December 4: Joy to the World – Rejoice! He Blesses Us

This devotional is a part of the 2021 Christmas devotional book – “Joy to the World.”  Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.

December 4

Rejoice!  He blesses us!

Scripture Reading:  Luke 1:26-45

Do you want a “blessed” life?  Of course you do!  Who doesn’t, right?  Only a hardcore atheist that does not believe in a “Bless-or” is repelled by the concept of being blessed by their Creator.  However, what does the blessing of God look like, and how do we get on the blessed list . . . these are thoughts we often debate or question.

Before addressing these, I want to direct our attention to a very popular Christmas story – Santa Claus.  In this story, Mr. Claus spends his year in the North Pole making blessings with his elves to deliver on Christmas Eve to those who have maintained their “nice” list status.  “Nice” boys and girls get the prepared blessings, while “naughty” boys and girls get a lump of coal.

So, in Santa’s Christmas story, his blessings are prizes for good behavior, and are withheld for those who do bad things (verified by Elves-on-shelves everywhere).

Is Santa’s story the same as the Savior’s Christmas account?  Are the blessings of God delivered only to those who are “nice?”  What if we have been a bit “naughty”? What if God has access to the shelves of my heart, not just my house?  How would we ever expect blessing by God if He knows all my thoughts?

Well, thankfully, in the true Christmas story of Jesus’ birth, we see HOW God blesses His people and WHO He blesses.  Today’s verses from Luke 1:26-45 provide answers for us in profound ways.

As it relates to HOW God blesses, we see that His blessing often comes through the actions of other believers (not magical elves).  After Mary gets word that she will be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, she is (no doubt) a bit shell shocked.  After all it was a LOT to take in.  She was a teenager, unmarried, and pregnant.  The angel had announced to her what was coming, but what would it all mean?  And how would God care for her throughout the impending 9 months of pregnancy?  Through daily angelic visits?  Nope.  God had something else in mind as He guides Mary to visit her relative Elizabeth.  You know Elizabeth?  The same Elizabeth who was ALSO pregnant with a divinely spoken about birth.  Who else in ALL THE WORLD would understand what Mary was going through as well as Elizabeth?  What kindness from God to have these pregnancies line up to allow these women to care for each other in the days leading up to the births of their important sons.  It reminds us that God sees our situations, cares about our situations, and will provide for us in the midst of our situations … often through the presence and concern of other believers.  To say it another way, we are reminded that God wants to care for others through you, and to care for you through others in the church around you.

As it relates to WHO God blesses, it is important to note that Mary was a very NORMAL person.  She had not done anything special to stand out … she was not perfect … and had not applied for the position of mother of the Son of God.  In every way, the text points to the fact that it was simply God’s gracious initiation that led to this blessing in her life.  This reminds us that our salvation and blessing in Christ are not about doing enough to be on the “nice” list, but are anchored firmly in the grace of God.  Because of His mercy, my naughtiness can always be overcome by His love.

So, in the angel’s declaration to Mary, and the events that unfold thereafter, we are reminded of yet another reason for joy in Jesus.  He desires to care for us, and will care for us, often through the work of His people.  And, He will bless us on the basis of His grace, not our performance!  What gifts to remember! 

Suggested song for today:  Mary did you know?

 

In this Christmas devotional, there is a song referenced for each day.  All these songs, are included in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links:

December 3: Joy to the World – Rejoice! Empty Arms are Filled

This devotional is a part of the 2021 Christmas devotional book – “Joy to the World.”  Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.

December 3

Rejoice!  Empty arms are filled!

Scripture Reading:  Luke 1:5-25, 57-66

When Luke picked up a pen and began to write about the birth of Jesus, he did not begin with Mary . . . or Joseph . . . he began with a man named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.  Their story (not Mary and Joseph’s) kicks off Luke’s Gospel, and it is the conception of their son John (not the immaculate conception of Jesus) that is the first reason to celebrate in this book.  This makes sense, because Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son (John the Baptist) would be the one who would “go before Jesus in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just to make ready for the Lord a people prepared (Luke 1:17).”  By definition John would come first because he was the forerunner to Jesus.

