I should start by saying that I'm a huge fan of Christmas music. To my family's chagrin, it is typical for me to enthusiastically play Christmas music come late September. However, this year has been so upended that I waited until early November to commence with the merriment. I must say in a year such as this, I need a big dose of cheer so much more than usual! I recently stumbled upon a station that plays classically arranged instrumental Christmas music. My absolute favorites are the traditional carols that I was raised singing in church. For the past several years, as I listen (and often sing along) I have given more deliberate consideration to the familiar words I so often thoughtlessly recite. This year a singular carol has struck a chord in my heart--Joy to the World. "Joy to the world the Lord is come! Let Earth receive her king..." In a year so full of heartache, stressors, and unusual demands, it isn't hard to lose our grip on joy. The very first line heralds a reminder to those weary-of-heart to look up! To remember that we are about to commemorate the most undeserving, yet extravagant display of love and hope in human history. We are the unlikely recipients of unlimited favor, grace, and redemption. "Let every heart prepare Him room--and heaven and nature sing..." The choice is ours. While the gift is freely extended, it must be wilfully received. Making the choice to step into relationship with the Father and what He has already done on our behalf can feel counterintuitive. We are creatures programmed by culture to earn and to perform. Sometimes receiving Him looks like unlearning what we've wrongly believed all along. It is a merciful undoing in order to be rightly remade. And stepping into that reality is both humbling and freeing. Taking off the pressure to perform--THAT is something to sing about! "He rules the world with truth and grace..." In our society, it's either-or. You're either honest with a hard edge or you're gracious and too soft. But in God, these two qualities are seamlessly married in a beautiful, complementary way. He never diminishes truth to soften the blow, but He does give us grace (His power and ability) to both do and to desire what He requires of us. In other words, He asks us to be active participants--cooperating with Him as He works to reverse the damage that the enemy has inflicted. He also needs us to surrender as He redesigns our thinking to be in keeping with His truth so that we can move forward in ways that safeguard our wellbeing. "...and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love... I think the 'nations' here are symbolic of God's unlimited capacity to use anything and anyone in His plans to 'work all things together for our good.' (Romans 8:28) The doors He opens, no man can close and the doors that He closes, no man can open--whether by will or by force. The things that the enemy intends to use to my detriment are the very things that God refashions to my benefit. In order to realize His blessing, I must cooperate with Him by leaning into His truth. A God who can repurpose hurt for healing is surely a wondrous God! His ways--though unfamiliar to us--yield a glorious payoff as we anchor our trust in Him. "And the LORD--who is the Spirit--makes us MORE and MORE like Him as we are transformed into His glorious image." 2 Corinthians 3:18 "No more let sin and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground..." When we invest ourselves in relationship with God, He takes the revitalization process most seriously. He challenges our sin, not by demanding perfection or performance, but by addressing it at its core--our wrong beliefs. Wrong thinking about who we are, who God is, and what truly brings peace and satisfaction in life. The aftershocks of sin and sorrow are no longer compulsory. When we fail, our shortcomings can be upcycled into a marvelous display of 'beauty for ashes' when we lean into His redemptive work. And not only that, He is constantly at work overwriting our 'internal code' (our desires and compulsions) as we come alive to the Spirit of Christ within us. He came that we might "have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) "...He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found..." " Taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8) "He whom the Son sets free is free indeed." (John 8:36) Once you taste real freedom, you will not be inclined or easily enticed to go back to the counterfeit freedom of 'doing as you please.' "Stand firm, therefore, in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage." (Galatians 5:1) It's true--in our human economy, God's ways can seem upside down, but when we humble ourselves to obedience we find that the only thing upside down is the way we were living in the first place. Everything about how Jesus calls us to live leads to life and freedom in ever-increasing measure. As far as Satan's dominion extends, Christ has paved the way to true freedom by bringing us alive to His Spirit within us. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2 Corinthians 3:17) So this Christmas season, despite the difficult year preceding it and the uncertain future that lies ahead, we can anchor our hearts to the Manger. For within it was held the deposit guaranteeing our glorious future: "All God's promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding "Yes!" And through Christ, our 'Amen' (which means yes) is spoken by us to the glory of God. " (2 Corinthians 1:20) JOY TO THE WORLD!!
Angie Reynold is a wife mom and daughter of God. During the pandemic, she has taken on the role of teacher for her two young boys. She enjoys reading and bakes. This deeply reflective heart-centered woman also finds time to write for our community.