“Good Tidings of Great Joy”
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness. Isaiah 61:10
“Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,” the angel told the shepherds on the night of Jesus’s birth. What were those tidings? “For unto you is born this day a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11 KJV).
Why did the angel’s message bring “great joy”? First, the shepherds realized that God had fulfilled a promise. For centuries, the Jewish people had been waiting for the Messiah’s birth. Isaiah and many other prophets promised that God would send a redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob, who would defeat Israel’s enemies and establish a glorious kingdom (Isaiah 47:4; 49:7).
Second, the shepherds’ joy was fueled by their anticipation of what God promised to do in the future. God assured King David that his descendant would reign over a forever kingdom (2 Samuel 7:16). Isaiah affirmed that promise, saying, “Of the increase of his [the Messiah’s] government and peace there will be no end. … He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever” (Isaiah 9:7).
Isaiah also spoke of an everlasting joy (35:10, 51:11, and 61:7). This joy is generated by more than the knowledge of the Savior’s birth, his past ministry on earth, and his future reign as King of Kings. It is the joy no one can take away from us—the joy of our salvation (Isaiah 61:10; John 16:22).
This everlasting joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We cannot manufacture it, but we can access it. How? We allow the Spirit to fill us with gratitude for what God has done for us in the past and with anticipation for what God has guaranteed about our future.
The exuberant lyrics of “How Great Our Joy” celebrate the joy the angel’s “good tidings” made possible and the completeness of the salvation our Savior, Christ the Lord, provides for us:
This gift of God we’ll cherish well,
That ever joy our hearts shall fill.
How great our joy! Great our joy!
Joy, joy, joy! Joy, joy, joy!
Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!
How will you express the greatness of your joy not only during the Christmas season but also throughout the coming year?
Read Psalm 16. Why is the psalmist filled with joy? In verse 9 he gives an intriguing definition of joy: “rest in hope” (KJV). What does that phrase signify to you?
Read John 16:16–33. On the eve of his death, what did Jesus tell the disciples about joy? Which of the promises Jesus gave the disciples comforts you the most in your present circumstances?
To read the lyrics of “How Great Our Joy,” a traditional German Christmas carol, go to Hymnary.org.
Denise K. Loock