By: Tiffany Joy Layton
When Christmas rolls around each year, a particular song plays in my head. Many years ago, the worship team I was on at the time, first introduced this song to me: a variation of Joy to the World by Chris Tomlin called Joy Unspeakable Joy. The chorus is simple and repetitive, but for some reason, all these years later, it’s still in my head.
“Joy, Unspeakable Joy
An overflowing well
No tongue can tell
Joy Unspeakable Joy
Rises in my soul, never lets me go”
Why is this time of the year so focused on joy, especially within Christianity? Think about this with me for a moment. For hundreds of years God’s people were promised a Savior and Messiah. The One who would save and redeem them. When Jesus was born, it wasn’t just about a perfect baby being born. It was a long-awaited fulfillment of prophecy. I can only imagine the joy that welled up inside of those who realized who Jesus truly was!
“Joy to the world, the Lord has come
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing…
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His Righteousness
And wonders of His Love…”
As we close out this year and look on to a new year ahead, I want to embrace and implement the lyrics to this song. I want to respond with great joy all year long and not just at Christmas. As I read through the lyrics of Joy unspeakable Joy, I found myself questioning how often I truly reflect on these truths and if I respond to these things sufficiently. Is my life expressing the joy and worship that my Savior is due?
The Lord Has Come
Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to live during the Bible times. What did it feel like when the Messiah, that generations had been waiting for, was finally born? Would I have been one of the few who acknowledged that He was the Savior? But then I think about how I am acknowledging that today. The truth is: THE LORD HAS COME!!! And my response to that truth should be the same as the angels, shepherds, and wise men that glorious night!
“Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those whom God is pleased.’” Luke 2:13-14 NLT
The entire purpose of Christ coming to earth was to ‘seek and save those who are lost.’ (Luke 19:10 NLT). Jesus’ unmatched glory, coupled with His mission to seek out and save the lost, provoked the angels to worship, and it should provoke me to do the same.
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room
What does it mean to prepare room in our hearts for the Lord? What does that look like? This line in the song is possibly the most applicable to Quiet Time. When the Lord came, the world didn’t receive Him the way they should have. From His birth through the rest of His life, there were those who either did not believe He was the Messiah, or who even tried to kill Him. The cheery sing-along line of this happy song holds a lot more weight than it seems.
“He came into the very world He created, but the world did not recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him. But to all who believed and accepted Him, He gave the right to become Children of God… So the Word [Jesus] became human and made His home among us.” John 1:10-12; 14 NLT
I wonder how often I may not recognize Him in my daily life. How often do I barrel through my busy schedule (or even my Quiet Time) without truly stopping to believe Him at His Word, trust Him in the small and big things, or worship Him in all things throughout the day? Making room for Him in our hearts means we must acknowledge and accept all of who He is. It means we must slow down enough to actually go through our day with Him as the focus. It means we must rid ourselves of unconfessed sin so the home in our hearts is ready for Him.
He Rules with Truth and Grace
“For from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:16-17 ESV
I recently listened to a sermon discussing how Jesus deals with us in grace and truth, and that we should deal with one another in the same way. When I read this line I immediately thought of that sermon. One without the other would create disorder. If there were only ever grace, we would all likely have no convictions of sin and believe that our gracious salvation excludes us from the consequence of sin, therefore no need for repentance or obedience. If there were only Truth, it would be as it was in the Old Testament with the law: Constant fear of punishment for our sins. We would all be seeking perfection rather than the freedom of a relationship with Him. I rejoice that Jesus came to this world to offer us both grace and truth!
Nations Prove the Glories of His Righteousness and Love
There are several passage throughout the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, discussing how all of creation proves the glory of God. I love this truth. Understanding that He causes all of creation to acknowledge and worship His glory is so powerful and comforting.
“The heavens proclaim His righteousness; every nation sees His glory.”
Psalm 97:6 NLT
One of my favorite stories in the Bible regarding this topic is found in Luke 19. As Jesus and His disciples were walking, they all began worshiping Him!
“‘Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Preface in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’ But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, ‘Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!’ He replied, ‘If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!’” Luke 19:38-40 NLT
This passage always makes me smile. I imagine the looks on the Pharisees’ faces. I imagine the confidence in Jesus’ voice. He will have His praise one way or another! My prayer is that stone will never have to cry out on my account. I pray I will always be His disciple and worship Him as I go about my day.
Repeat the Sounding Joy
“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:11 NLT
I thought for a while about what it practically looked like to ‘repeat the sounding Joy.’ It’s not exactly a figure of speech we use often. My resolve concluded at this: to repeat the sounding joy is to live a life overflowing with the Joy of the Lord. This is what ties it all together! The understanding that the Lord has come, the practice of making room for Him in our hearts, the blessing of His grace and His truth, and the evidence of His glory in creation all should come to a resounding crescendo of overwhelming joy!
This joy given to us by the Lord Himself is not defined by human understandings of happiness. It is an overflow of our gratitude for the Messiah Whose great love motivated Him to come in grace and truth to save the lost. I am taught how to ‘repeat’ the sounding joy by following the Psalmist example of meditating on the Lord and His truth. By creating daily habits of reflection on Him, we are not only filled with joy overflowing, but we posture ourselves to instinctively respond in worship.
I pray the next time you hear any variation of Joy to the World it will have an entirely new meaning to you. I pray we would all be reminded of how magnificent the coming of our Lord truly was and that we would be prompted to give Him the worship He is due all year long. As we close out this rather difficult year, there is one thing that has remained steadfast and true. The Savior and Messiah of the world came to earth, lived perfectly, and pursued us in the unity of love, grace, and truth all the way to the completion of the cross and grave. Oh, what Joy to the World, what Unspeakable Joy, what a reason to overflow with joy!
Tiffany was born and raised in central Alabama and earned a bachelor’s degree in Theology while residing in Mobile AL. She then moved back to her hometown and met her husband while working as a barista in a local coffee shop! Tiffany and her husband Lex have now been married for 6 years and have both service in several different church staff positions. She is a proud dog mom and loves coffee, songwriting, art, Japanese/Thai foods, sunsets, and spending the day at the lake/beach! Tiffany is passionate about helping women deepen their understanding of Scripture through Bible study and quiet time, and as a result, creating lasting discipleship!