1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. — 1 John 1:1–4 (ESV)
Let’s play a word association game. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear these words and phrases?
“Joy to the World”
If you’re like me, the first thing that came into your mind had something to do with Christmas. Each one of these words and phrases has been used to express the delight and cheer of the Christmas season. What other holiday squeezes the dictionary like this to use every possible word for joy?
This isn’t just any ol’ joy. This joy finds its meaning in the context of God’s story in contrast to rival stories. For instance, I recently read an article by a physicist claiming that “At the end of the Universe, long after the last shining stars flicker out, there might be one final set of explosions...these dazzling blasts will herald in the everlasting darkness as the Universe sinks into dormancy.” Talk about bleak. The story of materialism begins in nothingness, is carried along by chance, and ends in oblivion. In that story, joy is simply a distraction from the meaninglessness and “everlasting darkness” of reality.
But the Christmas story is different. In this story, the infinitely holy and glorious Triune GOD was there at the beginning (Genesis 1:1). He created all things from the largest galaxies down to the smallest grain of sand—and not because he needed anything! Rather this creation is an overflow of the overwhelming abundance of the infinite love and joy shared by the members of the Trinity. John tells us that the Father loved and delighted in the Son before the creation of the world (John 17:24)—that is the context of creation! Love and joy.
And this is the kicker. This is the mind-blowing surprise of Christmas. This is the reason we exhaust our vocabulary to describe the joy of Christmas: The Word of life—the Son of God—was made manifest to us in the incarnation of Jesus (1 John 1:1-2). The invisible transcendent one who made all things entered his creation and became heard, seen, and touched!
This joy goes deep. The reason the infinite Son was born and placed into a manger was to to bring us into the thick and everlasting joy that he shares with the Father. (1 John 1:3). The same joy that overflowed in the creation of galaxies and rivers and marshmallows is the joy that we are invited into through Christ who reconciles us to the Father through the cross. Why do we party at Christmas, eat choice foods and give extravagant gifts? Because he is the God who made our senses and fills them abundantly.
Praise be to our faithful and true Deliverer; our thankfulness
compels us to our knees. Your generosity is unparalleled.
You meet our practical needs and might have stopped there—but your delight in us inspired you to give us things like hot chocolate and literature and lightning bugs, too. All of creation sings a symphony of your praises; every gift points us to you.
We recognize and repent: in our ingratitude,
we often abuse your gifts.
We are less thankful than we ought to be.
We discard your gifts as if they are meaningless.
We confuse the gift with the giver, expecting your gifts to satisfy us, making idols of them.
Remove the blindfold of our greed, Father!
While the world offers us inflammatory headlines and
grim devastation, you offer us joy.
For you, our risen King, not only know us, but adore us.
So much so that you came to be with us and pay our ransom.
Precious Savior, you made yourself lowly to rescue us
from our own lowliness.
And so, this Advent season, may we party well.
We lift our glasses and toast to the one who drank
the cup we deserved.
You are our ultimate, our legendary, our earth shattering, gift. Sustain us O Lord, that we might never lose sight of the everlasting joy that you freely give.