Joy To The (Whole) World
One of my favorite Christmas hymns is "Joy To The World," sung in just about every church I've served after lighting candles during Christmas Eve candlelight services.
The inspiration from which this hymn is drawn comes from the Gospel of Luke chapter 2 when the angel speaks to the shepherds:
"Do not be afraid; I bring you good tidings of exceedingly great joy, which will be for all the people..."
I note a few things from that verse that have always intrigued me. The first thing is that the angel's news purports to bring joy that can only be described as "exceedingly great."
In angel-speak, that's a lot of joy, like a lot. Exceedingly great joy is the kind of joy that can't be contained. It's the joy that fills your whole being and leaves you tingly. It's the kind of joy that supersedes whatever you might be experiencing, even if what you're feeling is joy.
Second, this "exceedingly great joy" is for "all the people."
Now, this is important. You see, the text doesn't say "some of the people," "a select few of the people," or even "a group of chosen people." It says "all the people."
In other words, the message of joy the angel brings is for everyone, no matter who they are. These are good tidings, indeed. This is the kind of joy that the world needs right now, and us along with it.
The problem is, most of us have a hard time embracing joy.
Dry lips with what can cool and slake,
Leaving them dumbstruck also with an ache
Nothing can satisfy.