Joy to the World

Acts 7:59-8:8

I love singing “Joy to the World” at Christmas. It’s a message that rings through our celebrations welcoming the Christ child. Yes, in Jesus, the Lord has come! The hymn, though, centers much more on the second coming of Jesus than his first. As many have noted, then, it’s not quite a Christmas hymn.

Of course, there’s no second coming without a first.

So, I’ll still sing it as we reflect on Jesus’ nativity. But, if we really want to celebrate, we should sing it some random Sunday in June as well.

The Incarnation is God with us in Jesus. Our faith tells us God took on our form and walked with us. Jesus is the light we have seen that has overcome our darkness. But the darkness still pervades our lives.

It’s easy to see that.

Turn on the news. Listen to a neighbor. Volunteer at a local food pantry or shelter. Darkness is overcome, but it has not retreated yet. It still wreaks havoc on families. There’s no ignoring its influence in the world.

Thankfully, we can see through its temporary pull. See through it to see the light of Christ shining. Darkness would tell you there’s no hope for anyone in those shelters you meet. Darkness would say the struggle is so real we all will succumb to it. When we pay attention, though, we see rays of light. You will find that even in dark places people know the joy of Christ.

It’s those moments and people we need to pay attention to.

After Stephen died in Acts 7, the church continued its mission. I’m convinced Stephen’s witness was bearing fruit through them. They heard of what he said as he was being stoned to death. It’s impossible to mistake what he was doing, fashioning his life and experience after Jesus.

Luke tells us that even as more people faced persecution, “there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:8). Why? Because the light of Christ was still shining.

Yes, we still see darkness. But may we allow the light of Christ to remain shining within us. As it does, may it strengthen and embolden us to be witnesses that show the world that darkness is overcome. And joy will come to our city, too.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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