Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Joy, Unspeakable Joy!

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas, as individuals, as families, and as cultures, I’ve been reflecting on how we all celebrate in various ways with different traditions. One of my favorite Christmas traditions is celebrating through music! Now, I’m not a very good singer by myself and I cannot play an instrument. I have more of what one would call a “congregational voice”. During December, I love nothing more than to listen to Christmas songs on the radio, attend Christmas programs in a variety of settings, and sing Christmas carols and songs with groups of people, large or small. I remember going Christmas caroling with the small church family I grew up in and attending a concert in an arena full of people gathered to enjoy a popular Christian artist’s newest Christmas tour. I cherish the old songs and thoroughly enjoy newly written songs about our Savior. Then there are also people who have arranged great combinations of the two.

So far this year I’ve attended a performance by the Samford University Band to hear my son play, a massive production put on at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church and an inspiring collection of songs performed at my own church, Valleydale Church. I also enjoyed singing one single song with folks at the Lifeline’s Foster Parent Christmas Party standing beside a foster dad holding a sleeping baby.. I even attended the University of Alabama’s graduation ceremony in which the university ensemble played Christmas music while we waited that surprisingly included “religious” Christmas songs. Every Christmas season I purchase a new Christmas CD to enjoy and add to the variety of ones I already have.

Christmas songs tell parts or all of the story of our Savior’s birth, remind us of prophecies about His coming, and express all the different emotions that we, as humans, feel as we try to grasp that the God and Creator of the universe would step out of His kingdom and take on the form of man in his most vulnerable state, a baby; that Jesus willingly took on human flesh as this baby, knowing that it meant He would lay down His life in order for the world (you, me, each person who has ever lived or will ever be born) to have the opportunity to be saved from God’s wrath because of our sin; to know that forgiveness, that peace, that hope of eternal life, that JOY!!!...Which leads me to share with you my favorite Christmas song.

It really is a tough choice as I enjoy so many! Every time I hear a different song, I’ll think or say: “Oh, I love that song!” or “This one is the best!” or “This is my favorite one” and on and on. But when it boils down to it, I definitely have to say my very favorite is “Joy to the World.” As you read the words below, I encourage you to do so aloud…..or maybe even sing it aloud right where you are.

“Joy to the World”
Words by Issac Watts; Music by George Fredrick Handel

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. Joy to the World, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy. No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flowFar as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, 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, And wonders of His love, And wonders, wonders, of His love.

In God’s Word it says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”
I Peter 1:8

I know that although this is a joy-filled time for many people, it is also the time of year when sadness is multiplied for those who have suffered loss—the death of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, chronic illness, the death of a dream. This time last year, my Dad passed away after an extended illness. It was a difficult time for my family last Christmas and it continues to be a struggle as my family and I continue to miss Dad. But the pain is buffered by the knowledge that Dad believed in Christ as his Savior. I know Dad is in heaven, praising our Heavenly Father eternally. He has a new and healthy body, with no more pain, suffering or sadness. I know that he has received the fulfillment of his salvation and wouldn’t want to change places with any person on earth. Dad believed and he now sees his Savior’s face. And along with all the other believers who have past from this life, surround God’s throne and continually praise Him with joy that we can only attempt to express with mere words.

Amy with her dad as he told her his salvation experience for the first time in 1999.

I will exalt you, LORD, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health.
You brought me up from the grave, O LORD.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
Sing to the LORD, all you godly ones! Praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:1-5

My prayer for you this Christmas season is that in the midst of any sorrow in your life, you will experience true joy that only comes from the King who heard our cries and became a baby to rescue us from our sin and despair, adopting us into His family, giving us eternal life.

Amy Griner
Domestic Social Worker

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