Joy to the World

In our children’s Sunday school class, I have recently been teaching on the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5: 22-23), namely that these are not just external behaviors or tasks to accomplish. Instead, these are evidenced of the Holy Spirit within us that change the foundation of who we are. It is that of the Spirit’s work that has observable changes in how we interact with the world. We’ve been reframing and redefining each fruit in this light. We used Paul and Silas singing in jail (Acts 16:19-24) as a test case to talk about joy as more than just situational happiness but choosing to trust God with a good attitude.

All of this is playing in the back of my mind as my seven-year-old daughter started getting ready for her Christmas concert. So, while she plays the piano every day, I hear her happily sing the song at the top of her lungs… 

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 nature sing

This daily loud interruption has me thinking about this understanding of joy as trusting of God with a good attitude.

Christmas seems to be a holiday of merriment for everyone but mom. For many moms, Christmas means extra shopping, extra cooking, extra activities, extra gatherings, extra work. There’s pressure to make extended families happy, to decorate the house just so, to get the perfect gift, all with a smile and seasonally appropriate attire. It can be just plain exhausting. Instead of “Joy to the World”, we could sing this…

Stress is my world

It’s all mom’s job

There is so much to do

I’ll never be a Pinterest mom

My presents are not wrapped

My cookies all fall flat 

I’ll never make it to Christmas Day 

I know for me, when I’m on overload and don’t see an end in sight, one of the first things to go is my attitude. It’s easy to slip into patterns of frustration, anger, bitterness, even resentment. Instead of being like my Heavenly Father, I can be quick to anger and abounding in steadfast annoyance. Anxieties and sass are competing in me for highest marks. How far I am from the fruit of joy in trusting the Lord with a good attitude.

Isaac Watts penned the lyrics of “Joy to the World” to be a Christ centered look at Psalm 98. Indeed, these lyrics reflect the whole world singing praise to God for His redemption that is depicted in this Psalm. Yet you don’t get to Psalm 98 without ninety-seven other psalms coming before it. You can’t get to Mount Zion without first passing through the valley of the shadow of death. You don’t really get to experience this kind of joy without a difficulty that demonstrates your trust in God.

I’ve come to learn that trusting God with a good attitude is much more about a decision you make than a feeling to feel. Many of the Psalms are wonderful examples of this reality. Chapter after chapter describes the hardships of life: family troubles, abandonment, health problems, depression, anxiety, fear, loneliness, stress, sorrow, suffering and sin of all sorts. The kinds of things that make this time of year hard for so many of us. Yet, more often than not, the Psalms are not prayers of complaint, but reminders to the writer’s own heart of Gods goodness and faithfulness in the midst of these things. They are reminders that God has not forgotten or abandoned His people, but that He can be trusted. It is His steadfast love and faithfulness that allows the Psalmist to proclaim to His own heart the goodness of God and let that mantra be the basis for a good attitude. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 43:5.

In this Christmas season of merriment and stress, may we have joy as we decide to trust God with a good attitude and find hope in who He really is.