A Christmas Hymn for All Seasons

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ahfas1thumbI love the hymn by Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World.” It is a hymn of great victory, which exalts the present rule and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider this line: “He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.” And since the curse is found in every part of the planet, Watts is claiming that the redemptive blessings of Jesus are to be found everywhere on earth.

We know from passages such as Romans 8:18–30 that, one day, the curse on earth will be completely lifted as Jesus Christ wraps up history at His final coming to earth. According to 1 Corinthians 15:20–28, the Lord Jesus is right now extending His kingdom, and when this is completed He will return to earth and offer the glorified kingdom to His Father. The eternal state will commence. By definition, this eternally glorious state will never end! We also know from other Scriptures that, throughout eternity, the redeemed from every tribe, tongue, kindred and nation will be serving, worshipping and praising the triune God (see Revelation 5:8–10; 7:9–10). In other words, the blessings of the gospel of our glorious God will flow as far as the curse is found.

This is not a pipe-dream. It was the mere sentimental musings of poet who was looking to write a romanticised Christmas hymn. Rather, this was the truth-filled fruit of a man who knew his Bible and who therefore had a soundly exalted view of his sovereign Saviour. Isaac Watts was a believer who knew God. And this was reflected in this hymn. He saw that the incarnation of Jesus Christ—God in the flesh—was the basis for the otherwise impossible to occur.

In speaking of the incarnation, J. I. Packer observed, “It is no wonder that thoughtful people find the gospel of Jesus Christ hard to believe, for the realities with which it deals pass man’s understanding. But is sad that so many make faith harder than it needs to be, by finding difficulties in the wrong places.” He then highlights some of these areas where people find it difficult to believe such as the atonement (one dying in the place of another to atone for sins), the resurrection of Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, and His many miracles. He then says,

But in fact the real difficulty, because the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us, does not lie here at all. It lies, not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of incarnation. The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man…. Once we grant that Jesus was divine, it becomes unreasonable to find difficulty in any of [these other miracles]; it is all of a piece, and hangs together completely. The incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the New Testament contains.

Indeed, the unfathomable mystery of the incarnation makes sense of everything else the New Testament contains—including His present victorious rule and reign.

We tend to sing hymns about the incarnation only at Christmastime, and that is a mistake. Apart from the incarnation, everything else connected with Jesus simply falls away—including what He is doing from heaven on earth today. As the second man from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:47), the Lord Jesus Christ is reconciling the world to God (2 Corinthians 5:17–19), and He can do so because He became a curse for those who believe in Him (Galatians 3:13). As the glorified and exalted “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), the Lord Jesus is reclaiming the world under the dominion of God. By His redemptive work, He is making His blessings flow as far as the curse is found.

We serve a risen Saviour, who is working in our world today. If you find it hard to believe that the His gospel will conquer the nations, if you find it hard to believe that His kingdom will be extended in space-time history, then take a moment to reflect upon the incarnation. If God would and could and did become Man, then with Isaac Watts we can confidently sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” That is truly a hymn for all seasons.

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