Joy to the World , 12 December 2021

Joy to the World
Luke 2:8-11; Psalm 96:9-13; Psalm 98

Series Big Idea: Carols are the soundtrack of the season as we celebrate Advent.

Big Idea: Baby Jesus brought joy to the world, and his life continues to transform lives today.

Joy to the world! It’s one of my favorite Christmas carols. It’s hard to sing it with a frown on your face! It has a certain energy, a simple melody, and positive, uplifting lyrics. Are you joyful…and triumphant?

Today is week three of Advent and our Advent series,
Carols. In the first two weeks, we looked at two somewhat obscure songs. In contrast, today’s carol, Joy to the World, is the most-published Christmas hymn in North America! It was written in 1719 by an English hymnwriter and minister named Isaac Watts and the music comes from an 1848 arrangement by American Lowell Mason (side note: the first four notes are identical to those in “Lift up your heads” from Handel’s Messiah). While we’re giving credits, Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash, and Matt Gilder wrote the modern chorus we sang earlier.

The theme of the carol is obviously…joy. What exactly is joy…and how does the world experience it? We’re about to find out!

In today’s scripture reading from the second chapter of Luke, an angel delivered a message to terrified shepherds who were watching their flocks at night.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10b-11)

The announcement stated the good news would cause “great” joy…for all the people. Let’s unpack this.

First, “good news.” The original Greek word is euaggelizo (yoo-ang-ghel-id’-zo) which means to announce good news (“evangelize”) especially the gospel. It’s to declare/bring/show glad or good tidings, to preach the
gospel, which means “good news.”

Today in church circles, there’s a lot of discussion about the gospel, what it is and what it isn’t. In three words, I believe the gospel is, “Jesus is LORD.” That’s good news. It’s great news if you understand who Jesus is, and what a thrill it is to call him not just Savior, but LORD, Master, King, the Boss! There are some today who say the gospel is about praying a prayer so you can go to heaven when you die, but nobody in the early church would’ve thought that at all. It doesn’t begin with me, but with Jesus.

The gospel is good news, which could vary from person to person, right? Think back to that football game a few weeks ago! But in this case, the gospel is good news for all people.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10b-11)

The angel said, “…great joy for all the people.” That’s tremendously important.

The Jewish people were known as God’s chosen people, so much so that they copped an attitude toward Gentiles, those who were not Jewish. I think it’s incredible how God used the Jewish Messiah to cause great joy for all the people, all nations. Jesus was not an American! I don’t think he was white, he didn’t speak English, and he certainly wasn’t born into wealth, freedom, or power.

Speaking of which, I don’t want to miss the
shepherds in this story. They were, after all, the ones to whom the angel spoke. They were lowly caretakers of lambs and considered untrustworthy and ceremonially unclean because of their work. Yet their lambs would be used for temple sacrifices in Jerusalem. Dr. Tony Evans notes,

The shepherds were responsible for making sure that newborn lambs had no defects since the sacrificial animals had to be without spot or wrinkle. So the shepherds would tightly wrap the lambs in cloth to keep them from becoming blemished and injuring themselves. This explains why Luke makes the point that Jesus was wrapped tightly in cloth, since at his birth he was the sinless Lamb of God whose substitutionary sacrifice would take away the sin of the entire world (see John 1:29; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 1:19-20; 1 John 2:2).

Virtually everything about the arrival of King Jesus was the opposite of any other royal birth. God has a special place in His heart for the outcasts, the stranger, the widow, the poor, the orphan. I hope this is an encouragement to many of you…even those of you who consider yourselves average, normal, unremarkable. God sees you. If you’re in the sanctuary this morning, I see you! You matter. You belong here.
Your life has meaning and a purpose. You were created in the image of the Almighty with dignity, value, and worth. Next Sunday evening, the kids will sing,

Good News for to the poor!
Good News for the broken hearts!
Good News for the captives.
Good News for those who cry!

That’s all of us, family! We’re all captives to sin. We’ve all experienced pain, suffering, and broken hearts. We’ve all been poor, if not financially, then emotionally, spiritually, relationally. This is one of the things I love about our faith…it’s for everyone! Young, old, rich, poor, immigrant, refugee, black, brown, peach, American, Asian, African, European, male, female, …everyone!

