Isaac Watts wrote one of the most familiar of all the Christmas carols that turns out actually, not to have been intended as a Christmas carol at all that we call “Joy To The World.” Watts led in the development of hymns in the English tradition, drawing many of his hymn texts directly from the Psalms. The song we know as “Joy To The World” is actually based upon the Psalm 98, which declares creation’s joy when the Lord comes to rule and to judge.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing
Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
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
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love…
I appreciated what Dr. Brian Arnold wrote recently and have included his brief statement in its entirety. “The first glimpse of Christmas comes in the third chapter of your Bible just after Adam and Eve sinned against God. With the juices of the forbidden fruit still running down their cheeks, God made a promise to our first parents in Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
From the moment sin entered into the world, God promised He would send a deliverer to crush the head of the serpent. Christmas, then, isn’t primarily about the warm, cozy feeling we get when we sing “Silent Night.” Christmas is about cosmic warfare, when Jesus came to battle the Serpent of Old, for your sin and for my sin. This is why Joseph was told to name his son Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt.1.21).
The curse of sin affected everything. But as far as the curse goes, God’s grace and blessings go farther. Christmas reminds us that God has already forgiven the sins of those who turn to him in repentance and faith, and that he isn’t done yet. Satan’s head may have been crushed when Jesus rose from the dead, but this Christmas we still await the final crushing of the Devil. The Apostle Paul looked to this day and encouraged the church at Rome with these words: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Ro.16.20). Christmas reminds us of the promise God made to Adam and Eve that He would redeem us from Satan and the curse.”
The reversal of the curse is what is promised to us in the ministry of the Messiah and the fulfillment of His atoning work. Implicit in the third verse of “Joy To The World” is the promise of the new creation. We live right now in the midst of that promise, no matter what headline, no matter what development, no matter what might happen in our personal lives or in the lives of those whom we love and observe. The reality is that we live in the light of that promise because we look back to Bethlehem, we look to a cross, we look to an empty tomb, and we celebrate Christmas. We look carefully at the reference to the curse. Christ’s victory over sin is declared and that victory is to extend far as the curse is found.
What curse and how far is that curse found? The curse is death. God’s righteous verdict upon Adam and Eve and all who would follow them for indeed all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. In Adam, our head, the curse of sin came upon all humanity and like him, we are now dust who must return to the dust and all creation is under the effects of the curse.
How far is the curse found? To every atom and molecule of the entire created order. The entire cosmos is under the curse and shows the effects of sin. That is why we have headlines of mayhem and murder. That is why we have obituaries with people’s deaths declared and their funeral schedule. That is why we have grieving parents and grieving loved ones. That is why to merely human eyes the grave appears to have the very last word.
With that as reality, how is it that we can sing “Joy To The World”? Well, it is because of what Christ has done. Paul speaks of this when he writes, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree,’ so that in Christ Jesus, the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” Did you get that? We can sing “Joy To The World” because Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, from the curse of sin by becoming a curse for us.
How is it that Christ saves us from the curse by becoming cursed for us? Well, it’s because Christ died on the cross in our place. He bore our shame and our guilt.
This New Year rejoice that God has sent His Son to cancel the curse for those who place their trust in Him, and rest in knowing that He will come again to finish the job!
Are you trusting Jesus alone to take you to heaven when you die?