flows up in a fountain of Spirit. My cup runneth over.
It has not always been this way for me. In the past I have been mired in what Bunyan calls the Slough of Despond. But one day I noticed that God’s peace, joy and love are always with me. Why not pay more attention to them, instead of living in the vicissitudes of life? In fact, why not live there permanently?
So I did. I moved in. I left my cramped living quarters of human thoughts and emotions and moved into God’s space. Jesus called it the Kingdom of God and his Father’s house. I prepared room for Him and found that he had prepared a room for me.
That is the meaning of Immanuel: God with us. We have the choice to live in God’s eternal Presence or in our own shabby finite dwellings. I choose God.
“No more let sin and sorrow grow, Nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found.” Too many people experience life as curse. They suffer unnecessarily. Life is joy. Heaven and earth sing it. Rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy. All we have to do is sing along.
Art is “Joy to the World” by Emelisa Mudle, Watercolor on Canvas. Here is her site.