Even knowing that, it is still striking how much space Luke gives (under the direction of the Holy Spirit) to the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  You can read the account for yourselves in Luke 1:5-25, 57-66.  What does God want us to see in this account?  Well, here are a couple of thoughts:

  1. The angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah and promises Zechariah and Elizabeth a child.  Zechariah and Elizabeth were “advanced in age” and well past their child conceiving days.  Upon hearing this news, Zechariah doubts its veracity.  Because of this doubt, Zechariah is struck silent for the duration of the pregnancy.  Zechariah’s silence mirrors the 400 years of silence that the nation of Israel had in the days leading up to John the Baptist’s birth.  For those 400 years, God did not speak to His people through the prophets.  The extra nine months of silence that Zechariah experiences mirror the silence the nation had endured before God as they wandered in the darkness of unbelief.  When John is born, however, God begins to speak again to His people . . . and Zechariah is the first of a new order of prophets that would continue to share God’s voice to His people through the writing of the New Testament — all “making ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
  2. If we see the voice of God returning through Zechariah, we see something else in the account of his wife Elizabeth.  Elizabeth was an older woman . . . well past child bearing days, and yet her womb was barren.  Over time, her empty arms had become a heavy burden.  While all the other moms were getting cards on Mother’s Day and a visible legacy to shape, Elizabeth’s childlessness had become (in her words) a “reproach among people (Luke 1:25).”  The birth of John was not just about what the Lord was doing in the world, it was an act of compassion and kindness to Elizabeth.  Her womb opened.  The promise of God turned into a person . . . a gift. 

The ache of Elizabeth’s empty arms were filled with the life that only God can bring.  This is a reminder to all who come after that in Christ, God can do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).”  

What are you “aching” about today?  Lay your head upon His promises and find your rest in Jesus Christ.  And rejoice!  He has the ability to fill our empty arms with His hope.

Suggested song for today:  “Elizabeth”

 

In this Christmas devotional, there is a song referenced for each day.  All these songs, are included in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links:

December 2: Joy to the World – Rejoice! He Cares for Us

This devotional is a part of the 2021 Christmas devotional book – “Joy to the World.”  Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.

December 2

Rejoice!  He cares for us!

Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 42:1-9

One of my all time favorite Charles Wesley hymns is the song, “And Can it Be?”  In one of the verses of that song, there is a powerful lyric that speaks of the freedom we gain in Christ, “Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast-bound in sin and dark of night.  Thine eye diffused a quickening ray.  I woke, the dungeon filled with light!  My chains fell off, my heart was free.  I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.  Amazing love, how can it be?  That Thou My God wouldst die for me!”

The imagery of this song places mankind in a dungeon, held tight in the chains of sin’s oppression.  The arrival of the Savior, lets light into the dark place, and liberates us from sin’s captivity.  I love that picture . . . it is very meaningful to me.  As beautiful as that analogy is , and as beautiful as that analogy was arranged to song by Charles Wesley, it  would be wrong to give Wesley the credit.  The Lord Himself penned a song centuries before “And Can it Be?” that Wesley (no doubt) drew from as he adapted the text to music.  Around 700 BC, our great God wrote a song that he dictated to the prophet Isaiah, asking Him to share it with God’s people.  This song (one of three “Servant Songs” in Isaiah’s prophecy) predicts Jesus’ role as God’s “Chosen One” or Messiah, who would accomplish His purposes in the world.  Listen to the words of this song from Isaiah 42:1-9:

“‘Look at My servant, whom I strengthen,.  He is my chosen one, and I am pleased with Him.  I have put my Spirit upon Him.  He will reveal justice to the nations.  He will be gentle – He will not shout or raise His voice in public.  He will not crush those who are weak or quench the smallest hope.  He will bring full justice to all who have been wronged.  He will not stop until truth and righteousness prevail throughout the earth.  Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for His instruction.’  God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out.  He created the earth and everything in it.  He gives breath and life to everyone in all the world.  And it is He who says, ‘I, the Lord, have called You to demonstrate My righteousness.  I will guard and support You, for I have given you to My people as the personal confirmation of My covenant with them.  And You will be a light to guide all nations to Me.  You will open the eyes of the blind and free the captives from prison.  You will release those who sit in dark dungeons.  I am the Lord; that is My name!  I will not give My glory to anyone else.  I will not share My praise with carved idols.  Everything I prophesied has come true, and now I will prophesy again.  I will tell you the future before it happens.’”

The first part of the song sees God describing Jesus to Isaiah and His readers, 7 centuries before His Bethlehem birth.  He describes Him as someone who is fully in tune with the Lord . . . fully empowered by His Spirit.  He is one who will bring about justice, not just for Israel, but for the entire world.  He will accomplish this justice by being a humble servant leader, not a loud-mouthed dictator. He will inspire hope, not crush it, and He will usher His truth and plan around the world . . . even to places not yet discovered by the ancient world (places like Oklahoma!)

In the second part of the song, God talks more about the specific task Messiah will accomplish.  This is where Wesley echoed the Servant Song.  Jesus is said to shine as a light into the dark, dank dungeon of this fallen world, and beckon His people to follow Him out of sin and into the freedom of life in Christ.

This Servant Song, spoke of the work of Christ centuries before His birth, and reminds us again of how God had been planning a rescue of His people for centuries.  Reading this song today, makes me want to sing again Wesley’s refrain this Christmas season:  “And can it be that I should gain an interest in my Savior’s blood?  Died Him for me who caused His pain, for me who Him to death pursued.  Amazing love, how can it be?  That Thou My God wouldst die for me!”

As you see Christmas lights around this holiday season, may they remind you of the Light of Christ that invites you out of the dungeon of your sin and into a relationship with Him.  Rejoice!  He cares for you and for me!

Suggested song for today:  Joy Has Dawned

 

In this Christmas devotional, there is a song referenced for each day.  All these songs, are included in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links:

December 1: Joy to the World! – Rejoice! He Rules With Righteousness!

This devotional is a part of the 2021 Christmas devotional book – “Joy to the World.”  Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.

December 1

Rejoice!  He rules with righteousness!

Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 11:1-10

Every four years we have a Presidential election.  These elections are hotly contested and often reveal a country that is very divided.  No matter how the election turns out, roughly half the country is going to be disappointed by the outcome.  In preparation for a Presidential election, both sides promise the moon.  Some people believe all the promises they hear during election season, while others are more cynical.  In the many years I have been voting, I have seen my hope in the political process deteriorate from idealism to a malaise.  The endless rhetoric of elections leave many tired and wounded.

Regardless of our political fatigue, however, it is hard to argue that who our leaders are makes a big difference in our lives.  This is true of the United States, and it was also true of the nation of Judah in Isaiah’s day.  When Isaiah wrote his prophecy (the Old Testament book of Isaiah), Judah was in political crisis.  After 52 years of being led by “good King Uzziah,” Judah was under different human leadership.  This troubled God’s people and increased anxiety about what would happen to the nation without their previous King.  God addressed their concerns through Isaiah’s prophecy.  In chapter 6, he reminded the nation that God was still on the throne.  In chapter 7, God promised relief from the attacks of Israel and Aram.  In chapter 11, however, God looks further into the future, to remind Judah that their ultimate leader will provide a peace that will dwarf the accomplishments of even their favorite King Uzziah!  Listen to what God promises to His people in Isaiah 11:1-10:

“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot – yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.  And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  He will delight in obeying the Lord.  He will never judge by appearance, false evidence, or hearsay.  He will defend the poor and the exploited.  He will rule against the wicked and destroy them with the breath of His mouth.  He will be clothed with fairness and truth.  In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard and the goat will be at peace.  Calves and yearlings will be safe among lions, and a little child will lead them all.  The cattle will graze among bears.  Cubs and calves will lie down together.  And lions will eat grass as the livestock do.  Babies will crawl safely among poisonous snakes.  Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes and pull it out unharmed.  Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.  And as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.  In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world.  The nations will rally to Him, for the land where He lives will be a glorious place.”

