"Joy to the world" and "Rejoice, Rejoice" are common lyrics in our ears around this time of year. Many can relate to that joyful feeling of unwrapping gifts as a kid or making Christmas treats with loved ones, but these moments are quick and the happiness doesn't last.
So, is that joy?
We can sing words and phrases like "rejoice'' or "joy to the world", but if we are honest many of us experience blue Christmas moments in our holiday season that feel joyless and even painful. On top of that we are still in a Covid restricted Christmas season. These things combined run the risk of stealing our joy. So, instead of sidestepping the fact that Christmas may look or feel different, what if we invite God into this conversation and pursue what joy really is?
To help us engage with joy, we'll be reading a Psalm written by the 'Sons of Korah.' These men were choral masters who wrote psalms that would be sung in worship. We know that the book of Psalms carries songs that range a whole span of human emotions - from deep sorrow to tremendous joy. As such, the Bible doesn't hide from the tension of emotion. The Bible (and God) doesn't ignore the tension you're experiencing - rather every mention of joy in the Bible points towards the One who would bring true joy.
Zion, the City of Our God. A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.
Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.
Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress. For behold, the kings assembled; they came on together.
As soon as they saw it, they were astounded; they were in panic; they took to flight. Trembling took hold of them there, anguish as of a woman in labor.
By the east wind you shattered the ships of Tarshish. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts,in the city of our God, which God will establish forever. Selah
We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. As your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with righteousness.
Let Mount Zion be glad! Let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of your judgments! Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever. (ESV)
Questions to Consider
- Why is the speaker suggesting people rejoice, and exalting God as great?
- What images are used to explore God's character?
- What does it mean that God's holy mountain is the 'joy of all the Earth'?
- Have you thought on God's steadfast love as we approach Christmas day?
- How could our thinking shift if we focus more on God's steadfast love, His stalwartness, and how He will guide us forever - in contrast to instability, COVID, or 'the stuff' that comes with Christmas?
The Jewish worship leaders, Sons of Korah, aren't citing great food, family gatherings, or new presents when they exhort the people to joy. Their joyful praises are rooted in the steadfastness of the Lord and his innate goodness. God is portrayed as a fortress, a temple, and a strong leader. These things are still true about God today. No circumstance or situation could ever change these characteristics of God. The Sons of Korah describe a joy that is experienced by worshipping a steadfast, eternal God.
We, too can experience joy not by temporal touches of happiness or fleeting gifts, but by experiencing something eternal. As we focus on the baby in the manger who is lauded by nature, magi, and angels, as we focus on how he came because of His eternal steadfast love for us, we experience the true meaning of joy.
Things may look bleak or different this Christmas season, and yet we can still rejoice in the fact that our God is everlasting and that He is still guiding His people. So, this Christmas let us proclaim that our joy is for the whole world and it is because our Savior reigns.