Good Tidings of Great Joy

For, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…

The angel called the fact that Jesus Christ was born “good tidings of great joy.”  The announcement marked the moment when God inserted Himself into our world, became one of us in order to save us.  The glory of Christmas is the glory of God becoming man – the Creator becoming what He had created – in order to rescue His fallen creation from death and hell.

The joy of Christmas is the joy of God and sinners reconciled.

Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King; peace on earth, and mercy mild—God and sinners reconciled!” Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies; with th’ angelic hosts proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!” Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King!”

God the Son entered our world as a man so that He could fight the devil as a man.  As God, He could defeat the devil quite easily, and nobody would find that impressive.  So, Jesus made Himself weak like us – weaker and lower than the devil – so that He could set Himself at the greatest possible disadvantage when He did battle with Satan. 

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9)

Since Satan brought about the fall of the human race,  God became a member of that fallen human race so that a man would be the one to defeat Satan.  By His death on the cross, Jesus reconciled God and man, healing the breach between us.

Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord! Late in time behold Him come, offspring of the virgin’s womb. Veiled in flesh the God-head see; hail th’ incarnate Deity, pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King.”

By lowering Himself below the angels (and thus, below Lucifer the fallen angel), Jesus Christ raises fallen humanity above the very angels of heaven.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, ris’n with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King.”

On the night Christ was born, the angels announced “good tidings of great joy.”  The joy comes of learning that a Savior was born.  But we should drill into this joy a little bit deeper.  Who experiences joy?  What causes joy?  Where did joy come from?

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on

God did not invent joy.  The fruit of the Spirit is joy, but it does not follow from this that joy is God’s gift to mankind. People do experience joy and happiness, but these are not uniquely human emotions.  When we think of joy and happiness, we must not think of them as inventions or creations of God.

Long before God created man, He had joy.   God did not create joy.  God has always been full of joy and delight and happiness.  Everywhere we look in the created world, we see the good humor and the delight of the God Who made these things.  God created the world with a twinkle in His eye.  Thus we have elephants with their telescoping noses and giraffes with their telescoping necks.  We have fly-eating flowers, beans that turn to chocolate, and dandelions.  We have mice and we have cats, and then we have Tom and Jerry. 

God Himself possesses unspeakable joy.  Psalm 104:31 speaks of God “rejoicing in His works.”  Deuteronomy 30:9 speaks of God rejoicing over His people for good.  Psalm 37:23 speaks of God delighting in the steps of a good man.  The prophets speak of the way God rejoices and joys over us, and does not speak of this as if it were a strange thing.

The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

God is a God of unspeakable joy, and by coming into contact with Him, we can experience that same joy.

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

I Peter 1:8

But the Psalmist is even more specific on this point: joy is (as The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says it) “the natural outcome of fellowship with God.”

I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Psalm 16:8-11

So what do we mean by joy?  What is it exactly?  God Himself is full of unspeakable joy. 

Though I cannot give a wholehearted endorsement of John Piper, I do appreciate what he has written on joy. Hos influence on these articles should be evident. As Piper so ably described it, God has a complete happiness and satisfaction with Himself and with His will, and at the same time a delight in that will.  The Psalmist, quoting the Messiah in Psalm 40:8 said, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” 

For the Christian, joy means happiness, satisfaction, and delight in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The world experiences joy and happiness when they inadvertently recognize the fact that God is good.  Maybe they tasted some red meat or listened to a beautiful symphony or watched the sunset on snowcapped mountains or observed that marvel of engineering called the wrist – or watched a quarterback use his wrist to throw the winning touchdown.

But for the Christian, joy is the foundation of the Christian life.  It is the bedrock, grounded in a deep satisfaction and delight in the will of God.

His will as expressed in His Word, along with His will as expressed in what unfolds in the course of your story.

Douglas Wilson*, “Joy and Affliction,” from his blog, posted September 22, 2012

How then is this joy extended?  The angels announced that this gift, the “good tidings of great joy,” “shall be to all people.” If we take the human experience of joy to consist in the experience of restored fellowship with God that produces a delight in God and in His will, then we rightly wonder at it.  How can this be?  Surely, not all people enjoy God or enjoy a relationship with Him.

Yet, the angels said that this joy shall be to all people.  Not to the shepherds alone, though the good tidings were announced to them.  Not to the Jews alone, though designed specifically for them.  Not for the elect alone, though certainly enjoyed and appreciated by them.  But to all people

There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

But how can this be?  We have to acknowledge that not all people enjoy the good news.  We live in a world filled with Bah! Humbugs!  And yet, the good tidings of great joy are still for all people.  The fact that many reject this good news does not diminish the goodness of it.  The fact that the Scrooges of the world find no pleasure in it takes nothing away from the great joy of it.  The good news is still good, and the great joy is still delightful.  The gospel story goes on smiling, handing out cheer with both hands never mind all the killjoys and curmudgeons of the world.  But any time you want to stop crabbing about it and open your mouth wide, God promises to fill it. 

True joy involves happiness, and true happiness involves joy.  We should not create artificial boundaries between the two.  But there is a reason why Christians feel a little twinge of suspicion towards happiness in general – and that is because we can observe the way so many base their happiness on their circumstances.

As Christians, we want to receive everything God gives us with gratitude and submission.  That means the good as well as the bad.  But if our happiness is based on our circumstances, then we will find ourselves miserable: possibly very often.  The point here is that the higher joy – the joy that comes as a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling you fruitfully – is rooted in Jesus Christ. 

When we delight ourselves in Christ, when we love God and love His Word and rejoice in His will, no circumstance can ever destroy that joy.  This, I believe, is the way God has ordained that Christians should triumph over this present evil world – by faith, certainly.  Faith itself is characteristic of that fruit of the Holy Spirit.  But when we look past the circumstances, when we take our eyes off our afflictions, and look at the things that are not seen – at Jesus Christ and His glory and majesty and goodness and grace – when we turn our gaze to Him, everything else comes into focus.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

When we see it that way, evil loses.  Satan loses.  We win, because Christ wins!

*A quote from Wilson should not be taken as an endorsement of all he says or believes, but simply as an acknowledgment that I found something helpful in his commentary on this subject.

2 thoughts on “Good Tidings of Great Joy

  1. Pingback: The Unspeakable Joy of God – The Village Smithy

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