Wow.  What a campaign promise!  To a people facing uncertain national prospects, God promises a future leader who will restore peace . . . not just between people, but with all of nature!  This future leader could only be God Himself to accomplish such a task . . . God coming (as this passage indicates) in the form of a little child.  Jesus was to be the Branch of David’s tree that would be the Messiah for God’s people.  Isaiah wrote this 700 years before Jesus was born, but what is amazing for us today is that the ultimate fulfillment of these promises has yet to be realized.  Jesus will return to this earth one day to fulfill this campaign promise God made through Isaiah 2,700 years ago!  When Jesus comes again, He will establish a government on this earth where the wicked are no longer allowed to rule and the poor and exploited will have a true champion. As surely as Jesus was born in Bethlehem, so we look forward to this future reign of Christ on the earth (for more details of this time, look at Revelation 20.)

This Christmas season as you either celebrate or denigrate the latest chosen American political “Messiah”, I challenge you to lift your eyes up and gain perspective.  We know who the real Messiah is, and He is not bound by our political processes.  He is Jesus Christ, and the peace we long for will certainly come to pass one day when He returns.  To a people facing political crisis, God encourages us with the campaign promise of Isaiah 11.  Rejoice!  Our Savior rules and reigns in righteousness!

Suggested song for today:  Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

 

In this Christmas devotional, there is a song referenced for each day.  All these songs, are included in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links:

November 30: Joy to the World! – Rejoice! The Son is given for Us!

This devotional is a part of the 2021 Christmas devotional book – “Joy to the World.”  Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.

November 30

Rejoice!  The Son is given for us!

Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 9:1-7

War is a terrible side effect of living in this fallen world.  Had sin not entered the world, there would have been no World War II, no Vietnam, no Iraq or Afghanistan.  I saw a statistic recently that floored me.  It stated that 40 MILLION people died (civilian and military) in World War II alone.  Another statistic estimates that 160 million people died in the twentieth century due to military conflict.  These numbers are sobering and a stark reminder that we are not in Eden any longer.

Any reading of the Old Testament helps us understand that God does use war (inside this sinful world) to advance His purposes.  I am not quoting statistics here to say that all war is “wrong,” but what I am saying is that all war has a huge cost . . . and I am not just referring to an enlargement of the national debt.

Given the prevalence of war, and its destructive toll on humanity, it is not surprising that people (since the beginning of time) have longed for a day when peace would last.  In many ways, the world is like a giant school yard full of insecure bullies who abuse their people with violence to secure their own position.  People have always longed for a day when the bullies would be stilled, but is that day ever really going to come?  God says it will.  In fact, God issued a prophecy through Isaiah in Isaiah 9:1-7 declaring that the bullies of the world would one day be replaced by a most peculiar leader.  Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Isaiah prophesied this:

“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever.  The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will soon be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.  The people who walk in the darkness will see a great light – a light that will shine on all who live in the land where death casts its shadow.  Israel will again be great, and its people will rejoice as people rejoice at harvesttime.  They will shout with joy like warriors dividing the plunder.  For God will break the chains that bind His people and the whip that scourges them, just as He did when He destroyed the army of Midian with Gideon’s little band.  In that day of peace, battle gear will no longer be issued.  Never again will uniforms be bloodstained by war.  All such equipment will be burned.  For a Child is born to us, a Son is given to us.  And the government will rest on His shoulders.  These will be His royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end.  He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David.  The passionate commitment of the Lord Almighty will guarantee this!”

