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Written by Jim Jordal   
Wednesday, 17 December 2014

JOY TO THE WORLD

By Jim Jordal

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King. Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together before the LORD; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.”                                                    Psalm 98:4-9 KJV

It was Isaac Watt who arranged these powerful and beautiful words from Psalm 98 into the words of one of our favorite Christmas carols, Joy to the World. Today I’d like to bring into the present time even a small amount of the majesty that the writer of the Psalms attempted to bring us.

Notice that the joy surrounding the Advent is universal: It’s not just Christians, but “all the earth” singing for joy. The joy is expressed not only by singing, but also through other types of musical instruments. So next time you hear trumpets, tambourines, and stringed instruments in the House of God, rejoice, for your redemption draws near.

Consider also that it’s not only people singing for joy, but even the sea, the floods, and “they that dwell therein,” or the flora and fauna of creation. The prophet Isaiah was so overcome with this revelation of peace and joy that he exuberantly exclaimed, “the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

 And why is creation singing? It’s because “he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the earth, and the people with equity.” Some more doleful Christians view the term “judge” as being entirely negative in meaning and application, implying judgment before a tribunal and the imposition and execution of a sentence for sinful behavior. But the term also implies vindication for those falsely accused by rulers or religious authorities; strong litigation and pleading for helpless victims of tyranny;  and a government that contends, governs, and defends the vulnerable and powerless. So judgment has both negative and positive aspects.

In the same verse where Isaiah sees the overjoyed trees clapping their hands, he also indicates the source of this overwhelming joy: “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; for the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and the trees…” (Isa. 55:12).

So the source of this awesome joy is the long-awaited deliverance of God’s people, followed by the freeing from oppression of the entire creation. The greatest gift of all, which we celebrate and commemorate at Christmas, is the gift of God’s only Son and the deliverance he brings as he returns to take the throne of his kingdom. And all this was purchased at Calvary!

We are “going out” from oppressions of all types---sickness, abuse, poverty, injustice, crime, psychological, spiritual---all forms of oppression and affliction. And the last enemy that will be destroyed is the greatest---death itself.

So it seems we have much to rejoice over at this season of deliverance and joy. The gifts we give to each other are symbolic in nature. They are not Christmas, but symbols of it. So let’s think about this as we attend worship services, join with our loved ones in praise and thanksgiving, and ponder anew the majesty and power of the one God capable of providing “new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwells righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).

Whether this new earth will be literal or figurative, I don’t know. But whatever it is, it will be exactly what creation needs. If we define “righteousness” as right relationship, then the new earth will be filled with right relationships between God and humans, man and the earth, and people with people. Sounds like heaven on earth, doesn’t it!