Some have called Christian an exclusive religion. Jesus did say,

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

But the gift, Jesus, is inclusive. He came for everyone, yet many have refused to accept the gift. No gift is truly yours until you take it. If I sent you a brand new Apple Watch and you left it in your mailbox, it’s really not yours. Jesus is the gospel, the good news. Jesus is LORD is good news…for all people! We don’t have to wallow in our fear, shame, addictions, habits, insecurities, anxiety, or depression. Jesus came to give us life, freedom, hope, peace, love, and joy!

That’s the word of the day, so what does it really mean? We often compare and contrast it with happiness. After all, Thomas Jefferson said we have the right to the pursuit of happiness…right?! As a culture, we obsess about happiness, doing whatever makes us happy and avoiding anything that would involve pain, suffering, inconvenience, or sacrifice. Sheryl Crow even had a hit song years ago singing, “If it makes you happy.” In a culture where truth is what I feel and I have to feel good and happy, people are making some crazy choices. Add the trauma of the multiple crises in our land and it’s understandable why everyone seems to be on edge, stressed, anxious, and fearful.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to be happy, but it was never God’s design that our ultimate pursuit be happiness. That would make it an idol. Our ultimate pursuit should be the LORD and His glory.

The original Greek word for joy in our text, chara (khar-ah), means joy (of course), calm delight, cheerfulness, gladness, and in some cases “greatly joyful.” Joy is a part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians chapter 5. It’s used throughout the book of Philippians by Paul who—despite being in prison—is filled with joy.

It is possible to have inner joy in the midst of external suffering…and we need to express sadness, anger, and other negative emotions. Even in the midst of trials, we can experience hope and strength through the joy of the LORD (Nehemiah 8:10). I think the most amazing verse about joy speaks of Jesus’ purpose in becoming Emmanuel, God with us. The writer of the book of Hebrews says,

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2b)

I don’t think Jesus was happy hanging on a cross, but even during the crucifixion, he had hope. He chose joy. He knew there was more to his story. He was obedient and faithful to the Father and had you and me in mind when he endured the cross.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;

The birth of Jesus never made CNN, FOX News, or Facebook, but eventually word would spread that the Messiah, the LORD had come, had arrived.
Let Earth receive her King;

Jesus is not merely the King or Rome or England or Scotland, but the King of the Earth! He is the King of kings and the LORD of lords. He rules and reigns, and though he is allowing satan this season to be the prince of this world, the King is coming back soon!
Let every heart prepare him room,

We talked about this last Sunday, making room in our hearts—and calendar, budgets, minds, and lives—for Jesus. I failed to mention last week how this is a struggle for me, too. I wrestle with busyness, to-do lists, distractions, and temptations which keep me from fully abiding and remaining with Jesus. Whenever I slip into fear instead of faith, I’m not making room. Whenever I think I selfishly deserve something rather than seeking to steward my many blessings, I’m not making room. Whenever I do things my way rather than seeking first His Kingdom, I’m not making room. I’m a living example of someone trying to follow Jesus, but I’m not a perfect example.

Is there room in your heart and life for Jesus?

Unfortunately, two thousand years later, billions of people still haven’t heard about the birth of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, or anything about Jesus! They are living in darkness, hopeless and lost. We’re on a mission to make disciples, to restore God’s masterpieces, to proclaim the gospel, the good news, that Jesus is LORD.

And what’s the natural response of those who
have encountered the joy of Jesus?
And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
I love these verses from Psalm 96:

9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.
11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness. (Psalm 96:9-13)

He rules the world with truth and grace. King Jesus is LORD of all creatures, heaven and earth, land and sea. No wonder we are commanded to sing in Psalm 98:
Psa. 98:1    Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
2 The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
3 He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
4 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
5 make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King.
7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
8 Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
9 let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity. (Psalm 98:1-9)

That’s good news. That’s joy-inducing truth. That’s something worth telling on the mountain and everywhere!

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10b-11)

The last verse of Joy to the World declares,

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.

King Jesus rules.
King Jesus reigns.
King Jesus loves.
King Jesus lives.

Let’s receive our King this Christmas…and spread joy to the world!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne, 5 December 2021

Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne
Luke 2:1-7

Series Big Idea: Carols are the soundtrack of the season as we celebrate Advent.

Big Idea: Is there room in your life for the One who made room in his life for you?

I can remember it like it was yesterday. My wife and daughters flew from Detroit to Seattle on a red-eye which was delayed. It must’ve been around 3 AM when I drove our rental car to the hotel I had reserved—with a credit card—eager to catch some much-needed sleep before our two-hour drive to visit friends. I walked to the front desk to check-in when the person at the front desk said the two words no weary traveler wants to hear:


I was shocked! After all, I had reserved a room! I had made payment—or at least a deposit—on a room. I was tired and cranky and I needed a room, not only for myself but my ladies. When I appealed, I was told


What do you mean, no room? Surely you’ve got some place we can rest! I was told a room might be available around 10 AM if I wanted to check in for the next day and night. I didn’t need a room in seven hours! I needed one now!

Have you ever felt stuck between a rock and a hard place? I literally had no idea what to do at 3 in the morning on the other side of the country with a wife and two little girls, knowing our friends weren’t expecting us until 9 AM…six hours later. Did I mention I was tired and cranky?!


Have you ever had a similar experience? Maybe it was trying to find a seat on the bus, a concert ticket, registering for a college class, or simply a parking spot.


How did it make you feel?

Today we’re continuing our Advent series,
Carols. We actually begin it last year at Christmastime and this year we have four new songs we’re examining. Actually, they’re not new, but rather quite old! Last week Mykel preached a great sermon based upon the theme of The People that in Darkness Sat. Today we’re exploring the scriptures behind the carol Thou Did’st Leave Thy Throne. The Shakespearean-sounding title alerts us that it’s hardly a new song, yet its lyrics are timeless.

Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown

So begins this carol. It’s obviously speaking of Jesus, the King of kings. What would cause a king to leave his throne? Why would a king set aside his crown? Even though we’re quite unfamiliar with royalty—aside from the occasional gossip from England—the idea of a king stepping down seems remarkable. After all, many lust for power and will do just about anything to obtain it…or keep it. Yet our own nation’s history contains a brilliant account of one choosing to give up power.

George Washington faithfully served the United States until his resignation on December 23, 1783. When asked what Washington would do, King George III was told Washington would return to his farm, leading the king to famously declare, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

It takes a great person to willingly surrender power, and one even greater than Washington stepped down from a far greater position. As we sang last week,

Light of the world
You stepped down into darkness

We could say, “Creator of the universe, You left heaven’s splendor to spend thirty-three years on this beautiful yet broken planet.”

Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown

Why? Did have nothing better to do? Was he bored with the entertainment options in heaven? Did Jesus get into an argument with the Father and the Holy Spirit and need a break?! Hardly!

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown, When Thou camest to earth for me

YOU are the reason Jesus left his throne! He came to earth for YOU! He made a special, rather-lengthy trip for YOU! What amazing love!

How far have you ever traveled for another person? We drove about twelve hours each way to visit family over Thanksgiving. That was a lot of time, gas, and effort to see my grandma, aunt, uncle, and my sister’s family, but it’s nothing like the journey Jesus made from heaven to earth. I know the story is familiar to most of you, but imagine making such a journey and hearing those two awful words

But in Bethlehem's home was there found no room For Thy holy nativity.
Nativity simply refers to the birth of Jesus described in the gospels or “good news” of Matthew and Luke. Speaking of Mary, the New King James Version says,

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7, NKJV)


It’s worth noting they were not trying to get a room at the Holiday Inn! There are many myths and misunderstandings that have developed over the years about the birth of Jesus, not the least of which is this reference to an inn. The New Living Translation says, “There was no lodging available for them” and the NIV says, “There was no guest room available for them.”

Back in the day, people would live upstairs with animals on the ground floor. Although a manger is present, no animals are mentioned by Dr. Luke. The significance of the
manger may not be much aside from it being a signpost given by the angel (a few verses later) to help the shepherds identify the Messiah.

To understand what’s happening, we need to go back to the beginning of this chapter.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. (Luke 2:1-3)

Every fourteen years, Rome took a census for tax and military purposes. Each Jewish male had to return to his father’s city. Imagine doing that today! It helps explain why the house was full, forcing the couple and their newborn downstairs.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:4-7)


Joseph and Mary had traveled about ninety miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem…without a DVD player, a heater, or even a car! Imagine walking from here to the Cleveland airport. How imagine you arrive and you’re told


Did I mention Mary was nine months pregnant? And that being an unwed mother was not exactly politically or socially correct?

I know God had His reasons, but the birth of Jesus has got to be one of the most unusual, counter-intuitive plans of the Almighty. Kings are born in palaces…or at least hospitals. What am I saying?! Kings don’t leave their thrones! Nobody chooses to be born on our planet, right?

Emily Elizabeth Steele Elliott (1836-1897) was born in Brighton, England. She was the daughter of an Anglican clergyman and the niece of Charlotte Elliott (1789-1871), the author of the famous hymn, “Just as I am.” 

Emily published a collection of 48 hymns called
Under the Pillow for those sick in hospitals, infirmaries, or at home. She wrote, “Thou didst leave thy throne” separately, however, to help children understand the meaning of the nativity—the birth of Christ—and Advent, this season of expectant waiting. After explaining the rejection of Jesus’ parents, she contrasts it with her own treatment of the Messiah.

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for Thee. Is there room in your heart for Jesus? You all know the right answer, especially on Sunday morning, but be honest. Is there room in your heart for Jesus? Is there room in your life for Jesus? Is there room in your calendar for Jesus?

It seems as though most in our culture are quite used to saying


At an hour in which the majority of people in our land were once gathered to worship the LORD, many are comfortable…in bed, on social media, watching tv, putting up Christmas decorations, or buying stuff. Several so-called experts have said a “regular church attendee” shows up once a month. Once a month! They can’t even make room for God for an hour a week. Can one hour a month be considered devotion?

Of course, I’m not saying church attendance is the gauge for making room in your heart for Jesus. Far from it! If anything, it’s simply the public expression of one’s faith on a regular basis. I’m obviously preaching to the choir since you’re listening to me, but

Is there room in your heart for Jesus?
Is there room tomorrow? Is there room throughout this week? Is there room throughout Advent…and beyond?

That’s asking a lot, right? Hardly! Jesus was asked later in the book of Luke what must be done to inherit eternal life.

He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)  
That’s a lot! Jesus doesn’t want an hour on Sunday. He wants all of you! All your heart…soul, strength, and mind. He wants you to love others—even your enemies—as yourself. He wants nothing less than everything. All of you. Why? Because that’s what he gave you…all of himself. King Jesus left his throne for you. That’s not a half-hearted move. It’s not a passive, if it’s convenient maneuver. He gave everything for you…and he asks the same in return.

Earlier we sang,

Heaven's arches rang
When the angels sang
Proclaiming Thy royal degree
But in lowly birth
Didst Thou come to earth
And in great humility

He came in the most humble way possible…and stayed there. Paul wrote,

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

One time Jesus told a potential follower,

Jesus replied, Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)

In other words, following Jesus offers no guarantees of a comfortable life…or even a roof over your head. This is surely what inspired verse three of our carol.

The foxes found rest
And the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree
But Thy couch was the sod
O Thou Son of God
In the deserts of Galilee

Our selfish, narcissistic culture seems to base everything around one question: how does it make me feel? If it makes me feel good, it must be true. If it requires any discomfort, any sacrifice, any inconvenience, any pain, it must be rejected.

I’m so glad Jesus didn’t take that approach. We would all be hopeless in a world of money, pleasure, and power-grabbing individuals with little regard for others.

Last week, Mykel asked why we celebrate Christmas. After all, the death and the resurrection are the highlight reel of Jesus’ life. Yet it all began with a baby in a manger, no crib for his bed.

Today we not only look at his birth, we consider in verse four his mission.

Thou camest O Lord
With the living word
That should set Thy people free
But with mocking scorn
And with crown of thorn
They bore Thee to Calvary


The story of Jesus is not over. Far from it! Do you know how long eternity lasts?! Today in this season of Advent we remember those who waited expectedly for the Messiah about two thousand years ago. We also wait expectedly for his promised return.

When the heavens shall ring
And the angels sing
At Thy coming to victory
Let Thy voice call me home
Saying yet there is room
There is room at My side for thee

Is there room in your heart—in your life—for Jesus? He made room in his life for you.

Recommended resource: Make Room by Jonathan McReynolds

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library