This prophecy is one of the most famous in all of the Old Testament . . . and for good reason!  What a blessed hope it promises.  From the land of Galilee, a small rural province in northern Israel that often drew the first attack from invading armies because of its northern exposure, a leader would emerge that would bring glory and peace to God’s people.  This leader would be a bully-buster who would establish peace on the earth and eliminate the need for trillions of dollars to be spent on national defense.  Surprisingly, though, the leader who would quell the bullies would not be a bigger bully, but a child.  What a contrast!  The mighty Assyrian army (in Isaiah’s day) could be stopped by God working through a little child.  The terror of the Taliban could be silenced from the crib of Bethlehem’s manger.  This child, of course, was Jesus who would grow up and reveal Himself as Mighty God.  700 years after this prophecy was given, Jesus would be born as a child, clothing Himself in humanity, to set in motion a plan to bring lasting peace to the earth.

What is amazing about reading this prophecy from Isaiah at Christmas time, though, is that the accomplishment of this prophecy has not yet fully taken place.  The gifts of Isaiah 9 are still wrapped under the Christmas tree of Christ’s second advent.  When Jesus returns to the earth at a future time, He will put an end to war and He will rule the world in peace.  One day war will cease, and the bullies will be stopped.  The One who was born a Child will return in glorious triumph and shine His light throughout our world.  That is one present I cannot wait to be unwrapped.  Jesus is given to bring peace to us … yet another reason for Joy this Christmas.

Suggested song for today:  “For Unto Us a Child is Born”

 

In this Christmas devotional, there is a song referenced for each day.  All these songs, are included in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links:

November 29: Joy to the World – Rejoice! The Lord guarantees His promises

This devotional is a part of the 2021 Christmas devotional book – “Joy to the World.”  Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.

November 29

Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 7:10-17

700 years before the birth of Jesus, King Ahaz ruled over the nation of Judah.  This reign was not marked by peace and prosperity, but by difficulty and war.  Judah was being attacked by the armies of Israel (the Kingdom was divided at this time) and Aram.  Ahaz, fearing the stability of the nation and his future legacy, turned to the feared Assyrian army to try to buy some help to fight off Aram and Israel.  For a King who was leading God’s chosen people, Ahaz’s choice of an ally was very peculiar.  God had made promises to protect Judah and provide for her needs, and He had delivered on those promises time and time again in her history.  Ahaz, however, did not trust in the Lord, instead looking to other men to secure the stability He desired.

In Isaiah 7, God speaks to Ahaz and dares him to trust God (not man) for his deliverance.  In 7:9-11, God says to Ahaz, “‘If you (Ahaz) want me (God) to protect you, learn to believe what I say. . . Ask me for a sign Ahaz, to prove that I will crush your enemies as I have promised.  Ask for anything you like, and make it as difficult as you want.’”

I firmly believe that Ahaz thought that this dare from God was a test.  Ahaz did not want to fail the test, so he says back to God in 7:12, “No, I wouldn’t test the Lord like that.”  Ahaz must have puffed out his chest a bit as he said he would never put God to the test.    What Ahaz thought was a pious rejection, however, was actually a good depiction of his spiritual allegiance.  Ahaz would not put the Lord to ANY use in his real life.  He wanted God on his side, but he assumed that in order to maintain the nation’s stability, he would have to impress God with his self-directed wisdom, not a declaration of his utter need for dependence.  Ahaz did not want to show God any weakness, thinking that God wanted him to be strong (or at least have strong friends).

After rejecting God’s call for a sign, Ahaz is confronted by the prophet Isaiah who spoke God’s response in 7:13-16: “Then Isaiah said, ‘Listen well, you royal family of David!  You aren’t satisfied to exhaust my patience.  You exhaust the patience of God as well!  All right then, the Lord Himself will choose the sign.  Look!  The virgin will conceive a child!  She will give birth to a son and will call Him Immanuel – God with us!  By the time this child is old enough to eat curds and honey, he will know enough to choose what is right and reject what is wrong.  But before he knows right from wrong, the two kings you fear so much – the kings of Israel and Aram – will both be dead.’’”  In this verse, God is telling Ahaz that God will extract Judah from underneath the oppression of the armies of Israel and Aram in a short amount of time.  Indeed, God sets a time sensitive “sign” in place that says when God’s people see a child named Immanuel born to a woman who was still a virgin at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, it will be less than two years until the kings of Aram and Israel will die and their threat to Judah will be subdued.  In this way, Ahaz and Judah were called to renew their trust in God alone to provide deliverance from their enemies.  

