Joy to the World? Not So Much in America Right Now

I stood at the back of the state House Republican Caucus meeting on Wednesday and joined in a fairly rousing rendition of “Joy to the World” while votes for a leadership position were being tabulated. Then I read a story in USA Today this morning that was the perfect juxtaposition to Wednesday’s choral activity.

The story was about an end-of-the-year poll on the mood of Americans. It led off with this not very joyful statement:

“The stock market has been booming and jobs growing, but Americans are facing the new year with the most downcast expectations in nearly a quarter-century—a disconnect that reflects prosperity’s limited reach and assessments that Washington’s dysfunction isn’t going to get better any time soon.”

Apparently, Americans could use a little “joy to the world” right now.

I would suggest that the angels who trumpeted the message of joy to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth and the hymn writer who was inspired by that message understood something we still don’t get.

When Jesus was born, the world was in a mess, as it had been for thousands of years. It was in need of a Savior.

Americans seem to know that we need a “savior.” In November 2008, a potential savior came along with a message of “hope and change.” We got lots of change, but apparently not much hope. Yet we did get one thing right: we understood our need for a new, different kind of leader.

And the need for and long-awaited arrival of the “savior-leader” was exactly what the angels and the hymn writer were singing about:

Joy to the World, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room.

The night the angels sang, the world was “downcast” because it had rejected its rightful King. America and the rest of the world are still downcast because we continue not to make room for our rightful King.

We’ll make room for a George Bush or a Barack Obama, and we’ll make room for whatever Pied Piper we elect President in 2016. We’ll make room for Democrats in Congress when Republicans don’t deliver the salvation we’re looking for (November 2006), and then turn around and vote them out and make room for Republicans to try their hand again (November 2014).

We’ll make room for about anything and anybody but Jesus, the reason for the season. And we’ve not made room for Him since Joseph was looking for a place to spend the night with a very pregnant Mary.

Will we get it now and make Him room? Apparently not.

When asked to name the “biggest problem facing the country,” the top two were still the economy and jobs. Those two things are statistically the best in years, yet we’re more downcast than ever. We continue to believe the lie that more of what didn’t satisfy us to begin with will somehow satisfy us now.

Interestingly, juxtaposed with these problems, at the bottom of the list was “morality” at 1 percent. I’m surprised the pollsters even listed it as a choice, because if morality is the problem, then that means we are the problem. We prefer to think our problems are external because they might be fixable by the savior-politician who promises a way to a better economy and better jobs.

And with that thought, I’m reminded of the less well-known last verse of “Joy to the World”:

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nation’s prove
The glories of his righteousness
And wonders of His love.

In other words, He does rule the world, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, and whether we want to acknowledge that our rebellion against His rule might be our problem. And He does not rule with the sham diversity and inclusiveness grounded in self-refuting moral relativism we espouse today, but with a grace toward our rebellion that is grounded in absolute truth.

Eventually, when we get sick enough of our own misery to look beyond externalities to the truth, I bet we will find that we have indeed “proved” the “glories of his righteousness.” And when that happens, we will “wonder” at the love of a King who would so patiently wait for us to prepare Him room.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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