I am unashamedly a Christian, a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a conservative, a constitutionalist, a Vietnam veteran, and a lover of Freedom. Therefore, when I write about political things, I frequently include the biblical as the foundation for my observations and opinions. Some find that refreshing, and some find it akin to fingernails on the chalkboard. I do not ask that everyone agree with my views, only that I will be granted the opportunity and freedom to express them without censorship. I desire that for those on the Left and those on the Right.
There are Christians who celebrate Christmas and those who do not. The reasons for celebrating or not celebrating are varied. I do not wish to engage in a debate on that front. I am concerned about America and the world and the obvious drift or shift from our traditional moral moorings to a more humanistic and godless position. That shift has dramatically damaged the pillars of freedom recognized by our founders. I believe they understand the value and indispensableness of God’s providence in securing Freedom as a republic.
We sing many Christmas carols or songs at this time of the year. Some of them may not have initially been intended to be included in the caroling season of the Christmas celebration. One, in particular, has been written not as a Christmas song but as a plea for Freedom and Justice. I will give a brief explanation in the paragraphs to follow.
We sing “Silent Night,” a beautiful reminder of the night of Jesus’ birth and the meaning of that event. We sing “It’s A Most Wonderful Time of the Year” to illustrate the Joy that overflows in many hearts this season. We sing “Joy to the World,” a powerful and beautiful song. However, it seems that Isaac Watts did not pen this song as a Christmas song.
For much of the Christian world, the first Sunday in December marks the first day of Advent, the four weeks preceding Christmas. Many use that time as a period of introspection and reflection on their lives and relationship with the Savior. For some, it is a period of intense longing and even repentance. It is designed to be a time for people to prepare their hearts for the coming Messiah by reemphasizing why we need a Savior. We look to the event on Christmas, the birth of Jesus, as the day when Hope comes to mankind in a tangible way.
There was a time when Christians spent time fasting during this season as they sought to right their hearts, lives, and attitudes linking them with God in total surrender. Today, fasting has given way to feasting, and rather than seeking to unite with God; many seek their own desires. In today’s world, often reflected in politics, the desire is wealth and power. Thus, the reason for the season is lost or takes a backseat to self and self-centeredness. Politicians seek power. Citizens seek personal prosperity. The season has become a commercial segway to the next opportunity for entrepreneurial endeavors.
In the 18th century, when Isaac Watts served as pastor of a local congregation, he was very much a nonconformist in London. He and those following him and those of like ideology and conviction were longing desperately for goodness to prevail and justice to reign in human hearts as well as human governments. That longing inspired Watts to write “Joy to the World.“
It is important to remember that religious freedom was not allowed during Watt’s day, as we have enjoyed it in more modern times. The established church and the government disallowed the ability to follow one’s conscience and worship God according to the dictates of their heart. There existed a rigidity that dictated what acceptable thought, speech, and patterns of worship were. Some religious hierarchies and the federal government seek that condition in this modern world. Thus, we, too, long for goodness to prevail, hate to dissipate, and justice to become a norm. It is not just at Christmas that this is needed but throughout the year.
Isaac Watts was a brilliant man, but because he was not part of the authorized, established, and recognized church, he could not attend Oxford or Cambridge. He penned his song based on Psalm 98 and from a broken heart as he longed for true freedom, religiously, socially, and politically to prevail. He saw the devolution of the human heart and longed for God’s restoration.
You know the words well:
Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let Earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
The Psalm reveals that all creation sings or will sing praises to the true King, the Creator of all things, the Living God! He used beautiful poetic language describing the rivers clapping their hands and the mountains singing. The earth was joyous because the King of all Creation was a good, righteous, honorable, and just ruler. He rules “in righteousness and the people with equity.” What a thought and reality that is absent from human governments and too many hearts today.
That was the theme of his final verse:
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His Love,
And wonders, wonders, of His Love.
If we open our eyes, we see a world in chaos and disorder on virtually every front. If we open our hearts, we realize the absence of love that is so powerful that it quells argument and hate. If we open our spirits, we realize that we need something far more significant than ourselves and our ability; we need God. The world is broken, and the only fix is a return to God and embracing the real reason for Christmas.
“Joy to the World” and many other songs we sing at this time of the year focus on Hope! Not the hope that comes through human ability, intelligence, creativity, or labor. It is the Hope that is only found in the Peace of God. This hope cannot come through human kings or rulers. It is found only in God; if we look back to the event of Advent and the birth of Jesus, we can Hope again.
I pray that all of us will pause in our political wranglings and arguments and reflect on humanity’s greatest need, Jesus and Salvation! We will never be enough, do enough, or know enough to bring peace to this world. That peace can only come through the Prince of Peace.
I pray that as we sing Christmas songs or carols when we come to Joy to the World, we will reflect on the need for moral sanity and godliness and seek the only true source of Peace – Jesus!
MERRY CHRISTMAS! I pray that your celebrations will be joyous, and as you enter the New Year, you will discover the power and place of Love and enjoy the Peace of God that surpasses all human understanding. Instead of hating those who disagree, let’s seek to demonstrate the Love of God, and then Christmas can be extended to the entire year.
God bless you, and God bless America!