This prophecy was given in 735 BC.  Just 3 years after this prophecy was given (in 732 BC), the kings of Israel and Aram were dead and the threat to Judah from these two “enemies” was subdued.  God had made good on His promise.  There most likely was a woman who was not married in 735 BC who married a man and had a child shortly after Isaiah’s prophecy.  (NOTE: This would not have been an immaculate conception.  The “virgin” referred to the fact that the woman was not married yet at the time of Isaiah’s original prophecy.)  Before that child grew to be old enough to eat more than just baby food, Judah’s threats had been eliminated by God Himself.  God had shown Himself worthy to be trusted.

Fast forward 700 years from the events of King Ahaz, and you will find a young virgin woman pregnant with a child named Jesus.  Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Matthew, as he writes his Gospel, is directed to draw a connection between Isaiah 7 and the birth of Jesus.  Matthew 1:21-23 says, “‘She (Mary) will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.’”  Though undoubtedly there was a contemporary application to Isaiah 7 in Ahaz day, ultimately, the words of Isaiah were looking to a day seven centuries away . . . when another baby born, this time by a woman who was still a virgin, would be a sign that an even greater deliverance was forthcoming for God’s people.  Jesus did not just come to rid His people of two pesky foreign kings . . . He came to deliver people from their sins!!

As someone who gets to read both stories from the comfort of the 21st century, I am so glad that Immanuel means more for us than just temporary military conquest.  Ahaz got temporary relief from Aram and Israel 2 years after a child was born.  We get to have permanent relief from the consequences of our sin 2,000 years after Jesus was born.

In our lives, like Ahaz, many times we assume that victory over our chief enemies (sin and its consequences) is found in our own self-righteous behavior.  Real victory, however is not found in ourselves, it is found in a child who was born to a virgin.  Jesus alone can deliver us from our sins.  When it comes to the forgiveness of our sins, God is daring us to trust Him.  He gave us (as Ahaz 2,700 years prior) a sign showing He is able to do marvelous things and is worthy to be trusted.  ”The virgin shall conceive a child” . . . and she did. . . and we can be saved as a result.  Immanuel . . . God with us!  Remember that blessed truth this Christmas season.  Our God delivers on His promises … and that is a true reason for Joy in Jesus!

Suggested Song for today:  O Come, O Come Emmanuel

In this Christmas devotional, there is a song referenced for each day.  All these songs, are included in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links:

Joy to the World (part 1) Sermon Audio, Video, and Questions

On Sunday, November 28, 2021 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Psalm 98.  This message was part one of the “Joy to the World” series.  Below you will find questions related to the message for group discussion or personal reflection.  Additionally, you will find the sermon audio and video to listen to/watch, download, or share.

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Psalm 98
  3. In your opinion, when is it too early to begin to celebrate Christmas?
  4. “Joy to the World” was written by Isaac Watts and is based on Psalm 98.  This Psalm (and Watts song) reflect on the past, present, and future of God’s people.  Take a moment to list out some of the things people can learn about God regardless of where they live in the world.
  5. Why do you think we are commanded to sing to the Lord concerning His salvation with our voices and with instruments, etc.  In other words, what do these elements ADD to our experience of relating to God?
  6. What are some ways you can “fill your home with the songs of the Lord” this Christmas?
  7. What are some evidences you see in the world today of the “curse” mentioned in Genesis 3 and “Joy to the World’s” third verse?
  8. What are you looking forward to most about the return of Jesus to the earth one day?
  9. What is one particular application you took away from this message?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.

 

To listen offline, click the link to download:

Joy To The World #1 11.28.21

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

To watch the stream, use YouTube online:

 

NOTE:  For Christmas 2021, we have an audio playlist prepared for the Christmas season (access it here):

For 2021 we have prepared a Christmas devotional book – “Joy to the World.”  Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.

