Joy To The World
Dr. Wilt from “The Joyful Noise Letter” in the Dec. 2003 edition asked, “What is Joy? It is one of the most important things in the whole universe.” CS Lewis called it “The serious business of heaven.” Joy marks the difference between existing and living. Isn't that true my friends? When you go to a big city and sit on a bench, you see hundreds of people passing by. You can tell the difference between those with Joy in their eyes – they live for each moment. Then you see those whose light of Joy had gone out – they don't live, they exist. People will express their Joy for various reasons, but on this third Sunday in Advent, we feel like going out on the streets and sing out loud, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” Jesus is the real reason for Joy. Though a very small percentage of God's children are composers, we all can agree with what Johann Sebastian Bach expressed in the famous piece he wrote, “Jesu, Joy of man's desiring.” In Luke chapter 1 we read about a peasant girl, named Mary, who lived with the reality of oppression and hope that had gone unfulfilled. How could she and her people have rejoiced when their daily lives were filled with poverty and the hostility they endured? But then, something happened that placed a song of Joy in her heart. Mary had a visit like no one else could ever dream of having. It wasn't just a visit from a relative or a neighbour. No, it was a visit from heaven. God had sent the angel Gabriel with news of great Joy. She would have a child, even though she was still a virgin. Though Mary was confused about exactly how that was possible, she responded in faith, “May your word to me be fulfilled.” There was a second reason to rejoice – her relative Elizabeth was also going to have a child. That was to be a miracle in itself, because Elizabeth was of old age and said to be barren.
In this passage we first see that 1 We Have An Urge To Share God's Joy. We read in verses 39 and 40, “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.” Mary hurried to get to Elizabeth. She couldn't wait to share the Joy she felt in her heart. Isn't that true of any person? When we have good news, news of Joy, we want to be in touch with others as fast as we can, to share the news. People close to us should know about a new job offer or an engagement or someone who is coming to visit after years. Can you appreciate with me that to share Joy in God is far more special? Mary hurried to Elizabeth not because it was woman’s talk she wanted to share. It was God's promise and blessings upon herself and her relative that she wanted to talk about. There was no doubt in Mary's heart whether Elizabeth was going to believe her about the Joy of being the mother of the Saviour of the world. Elizabeth was prepared for sharing in the Mary's Joy. You see, the way God prepared her was that she herself became pregnant and that in an advanced age. But then there is something very precious we read in this passage about Mary's visit to Elizabeth. We find it in verse 41a, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb...” Can we ever fathom the greatness of God? We can never understand in what mysterious ways He works. An unborn John the Baptist, expressed from within his mother's womb his Joy about the coming of the Saviour of the world. We feel like expressing with Paul from Romans 11: 34, “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” Just try to comprehend this reality – God can make an unborn child to bring praises to Him.
There was another person with a strong response to God's Joy. We find it in verses 41b and 42,”...and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the Child you will bear!” She couldn't stop to rejoice because of the promise of God that was going to be fulfilled. And we have to appreciate the fact that the birth of her own child wasn't what she was thinking about at that moment. No, it was the Baby of her relative she thought of – Jesus, the Saviour. Truly, Mary's Joy, was Elizabeth's Joy.
My friends, what about our Joy? Can we look beyond Covid-19 or natural disasters or severe changes that came over the last year or two. There was a woman whose child died in a car accident in 1986 and she muttered at the funeral service – “The flame of my joy has gone out forever.” She still hasn't found a reason for joy to this day. For many Christmas will come and go and they won't be filled with the only true Joy – the Joy of Jesus. Are you 100% sure that it's His Joy you feel and His Joy you have the urge to share with others?
2 Mary's Joy expressed Praises To God. Verse 46 and 47, And Mary said: 'My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior'...” Mary’s heart was filled with Joy to God and she expressed that Joy in a song of worship of Old Testament scriptures. Her song wasn't based on some feeling of what she thought the Lord might be like or what she wanted Him to be. She sang a song based on the truth of His character. He is all knowing, mighty, holy and merciful. When Mary said, “My soul glorifies the Lord”, she used a word in the Greek that is very interesting. It is the word “megaluno” and it literally means, “to make larger.” Here it means to make great with words. She was saying, “My soul is making the Lord bigger and bigger in His position of honour in my life.” There is something we have to qualify – there is nothing you and I can do to make God bigger through our words. I don't think that's what Mary meant. What she wanted to bring across was, “May God become bigger and bigger in my life!” You know, that has to become a reality in all the lives of God's children. It's about God in very single detail of our lives. It's about Him when we celebrate Christmas. It's foremost about “Glory to God in the highest” and only then “...and on earth peace to all men on whom His favour rests.” My friends, our worship is about God – we pray to Him, the sermon is about Him, our praises is to Him and not about how well we sound when we sing. Our purpose in life is to live to the glory of God and to express Joy to Him.
We find with Mary 3 Reasons For Joy in Luke 1.
* Her spirit rejoices in God her Saviour. With her we rejoice that God sent Jesus to save us. Christmas isn't about sentiments – it's about the Saviour Who came to die for us.
* Mary rejoiced because God was mindful of her humble state. Do we fathom that we aren't really to be mentioned in the same sentence as God? We can never be compared to Him, but He made us His children.
* Mary had Joy in her heart for the fact that all generations would call her blessed. She was the one God had chosen to give birth to the Saviour of the world. We can claim that too, because we are a part of the chosen people of God, the church Jesus assembled for Himself. We are a royal priesthood in His presence, not just in this life, but the life to come. Doesn't that fill your heart with Joy?
* Mary expressed that God shows mercy to those who fear Him and feed the hungry. How true that is! Those who show reverence for God are visited by Him and blessed in abundance. How greatly has He provided in our lives from birth to this point in time!
My friends, there is something every single one of us will agree on – Joy To The World isn't just ancient words in a song. No, the world can truly celebrate Joy The coming of Jesus revealed the heart of God to us. We praise our Father for sending His Son and in Him we can always affirm, “Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say, rejoice.”
Rev. Willem H. van de Wall