Christmas Eve Lesson #4: Why do we sing Joy to the World after Silent Night?

Christmas Eve Lesson #4: Why do we sing Joy to the World after Silent Night?

Tonight we are singing two songs in closing, Silent Night followed by Joy to the World. It’s pretty typical for churches to sing these one after the other on Christmas Eve, but why do we that? Let’s start with Silent Night. What’s it about? It tells us of the birth of the Savior by recounting three miracles.

The first miracle is the birth of a child to a virgin girl. Verse one says, “Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.” “Yon” is short for “yonder”—like “over there.” We’re saying, “Look over there! The Virgin mother with her child.” When we sing this line we are recounting a miracle foretold by a Scripture passage we already read tonight, Isaiah 7:14. Both the gospel of Matthew and Luke tell us Mary was a virgin when the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus within her (Matt 1:23; Luke 1:27, 34). The virgin birth is the first miracle we recount.

The second miracle is the angels appearing to the Shepherds. Verse two of Silent Night says, “Shepherd quake at the sight. Glories stream from heaven afar. Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!” The angels come to announce the birth of Jesus. Their presence is another sign that this is no ordinary birth. It’s supernatural. It’s so special angels announce it (Luke 2:8-15).

The third miracle is that this baby is the “Son of God.” Verses two and three say, “Christ the Savior is born… Son of God, love’s pure light… Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.” This baby’s mom wasn’t ordinary. She was a virgin. His birth wasn’t normal. Angels announced it. This is because he wasn’t an ordinary baby. He is God come in the flesh. He is the Savior, the Son of God, the Lord.

But did people respond to Jesus like he is the Savior and Son of God? Did the crowds accept him as Lord? No. This is why 33 years later Jesus is crucified and dies. So how can we sing the next song? How can we sing “joy to the world” if our world rejects the baby who brings joy? Our world rejected him at his birth and is still rejecting him today.

We can sing Joy to the World because although we sing this song at Christmas time, it was not originally written to be a Christmas song. This hymn is based on Psalm 98, which speaks of the Lord’s return at the end of days to both restore and judge the world.

Psalm 98:4-9
4 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
     burst into jubilant song with music;
5 make music to the Lord with the harp,
     with the harp and the sound of singing,
6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
     shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
     the world, and all who live in it.
8 Let the rivers clap their hands,
     let the mountains sing together for joy;
9 let them sing before the Lord,
     for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
     and the peoples with equity. (NIV®)

Jesus died and was buried but three days later he rose again and then he ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Eph 1:19-21). Right now Jesus is ruling and reigning over all of creation from afar, but one day soon he will rule and reign up close. 

So when we sing, “Joy the world, the Lord has come” we are not actually singing about the birth of a precious little baby, but the return of King Jesus in final victory over sin, death, and Satan. So when we sing Silent Night we are singing of the first coming of Christ, his miraculous birth, and when we sing Joy to the World we are singing of the second coming of Christ. Lets praise God for both the birth of Jesus Christ and his return by singing Silent Night followed by Joy to the World. 

Pastor Jonathan wrote this homily for Cornerstone’s Lessons & Carols Christmas Eve Service.