“Joy to the world”, the carol goes, and sends us out of here with lifted spirits and momentary warmth, maybe even a renewed hope for a little while. I have to admit, it’s not one of my favourites. But this year one verse in it struck me as I heard it the other day on the radio…that ALL of nature sings: fields, floods, rocks, hills, plains…repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, repeat, repeat the sounding joy!
What IS the sounding joy? Is there such a thing? I can’t tell you what it is for you; I only know what it is for me, but hang in there with me and we’ll get to that…
And why is it repeated? That’s the easier question; as a mother, and as a pastor, I have often caught myself thinking, if not actually saying: how many times do I have to repeat myself? And last Christmas Eve a young man came to me and complained that it was just the same old story all over again.
Well, duh. It bears repeating because we haven’t really heard it. We don’t GET the message of Christmas that is transformative. And what is it? What is the sounding joy?
Well, for me it’s also contained in this same unfavourite carol, and it’s two fold: 1. The Lord is come and 2. The savior reigns.
The sounding joy worth repeating for me is that God comes. God is not some distant ethereal being that created us and sits back and watches us mess up, intervening now and then. The message of Christmas we still don’t get is that God comes:
God is here, and there, and there and here.
AND that's not all! God is involved
…in all the smells of stable life: God is there
…involved with the lonely, lowlife characters in the fields tending sheep: God is there
…involved and caring about the young uncertain woman facing shame and rejection: God is there
AND that's not all! God is not just here and involved, but this God of the universes chooses humans as partners in the renewal and transformation of the world…
chooses young people like Mary to carry life forward, to be radical thinkers who’ll challenge what’s normal in favour of what’s life-giving…some of us old folk have really messed up the world, and my sounding joy is that there are some young people willing to bring life out of that mess.
chooses fine moral people like Joseph to take on responsibility for nurturing and teaching the next generation, when culture says it’s not worth the aggravation… chooses lowlifes like the shepherds to be witnesses because they’re the ones who’re desperate enough to be open…. chooses angels to sing God’s repeated song so others can learn it and sing along.
God chooses us too. God comes to and chooses YOU who like Mary, need to ponder all this more seriously
YOU like Joseph who are afraid to step up and stand out
YOU who feel discounted and need to be accepted,
YOU who know that somewhere deep inside you is a song you haven’t yet sung.
Repeat the sounding joy: God comes, God gets involved, God chooses us as partners.
The other sounding joy worth repeating is the savior reigns
One big turning point in my life came when I realized that to say Jesus is Lord means I am not. I am not the center of the universe; I am not the ruler of my life. God is.
To say the savior reigns is to admit that nothing else has complete rule of my life, our community, our nation, the world: not me, not politics or government or institutions like the church, not stuff, not consumerism or capitalism, not corporations and companies. The savior reigns.
This is the song I have found deep in my soul worth repeatedly singing—a new song, as different from the culture that surrounds and enslaves us as the angels’ song was to an occupied poverty-stricken land 2000 years ago.
Let ALL their songs employ, the carol goes: don’t leave it up to fields and rocks and all nature, nobody listens to them….YOU sing it. You repeat the sounding joy.
What is YOUR song? It may be close to the surface, or buried deep in your heart’s desire…listen for it: you may have to sort through all sorts of layered noise first, but when the God of the universes sings a song of love to you, and you say YES, like Mary, Joseph, shepherds and angels and 60 year old pastors, it will bubble up, I promise.
Then let it rip, sing it out for all you’re worth: repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, repeat repeat the sounding joy until others find their own God-song and the world is changed.