 

November 28: Joy to the World – The Lord WILL Come!

This devotional is a part of the 2021 Christmas devotional book – “Joy to the World.”  Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.

November 28

Scripture Reading:  Psalm 98

When is it too early for you to listen to Christmas music?  Halloween too early?  How about Thanksgiving?  Black Friday?  December 1?  When is your “starting line” for changing out your playlist?

Whenever your start line, at some point, most will begin listening to Christmas music by the time December rolls around.  However, there is one Christmas Carol that was intended to be sung in July . . . and April . . . and February!  What is that song?  Well it is only the most popular Christmas song in North America – “Joy to the World!”

In 1719, prolific hymn writer Isaac Watts wrote this song, and published it in his book, “The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament.”  Its inclusion in this book lets us know the origins of the song.  Long before Watts arranged it with a Christian perspective, the Psalmist wrote the message in Psalm 98 (way back roughly 3,000 years ago!).  What is interesting about this, is that Psalm 98 is not a Psalm about Jesus’ birth.  It is a song about when the LORD will come “to judge the earth . . . with righteousness, and the peoples with equity (Psalm 98:9).”

The earth celebrates with joy, in Psalm 98 and in Watts’ hymn, when the Messiah comes in righteous judgment upon the earth.  This reference is clearly NOT to Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, but to Jesus’ return at the end of the world as pictured in Revelation 19:11-21.  The earth rejoices on that day because the sin and sorrow that has grown on the earth and infested the ground will finally and fully be dealt with.  Jesus will rule the world with truth and grace at that time inside His Kingdom, and all will see the “wonders of His love” (see Revelation 20).  After the establishment of this Kingdom, Jesus will also usher in a new heaven and a new earth that will make His blessings flow upon the earth in opposition to the effects of the curse (compare Genesis 3:14-24 with Revelation 21-22.)  

Knowing this background is it bad for us to sing “Joy to the World” at Christmastime?  Absolutely NOT!  This song is great any time of the year, including Christmas.  When we think of Jesus’ birth, we also can sing for joy at His coming, even if the full effects of what this song promises will not be felt upon the earth until He comes again.  The historical reality of His first coming, is a down payment on the reality of His second!  Just as Jesus brought forgiveness for our sins and revelation of who God really is at His first coming, He also will bring judgment and righteousness to the earth at His second coming.

So, join the world in singing JOY this year . . . knowing that God’s redemption is coming.

Suggested Carol for today:  “Joy to the World”

In this Christmas devotional, there is a song referenced for each day.  All these songs, are included in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links:

2021 Christmas Devotional Guide – FREE!!!

Circumstances have a tendency to cause despair.  Illness (physical or mental) can knock us flat.  Financial woes or debt can weigh us down.  Past or present sin or failure can hold us back.  Strained or severed relationships can wipe us out.  There are many circumstances in this world that impact us greatly.

However, these feelings of despair are NOT what we desire.  In no way is that the way we want to live life.  At a deep level, we desire JOY instead.  We want joy’s deep settled happiness and contentment.  

If we were to ask for what we REALLY want for Christmas this year, I would guess that joy would be on all our lists.

So, we should ask the question … is it possible to receive JOY for Christmas this year … no matter what our circumstances are?  And can we KEEP joy throughout the new year, no matter what difficulties may come?

When I look to the pages of the New Testament, I see joy talked about often.  The Greek words translated “rejoice,” “joy,” and “great joy” appear 136 times in our English New Testaments.  The New Testament writers tell us that what we most want for Christmas (joy), is a central theme of the Christian faith.  We come to Jesus, not Santa … to Bethlehem, not the North Pole … for what we most need and desperately want.  Joy is not for sale on Amazon, but it is available to each of us.

But what kind of joy is the New Testament referring to?  Is the New Testament joy driven by circumstances, or something else?  Just a quick summary of the word translated “exceeding joy” (i.e. “joy to the max”) demonstrates a surprising reality.

