Monday, December 12, 2016

Advent: A Season of Joy, For Now and the Future

           IT’S one of the most uplifting Christmas songs in the Christian hymnal. We sang it yesterday in service, a perfect song for the third Sunday in Advent that is commemorated with the lighting of the Joy candle.
            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.

            Ah, yes, joy! That wonderful, giddy feeling everyone gets this time of year. (Well, not everyone, unfortunately. This winter holiday finds some people in the throes of severe depression. But more on that later.)
            Joy. The third candle lit on the third Sunday in Advent. Joy in a Savior sent to Earth. A happy, joyful event, the birth of this special baby. The earth’s King.
            Unfortunately, not everyone receives Him as King. So, for them, the first sentence in the song has absolutely no meaning, and really, no signficance.

           Certainly the atheists don’t receive Him as King. They think believing in God and recognizing Jesus as God incarnate is a big joke, a ridiculous observance reserved for dunces who believe in hocus pocus and are missing some discriminating brain cells. The agnostics aren’t so sure, so they remained poked on the fence, with one foot in the world and the other on a spiritual banana peel, unable or unwilling to make a public commitment.

            But I’m here to proclaim that even though you might enjoy Christmas and have fun, and extol its good virtues, you really are incapable of experiencing its true JOY if you don’t know Jesus, this Savior we celebrate the birth of.
            Why do I say that? Because He is Joy. The source. Without Him there is no true joy. He gave joy when He was born, He gives us on-going joy, and He will give us eternal joy upon His return. Indeed, just knowing He will return in His Second Advent gives us unending joy.
            And why else do I say that you are unable to experience true JOY without God? Because it’s true. And the Old Atheists, like Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, and Russell understood that. Many of them actually mourned the death of God, because they understood the ramifications of such belief, and it wasn’t just how their beliefs would be received by society. As Sean McDowell writes in More Than a Carpenter, “Atheists of the past were well aware of the consequences of denying God. They realized that without God we inhabit a cold, dark, pointless universe. Many older atheists mourned the death of God because they realized it undermined the foundations of western culture. Existentialist Albert Camus admitted that the death of God meant the loss of purpose, joy, and everything that makes life worth living.”
            But, as McDowell points out, the New Atheists actually celebrate God’s death and even think that life can continue as normal or even improve without Him, and without all of those nasty, evil religious nuts they believe have caused the world’s problems and heartaches. (Which is contrary to historical proof, I might add.)
            But Professor John Haught of Georgetown University refers to that kind of atheism as “soft” atheism that does not take atheism seriously. McDowell quotes Haught:
            “The new soft-core atheists assume that, by dint of Darwinism, we can
            just drop God like Santa Claus without having to witness the complete
            collapse of Western culture—including our sense of what is rational
            and moral. At least the hard-core atheists understood that if we are truly
            sincere in our atheism the whole web of meanings and values that had
            clustered around the idea of God in Western culture has to go down the
            drain along with its organizing center.”

            So there you have it. Unless you’re being intellectually dishonest, you have to admit that without the Judeo-Christian God, society’s foundation collapses and we’re left floundering around wondering what we’re really here for and who cares anyway since we’ll all just end up in the ground one day, and that will be it. (And, no, saying that our memory living on in our children and the good things we’ve done is a good equivalent doesn’t cut it. How many of your ancestors do you know by name, and can you recite what they've done?)
            We end up living without true joy. No matter how hard we try to muster it up by our own efforts, we can’t have it. Without the Source, the “organizing center” it simply cannot exist in our hearts or in the world.
            But when you believe in the Giver of that Joy, your soul is soaked in it. You have joy for today, joy for tomorrow, overflowing joy to share with someone else—like the hurting people who don’t have others to celebrate with this time of year, or don’t think they have any reason to celebrate.
            But we all have a reason. A very good one. That baby born in a stinky stable grew up to be a humble man who sacrificed himself so that we may live, here and now and into eternity. He came, he suffered and was murdered and resurrected so that we may have a full life while on earth and an even fuller life into eternity. We have joy because we know it doesn’t end here, we know there is life beyond the grave. Our joy will be complete upon His Second Advent. New meaning will be given to the words: “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant…”

            So with that in mind, how about if, for just one day, we tweak the words to the opening song a little and sing:

            Joy to the World, the Lord will come!
            May earth receive her King;
            May every heart prepare for His return,
            When Heaven and nature will sing,
            When Heaven and nature will sing,
            When Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

            For it is our hope and prayer that every heart will receive Him as Lord and Savior. Every knee will end up bowing to Him; the faithful pray that all will do it willingly.

            How about you? Is your heart overflowing with JOY? Have you already received your King, and will you willingly receive Him at His Second Coming? Will you be one of the triumphant faithful?

            I pray it is so. For if it is, The First Advent has a deeper meaning for you. It means joy in your heart for today, tomorrow, and eternity! May you be able to sing with joy—because our King has already come. May you sing with joy because there is a Second Advent on the calendar!


Until next Monday, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter. Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!



When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on earth. ~ A. W. Tozer

Image by Google