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Thursday, December 25, 2014
Christmas Day

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.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let all their songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found,
far as, far as the curse is found.

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.

Isaac Watts’s “Joy to the World” (tune: Antioch)
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

This is one of my all-time favorite Christmas hymns. The tune is lively and vibrant and helps the words to dance. The music itself gives me “joy,” beginning with that first strong, crisp note. But even more than that, I am deeply moved by the words Isaac Watts composed. The imagery of all of creation repeating the sound of God’s joy evokes the imagery we find in the psalms. Fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains all join in on God’s music of redemption and salvation.

And when I sing “heaven and nature sing,” I immediately reflect on the prayer we all pray each Sunday with the Lord’s Prayer. Each Sunday, we pray for God’s kingdom, God’s reign, to be all-in-all and for God’s will to be done in both heaven and on earth. That kind of all-encompassing embrace of God looks like heaven and nature singing.

And what a gift it is to notice that God’s salvation, God’s redemption of all creation, is known by song. Have you ever stopped to think about that? This hymn proclaims that one way we see and hear the promise that God reigns is through the music of creation. We have a God who makes God’s presence known through song. Joy to the world, indeed!

But the stanza that humbles me is the final one. As we think of rulers or those in power in our world, we often see a power that is used as “power over.” It is a power that controls or dominates. Yet, this stanza reveals for us a Savior who rules with both truth and grace. It is a Savior who, to paraphrase the words of theologian Bill Placher, became weak in power in order to show us the strength of God’s love. We worship a God who chose vulnerability as a primary means to make God’s self known to us. We worship a God who was born into this world as a helpless, small, Jewish baby boy who, like all of us, depended on the love and care of his parents in order to survive. A God who emptied God’s self of all “power over” in order to show us the wonders of God’s love and how we can reflect that love back. It is amazing. It is Christmas. Joy to the world, indeed.

Gracious God, we sit in awe of the way you have chosen to be known by us. Your light has come into this world, and the shadows of darkness shall not, cannot, overcome it. So may your story of vulnerably powerful love help us to see your Light shining brightly on this day. Bathe us in it and transform us by it. We pray by the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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