Advent Hymn #3 – How Great Our Joy! Traditional German Carol
v. 1-2 by Theodore Baker
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I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding
or a bride with her jewels.Isaiah 61:10
Perhaps you are not feeling it this Christmas.
Maybe you are more like Cindy Lou Who, saying, “Where are you Christmas?” Somehow the JOY has been lost. For many, it has been a dismal year. I hear of tragedy every week. Every day, my Open Doors app goes off with yet another person being persecuted. So how can there be joy?
Let’s take a closer look at this advent hymn, How Great our Joy!
Maybe there is a clue here. This hymn speaks of the shepherds’ response to the Good News. Perhaps they can teach us about finding joy when all seems hopeless.
While by the sheep we watched at night,
Glad tidings brought an angel bright.
It was a quiet night. The shepherd-priests we learned of last week were settling down for another night. It had been over 400 years since they had even a word from God and the prophets. When would the Messiah come? Surely they had feelings of despair. “It’s never going to happen. We are stuck under the control of the Romans. At least they were allowing us to worship God and offer sacrifices in the temple. But When, When would the Messiah appear?
Emotions can turn on a dime. Imagine at one moment you are feeling hopeless; thinking it’s never going to happen. Nothing will ever change. I am stuck here in this trial forever. Then in a moment, everything changes. Imagine the excitement that came over the shepherds when they saw the angels and heard the Good News.
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”Luke 2:14
The shepherd-priests didn’t stay stuck in their despair. They were filled with joy. They immediately said, “Let’s go see this thing…” After they saw Jesus, they were “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.“
How Great was their Joy!
There shall be born, so he did say,
In Bethlehem a Child today.
A Child in Bethlehem! These were keywords from the prophets. They were words of HOPE.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel,
whose origins are in the distant past,
will come from you on my behalf.Micah 5:2
They remembered the prophecy of Micah that a great ruler would come out of Bethlehem. Was it finally true? Had a child finally been born who would save them from tyranny? Hope was beginning to burst forth from the hearts. They just had to believe that it was so. After all, angels had come to tell them the news.
And again, Jeremiah had spoken of a Righteous King…
I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, [that is, someone in David’s line] a King who will reign wisely.Jeremiah 23:5
This is another indication that salvation would come from the lowly town of Bethlehem; the City of David.
There was indeed HOPE RISING!
There shall the Child lie in a stall,
This Child who shall redeem us all.
A Promised Redeemer
Ah! Redemption! Whether you realize it or not, the thing your heart desires most is redemption. Just as God’s heart breaks because of the separation sin has caused, so our own hearts ache for restoration. Oh! How we need to be restored to God. From the beginning, at the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, God had promised a Redeemer. One who would restore man from the fall.
Then the Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, you are cursedGenesis 3:14-15
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Revelation 12:9 confirms that God was speaking not just to the serpent but to Satan, himself.
This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.
And believers grasp on to the Apostle Paul’s statement to the Romans
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Romans 16:20)
God promised Moses that He would redeem Israel for Himself. (Exodus 6:6-7 ) There was the short-term promise of redemption from Egypt. This promise was also the promise through Christ for all who would believe. (John 1:12, Galatians 4:4-5 ) And finally, the complete fulfillment will come when He returns to restore the world and set up His Kingdom. (Revelation 21 )
Now that GIFT will be JOY indeed!
This gift of God we’ll cherish well,
that ever joy our hearts shall fill.
This is the joy that doesn’t depend on happiness or circumstance. Things may be hard right now. But we can still have JOY in our hearts. Great Joy! We can be “overwhelmed with joy” as Isaiah was because we know that we know that God has done a great work in us.
I conclude with this from Romans 15:13
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope”
P.S. I came across this poem by Annie Johnson Flint recently. Had to share it.
For All the Morrows
Has the year brought sadness?Annie Flint Johnson
Joy is yet in store.
Has it given gladness?
Next year giveth more.
Let your Father measure
All your pain and care,
Let Him weigh the burden
That your heart must bear,
Sending light or shadow
As He deemeth best,
For in His sure wisdom
You can safely rest.
Peace for all the morrows,
Strength for all the days,
These shall be your portion
Through the New Year’s ways.