Christmas can be a time of great joy. But it can also be a time of great sadness. The festivity of the season is shut out by emptiness within. It’s almost like the merriment is mocking those weighed down with depression and sorrow.
When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, his act of disobedience did not affect only himself. It affected all of humanity descended from him. More than that, it ravaged the entirety of God’s creation.
First and foremost, sin estranged man from the God we were created to glorify and enjoy. Sin also ruptured relationships among people. In addition, man became alienated from his environment and experienced inner angst. We need only turn the page from Genesis 3 to Genesis 4 to see these harmful dynamics at play.
In the account of Cain and Abel we see what life is like on this side of the fall. The brothers were wired to worship but only faith would allow the worshiper to bring his best. Cain illustrates rebellion in his heart and anger toward his brother that would lead to the murder of Abel. All this in a hostile world filled with thorns that would thwart man’s efforts to exercise dominion in service to God.
It is this scenario that is addressed by the third stanza of “Joy to the World.”
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.
In his letter to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul describes the glory of the gospel. He explains how through Christ’s work sinners can be reconciled to a holy God. But Paul also explains that God’s redemption extends not just to creatures but to the creation itself, as far as sin’s curse is found.
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Rom. 8:19–23)
We can look forward to a new heaven and new earth, free from the effects of sin in every respect – relationship with God, with others, and with our environment. That freedom also reaches to all that lays siege to our inner being. That’s why Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). The flickers of suffering are drowned out in the brilliant glare of glory.
Whatever constitutes suffering will be eliminated, whether suffering within or suffering without. That truth bathes our souls now with a peace that passes understanding. Those now weighed down with sorrow and isolation will experience the fullness of the joy of the Lord.
A friend was terribly afflicted with melancholy during the winter months. The bitter cold and shorter days cast her into a dungeon of darkness. To help remedy her sadness she replaced the overhead florescent lights in her office with yellow full-spectrum bulbs. It did help but in Christ she could look forward to a day when she would experience no more suffering, grief, or pain. It won’t be a matter of easing the pain. The cause of suffering will itself be swallowed up in glory.
Reflect and respond in prayer to the biblical truths of this stanza of “Joy to the World.”
Joy to the world! the Lord is come:
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing.
This Christmas point your friends to the good news of great joy with the gospel booklet, God’s Good News, available as a free PDF download or for purchase as a booklet.
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.