One of my very favorite Christmas carols is the song, “Joy to the World.” I like it because it speaks of hope, “Let earth receive her king,” and joy, “Repeat the sounding joy.” It’s the perfect song for the Christmas season because it represents well the hope and joy of the Christ child born to save mankind from eternal sin and death.
In a world marred by the ravages of sin, the promising sounds of hope and joy are welcome to most ears. These are things that the people of the world need to hear and experience over the sounds and encounters of anger and disappointment. The world has enough opportunity for failure, Jesus came so that we might experience greater things.
When we hear of the world in Scripture, its usually in relation to the sin found in it. As a consequence of this sin, we are given warnings like 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. “
“The world” in this context has nothing to do with God’s creation but of what happens upon it. “The world” represents the fall into sin and the evil that is present in our mortal lives. It stands for those who search for joy, not in Jesus Christ but in the false gods of our own making.
The world signifies the many things that are opposed to God, those things that separate us from Him. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). The world hates godly things because the devil is its prince. Rather than worship God, it chooses to worship worldly pleasures devoid of any relationship worthy of salvation.
The world tries to find its joy in possessions, sensual pleasures, and position. But these things rarely bring true joy because they are fleeting and unreliable. Millionaire Jay Gould’s dying words were, “I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth.” Lord Byron, well known for His love of sensual pleasures is the one who wrote, “The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone.” And Lord Beaconsfield, a man of high position wrote, “Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.”
All these men learned that enduring joy cannot be found in the world apart from the one true God. They did not heed the words of Romans 12:2 that warn us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. They failed to come to understand that friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4).
They ignored also that, even though we are citizens of the world, we don’t have to be imitators of it. Yes, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), but those who place their hope and trust in God don’t have to obey his demands. Our God is greater than anything the devil might do to get us to knell at his throne. He is mightier than anything his minions might use to pull us off the path to salvation. He is more trustworthy than any of the false promises of the world and its representatives. And He is filled with compassion for those who fall for the charms of those who live in worldliness.
Even though the world has fallen, God’s love for it has never tarnished in the least. Even though the world has chosen in many ways to abandon its relationship with God, He has never stopped reaching out for us. Though we have given Him every reason to end His relationship with us, he has never stopped loving us, even sacrificing His own Son so that we might be saved.
That is why we sing “Joy to the World.” That is why we still cling to hope. That is why the Christ child still stands for freedom and mercy. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).
The choice is yours to be a citizen of the world or a citizen of the Kingdom of God. The one is very easy but the other takes much more effort. Because of sin, worldliness comes naturally, but God is always there to save us from ourselves. Trust in Him to lead you from the challenges of the world to the hope and joy He has promised you. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, we pray that the world and those in it, including ourselves, would place their hope and trust in you so that we might all experience the joy of Your presence. Amen.