Jesus brought joy into the world in some very practical ways. Every time He healed a person, cast out a demon, or forgave a sin, joy was the immediate result. Those who recognized Jesus as the promised Savior and Redeemer of the world were filled with joy (John 3:29). When the gospel spread in the days of the early church, joy followed the message (Acts 8:8; 1 Thessalonians 1:6).
Humanity yearns for hope, for meaning and purpose. Within every human heart is the knowledge of eternity, even if we don’t recognize it as such (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Without God as a vital part of our existence, only emptiness and futility remain. The world was lost in darkness before Jesus came the first time. God had not spoken through His prophets for over 400 years. The period between Malachi and Matthew is silent, setting the stage for the greatest event of all time: God would become a Man and live among us (John 1:14).
When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in the field, his first words were “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). That “great joy” was the truth that the God who had seemed far off had come to them in human flesh. He was to be called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (Isaiah 9:6–7; Matthew 1:23). Those who saw Him saw the face of God (John 14:9). He had come to rescue, to save, to heal, and to make mankind right with God (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:17–21). That was cause for great joy!
Because Jesus came, sinful human beings have an opportunity to come into the presence of a holy God and be pronounced “not guilty” (2 Corinthians 5:21)! When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn in two, symbolizing that the wall of separation between God and man had been eliminated (Mark 15:38). From then on, all who placed their trust in Christ would be forgiven of their sin and inherit eternal life (John 3:16–18). When Jesus rose from the dead, He conquered death for every person who trusts in Him (1 Corinthians 15:53–56). That is cause for great joy!
Jesus ascended back into heaven to “prepare a place” for all those who follow Him (John 14:1–2). But He promised that He will come again, a second time, to establish His kingdom on earth. In this kingdom righteousness and justice will reign, and God’s people will have places of honor (Micah 4; Isaiah 11; Matthew 19:28–29). The troubles of this life are not the end. Jesus told His followers, “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The knowledge that soon we will live and reign forever with our Lord is cause for great joy!
The popular Christmas song “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts celebrates the joyful occasion of the Lord’s coming. But the lyrics were never intended to be a Christmas song. They were a poem by Watts based on Psalm 98, which is a psalm of the second coming of the Lord who “comes to judge the earth” (verse 9). Jesus’ purpose in His first coming was not to judge but to save (John 3:17); still, celebrating the King in His lowliness is appropriate. Jesus brought joy to the world in His first coming to earth as a baby, and He will bring joy to the world when He comes again to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).
The wait for God’s promised Messiah, expressed in passages such as Isaiah 59:20, is over. The angels announced His arrival with great fanfare. No greater honor could befall the children of Adam than that their Creator had come to redeem them from Satan’s stranglehold (1 John 5:19–20). So, although our earthly life may be filled with troubles, we have reason for hope. Because Jesus came the first time and is poised to come the second time, we can sing with conviction, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king!”