  • In Matthew 5:11-12, people rejoice with exceeding joy, even when they are experiencing persecution.
  • In Luke 1:47, Mary has exceeding joy, even when her betrothed is considering divorce, and her community misunderstands her situation.
  • In 1 Peter 1:6, people have exceeding joy while going through a variety of difficulties.
  • In 1 Peter 4:13, people experience exceeding joy even while suffering.

So, not only does the Christian faith talk about joy, it talks about an exceeding joy that persists, even in the most dire circumstances!  Well, where does such a joy come from?  Certainly not from this world.  This world delivers us joy-squashing circumstances.  True joy comes from heaven above.  And that joy is delivered to the world when the Lord came.

Jesus’ arrival delivers a circumstance-proof joy because it anchors our settled contentment not on the rough waters of this world or the frailty of our own flesh, but in the glories of heaven, and on the faithfulness of our Omnipotent Savior.  Notice:

  • Matthew 5:11-12 – though persecuted we have joy because of the reward awaiting in heaven.
  • Luke 1:47 – though misunderstood we have joy because the Lord has reached out to us.
  • 1 Peter 1:6 – though experiencing various difficulties, we have joy knowing about the salvation of our souls.
  • 1 Peter 4:13 – though suffering, we have joy because of the glory we will share with Jesus one day

There is a joy that is delivered to us through faith in Christ, when we look to Him and to heaven.    And the blessing of this joy is known to us because the Lord has come.  Over the next month, we will look at the Christmas account in Scripture to find our reasons for joy in Him.  Each day from November 28 to December 25, we will have a daily devotional with Scripture reading and a suggested Christmas carol to help point our hearts to Him and to Heaven this Christmas season (see below for links to download the devotional guide or access the Christmas playlist … or check back on this blog daily beginning November 28 for each days devotional).  Additionally, we will have worship services at Wildwood Community Church through this same era that will focus on these same themes (see the schedule for these services below).  

During Christmas 2021, let us remember the great truth of the classic Isaac Watts song – “Joy to the World, the LORD has come!!!”

2021 Christmas Worship Service Schedule at Wildwood Community Church

  • November 28:  Sunday worship at 8:30, 9:45, 11:00 (livestream at 9:45 at this link).  Sermon on Psalm 98
  • December 5:  Sunday worship at 8:30, 9:45, 11:00 (livestream at 9:45 at this link).  Communion in the service.  Sermon on Luke 1:5-38, 2:36-38.
  • December 12:  Sunday worship at 8:30, 9:45, 11:00 (livestream at 9:45 at this link).  Children singing at the end of the 9:45 and 11:00 in our worship services.  Sermon on Luke 1:39-55.
  • December 19:  Sunday worship at 8:30, 9:45, 11:00 (livestream at 9:45 at this link).  2021 version of our worship team’s “Carol of the Bells” at the conclusion of the services.  Sermon on Matthew 2:1-12, 13:44.
  • December 24:  Christmas Eve worship at 4PM, 5PM, 6PM (livestream at the 5PM service at this link).  Candlelight, carols, Scripture Reading and a message on Luke 2:1-20.
  • December 26:  Sunday worship at 9:45 and 11:00 (No 8:30 service on December 26, and no children’s ministry, student ministry, or adult classes on this day.  All who gather will join us in the worship service on this date.

Baptism Sunday – November 21, 2021 Stream

On Sunday, November 21, 2021 at Wildwood Community Church, we celebrated with 23 people who professed their faith in Christ and were baptized.  Below you will find the links to the streams of these services, as well as a link to the Vimeo channel where all the testimonies can be watched that were shown this morning.

 

9:45 Worship Service (Stream of entire service):

 

8:30 Worship Service (Baptism & Testimonies only):

 

11:00 Worship Service (Baptism & Testimonies only):

 

Vimeo Channel with just the Baptism Testimonies can be accessed by clicking here.

Audio of the Sermon (listen offline):

Baptism Sunday 11.21.21

 

Audio of Sermon listen online: