Did you know that one of the most popular Christmas carols was not written for Christmas? Joy to the World was written by Isaac Watts; who did not celebrate Christmas but loved the truth of the incarnation. The first line of the hymn is, “Joy to the world the Lord is come, let earth receive her king.”
One of my favorite verses, one that we do not sing as often, is the third verse:
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
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found.
This verse is a great comfort to all Christians but especially for the struggling Christian. The song builds on itself. Without the first two verses describing the coming and reigning of Jesus, this verse would make little sense.
Jesus came, the second person of the trinity took on human flesh. Jesus is truly God, truly man. He knows our weaknesses. He is our High Priest; who is able to sympathize with us because He was tempted like us in every way, yet without weakness (Hebrews 4:14-16). He came with a mission. The angel announced to Joseph in Matthew 1:21 that the baby Mary was to have would be named Jesus, because He would save His people from their sins.
And this is what Jesus did. Jesus said that He came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for many as was foretold by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Jesus came as the suffering servant.
Jesus reigns as the conquering King. Jesus defeated death (Hebrews 2:14-15) and now sits at the right hand of the Father; reigning from Heaven. The reign of Christ is a source of great joy. The second verse has the repeated phrase “repeat the sounding joy.” Everywhere Christ reigns there is great joy because He gave His joy to His people (John 15:11).
Because Christ came and defeated death, because Christ reigns from Heaven and brings great joy: the third verse is a great comfort.
No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. Jesus came and defeated sin. Sin produces sorrow in our lives. Sometimes this is because of our own sin, being sinned against, or the general presence of sin in the world. We live in a place filled with sorrow because this world is rampant with sin. Without the incarnation, atonement, and reign of Christ there is no good news for sinners like you and me in this world.
This is a problem that has existed since Genesis 3. Thorns infesting the ground was part of the curse God pronounced on Adam and Eve after they disobeyed and listened to the voice of Satan rather than God. The ground would not yield easily to Adam, and he would have to deal with thorns and other obstacles as he worked to grow food for his family. Thorns are a sign of the curse that sin brought into the world. Only the promised Son in Genesis 3:15 can reverse the curse. Jesus is the promised one who crushed the head of the serpent and defeated the sin that brought the curse into the world.
He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found. The Old Testament closed with a curse (Malachi 4) but the New Testament opens with a word of blessing. The angel tells Mary she is blessed and favored by God. Something is changing in the history of Israel. The coming of the Messiah, Jesus, brought great blessing.
The extent to which the blessings of Christ flows is far as the curse is found. The blessings of Christ cannot be stopped because the curse is worldwide. Now we understand why the angel told the shepherds in Luke 2 that the birth of Christ was good news for all the people. All people everywhere experience the effects of the fall and the curse that results from it. Our work is toilsome and hard. Our marriages are difficult because of our sin and our spouse’s sin. Our friendships are rife with difficulty. Cancer exists, mental illness exists, the flu exists. Death is evident in this world and still has a 100% success rate. The curse is ever present.
If we are not careful it is easy as Christians to miss the blessings of Christ, because the curse is so evident around us. It is hard to keep our eyes on the good when the bad seems so prevalent. As we turn our attention to Christmas what are some of the blessings we have received because of Christ?
- Christ. Jesus taught His disciples in John 15 that they abide in Him and He abides in them. If we are Christians, Jesus dwells within us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised to be with us until the end of this age (Matthew 28:20) and will never leave us or forsake us. We have Christ, He has given Himself to us.
- Salvation. In Ephesians 1:3-14 Paul outlines the blessings that come to Christians. We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. God chose us so that we might be holy and blameless before Him. God predestined us for adoption as sons. God wanted us to be His child. It was His initiative and His purpose. Adoption is the greatest and most supreme blessing given the child of God. In Christ we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. He has given us His grace, He has lavished it upon us.
- The Family of God. Since we have been adopted by God, we have a new family. We are not individuals unto ourselves but we are part of the bigger family of God. We currently see this in the church, the local church. These people are a blessing for the children of God. Give yourself to the church, serve them by using the gifts God has given to you.
- A Future Hope. One day the truth that Jesus has reversed the curse will be evident to all when he establishes the new heaven and new earth. Then and there the curse will not be found. Death and sickness will be no more. Jesus dwells with us now but then we will live with him face-to-face.
The joy and blessings God gives us through Christ are ours no matter our circumstances. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.