I’m sitting at my desk, writing thoughtfully, with Christmas music in the background. I am able to focus on the writing until Julie Andrews’ Joy to the World begins with its introductory repetitions: “Joy to the…Joy to the…Joy to the…Joy to the…” I realize after a few moments that I have stopped writing, am listening, and now my mind is a million miles away from what I was writing (note to self: stop with the tunes when writing). As far back in my childhood as I can remember, my brother and I woke up to Andrews’ Joy to the World playing every Christmas morning. It was our official wake up call – Christmas had begun, because Julie Andrews said so, and my parents had given her permission to say it.
Its worth noting that Joy to the World is much more than a Christmas hymn, as it is really celebrating the kingdom of God coming to earth as promised in the Hebrew Bible (e.g., 2 Sam 7) when the Messiah King sits on a literal earthly throne (He’s not doing that now, so…still waiting on Him to install that kingdom one day). But for me the song is also a reminder of how two parents taught their children about the Source of authentic joy, and how those children could know happiness even when the struggles of life were anything but worthy of celebration. Those parents showed their children that joy mattered, and that it was accessible even in the midst of trouble: true joy is found in Him.
“Joy to the…Joy to the…Joy to the…Joy to the…” Those echoes remind me of the vital principles my parents instilled in me from my youth. The same exhortations that Paul shared with the Philippians in Philippians 4:4 (“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice”), and that Nehemiah shared with his people in Nehemiah 8:10 (“the joy of the Lord is your strength”).
I can’t hear Joy to the World without thinking of the blessing my parents gave me by introducing me to and teaching me about the love of Christ. I smile, remembering those Christmas mornings when we would, as a family, read Luke 2, thank the Lord for His kindness to us, and then spend time together sharing gifts.
Thank you Dad and Mom – and Merry Christmas. I hope and pray we are as effective at inspiring our children to real joy as you have been with us. You have truly modeled and shared His love and joy. Thank you, Julie Andrews, for giving voice to our moments of Christmas celebration. Luke 2, hot cocoa, the Lord’s supper, the sharing of gifts, and your version of Joy to the World make for a memorable Christmas.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare Him room…