This anthem is chock full of powerful truths, so let’s unpack a few of them, beginning with its call to joy. The writers of the lyrics give ample reasons for us to rejoice and respond with singing God’s praises.
The first source of our joy is the knowledge that, on that Christmas Day, Immanuel came to earth, becoming God with us. In this world, where we can feel so all alone and alienated (even from God Himself sometimes), the promise that God is with us (even when we can’t sense it), is a powerful reason to rejoice. Even when we have a sense that our sins have distanced us from Him, God’s Word has declared that it is His desire to be in loving union with us. And He has provided the way for that union to happen through faith the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He came on that first Christmas Day to be God in the flesh—the same flesh as we have—to be with us. And He later died so that we could be in union with Him, both here on earth and forever, if we would only trust in Him. As believers that is our reality and our joy.
A second reason to sing for joy is that Jesus’ coming is our peace. His salvation brings us peace with God. No longer are we God’s enemies, because while we were still His enemies Christ loved and died for us. His death was both a sin offering and a peace offering. He not only made peace with God, but He gave us the peace of God. His Holy Spirit ministers peace to our hearts when we are feeling troubled and alienated, reminding us of the truth of all of God’s promises, and bearing witness with our spirits that we are His.
Our peace also comes with the perspective His Spirit of Truth gives us. No matter what is going on in the world, no matter what the press says, or our friends say, or the devil whispers in our ears, the Holy Spirit reminds us of the truth in God’s Word (assuming we are in the Word and the Word is in us), and gives us His perspective from which peace flows. We then rejoice in that peace, praising God for it.
We also have joy in the knowledge that through His incarnation, death, and resurrection Jesus has conquered death. We don’t look at death the way the world does (or at least we shouldn’t). For us, death is not a dreadful end, but a glorious beginning. Yes, death has a sting to it, because it was not what God designed for us; it is foreign to us, because it was our sin that brought death. God designed us to be in union with Him forever, but because of our sin it would take Jesus, coming to earth on that Christmas Day, to set things right and restore God’s original intent for us.
Death also brings a separation from those we love, so we sorrow when they leave us, or when we must leave them. But, if we and they are His children, we know that we have the certain hope that we will be restored to them in God’s presence in Heaven. Therefore, we grieve with hope. We died with peace. And we can rejoice that because He came that Christmas Day, we can partake in this wonderful grace and joy.
Another reason this song gives us to rejoice is that Jesus reigns. Our world seems crazier by the day. Things we never dreamed of are becoming our living nightmares. Sins that the Bible condemns are boldly celebrated in the streets. It seems like things are out of control, but God is still on the throne. We know He has a plan and He is working it out. We know His ways are greater and higher than our ways, and are intended for our good, even if others intend them for evil. Knowing He reigns, and that He is good and loving as He does so, causes us to rejoice. It is also another source of our peace and gladness, even when what is going on around us threatens to rob us of both peace and joy. Our loving God reigns, so let the people rejoice and be glad!
The anthem encourages us to worship the Lord, giving us ample reasons to do so, and adding to these previous reasons is the joy we have in His goodness. He is so good to give us His Immanuel presence, His peace, victory over death, and to reign over us in wisdom, love, and power. We rejoice in Christmas Day because it was the beginning of God’s unveiling of how He would fulfill His many precious promises of redemption and union with His people. He has given us so many reasons to praise and enjoy Him. Let us do so with all our hearts—not just on Christmas Day, but every day!