“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”

Wait, isn’t that a Christmas carol? Why are we going to sing it on Easter Sunday morning?

Yes, the song appears in our hymnal in the Christmas carol section (which is named “Jesus Christ: Advent and Nativity”). Before it is “We Three Kings,” and after it is “The First Noel.” I keep track of the days on which we sing songs in worship, and in my years as pastor at Mt. Haley, we have only ever sung “Joy to the World” in the month of December – or, occasionally, in late November. There is no question that this song is a Christmas-time song.

But we’re going to sing it on Easter Sunday, and I’m excited about that. :)

“Joy to the World” is based on Psalm 98. Isaac Watts wrote these lyrics as part of his quest to point all of the Psalms specifically to Jesus. Take a few minutes right now to read Psalm 98 – which, by the way, will be our responsive reading on Easter Sunday, as well.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.

If there were ever a day for us to celebrate the arrival of Jesus as King, it is Easter Sunday. After all hope seemed to have been lost on Good Friday, and after a quiet day of somber reflection on Holy Saturday, Christians around the world will celebrate with great wonder the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Who else would we claim as our King?

Joy to the world! The Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ, while fields and flocks, rocks, hills, and plains repeat the sounding joy.

All creation joins in celebration of the new life found in Jesus Christ. Remember that Easter coincides with the early days of springtime. Take a look around you: fields, flocks, rocks, hills, and plains are all bursting at the seams with new life. (Well, ok, maybe the rocks are a little stoic. But maybe not: see Luke 19:37-40.)

No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.

This is what the Easter season is all about: through his death and resurrection, Jesus has made atonement for our sins. The sorrow of Good Friday has been turned into Easter celebrations. The thorns on Jesus’s crown are exchanged for a royal crown that will never be taken away from him.

He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love.

Jesus came into this world full of grace and truth (John 1:14). His resurrection from the dead proves that the world’s greatest powers – religious and secular alike – are no match for his righteousness and love.

We live in an in-between time, between Jesus’s resurrection and his return at the end of the age. During this in-between time, we remember and celebrate the past: Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the grave. But we also remember and celebrate the future: Jesus will come again in glory, and the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ (Revelation 11:15). Rightly understood, “Joy to the World” is a song about the second coming of Christ. Won’t it be grand to remember Jesus’s future arrival on the day that we remember his victory over the grave?

Come and worship with us at Mt. Haley on Easter Sunday, April 16, at 10am. We will have a sunrise service at 7am and a hot breakfast at 8am as well.

Happy Christmas Eve! Soon we will gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior. Here is a preview of our Sunday morning service, so you can prepare yourself for this encounter with the living Messiah.

  • Welcome/Announcements: We take care of the business of the church.
  • Prayer: We acknowledge God’s presence among us and invite him to be attentive to our worship.
  • “Angels We Have Heard on High”: We celebrate the birth of Jesus with this carol: Glory to God in the highest!
  • “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”: We continue in praise of our newborn King.
  • Christ’s Birthday Observance Offering: We give a special offering to honor the birth of Jesus. This offering supports national and international ministries of the Church of God.
  • “This Little Light of Mine”: We join in singing this spiritual as we give our special offering.
  • Responsive Reading (Psalm 148): We praise the Lord by reading a psalm of praise together.
  • “Jesus Messiah”: In song we adore Jesus, the one who became our righteousness: love so amazing!
  • Scripture Reading (Isaiah 61:10-62:3): We hear an ancient text that inspires us to sing praise to God in our souls.
  • Scripture Reading (Luke 2:22-40): The sermon text calls us to center our thoughts on an encounter with the newborn Jesus.
  • Message (“Give Thanks to God”): Mary and Joseph brought young Jesus to the Temple, where he was greeted by Simeon and Anna. We reflect together on this marvelous story.
  • “Come, Share the Lord”: We sing this song to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus face to face.
  • The Lord’s Supper: This is the highlight of the service. In the bread and cup, we meet our crucified and risen Savior. This is a mystery – but it’s one that we share with each other with eyes wide open.
  • Offering: We give our regular tithes and offerings to the Lord, in response to the gift he has given us: life with him.
  • “You Have Been Given”: We sing this chorus to prepare ourselves for prayer.
  • Prayer: We lift up our praises and petitions before the Lord.
  • Special: We hear a story from one of our dear, elderly saints.
  • “Good Christians, Now Rejoice”: We sing this carol to remind ourselves of our call to rejoice in the Lord always.
  • Benediction: We receive a blessing as we depart, changed forever by this encounter with the living Jesus.
Peace: it’s something that most people hope to experience, but the lack of peace in our lives and in our world is never far from our attention.
On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we will light the fourth Advent candle to represent the peace that Jesus brings into the world. Together, the four candles represent love, hope, joy, and peace – four things that are desperately needed in all places and at all times.
Here is a preview of this Sunday’s order of service, along with what each portion represents: