Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven, 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
And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders, of His love
Even when I know the words to a worship song, I like to read them while I sing. Maybe it’s a way for me to not get distracted. Or maybe it makes the song more real if I get to see it. I don’t know why, but something happens when I get to visualize what I am singing about. I mean, I knew the words to “Joy to the World” before Christ’s coming even meant joy to me. This Christmas season, the words of this song meant something to me that it hasn’t before though.
In December, our church had an awesome opportunity to partner with Refuge KC, a Christian non-profit ministry that is dedicated to welcoming refugees here in Kansas City in a Gospel-centered way. They provided us information about eight refugee families and we paired them with eight community groups in our church. Each community group prepared a Christmas basket for a Karen refugee family filled with gifts and traditional food.
The Karen (pronounced ku-RIN) are a small ethnic people group, originally from Myanmar (also known as Burma). Many Karen people have had to flee their homes in Burma to escape the violence and brutality of the Burmese government, and many end up in a refugee camps on the Thailand-Burma border. Traditionally an Animist people, the Gospel was proclaimed by Baptist missionaries in the 19th century and many Karen people received it with open hearts. Thousands of Karen refugees who have migrated to the United States in the last several years are actually Bible-believing Christians.
On a chilly December night, members of our church met up at a coffee shop to divy up the baskets, pray, and head out to deliver them. We weren’t going to just drop off the baskets, but we were given an unique opportunity to actually carol as we went from home to home with the Christmas baskets. Though possibly seen as an awkward or archaic tradition to 21st century Americans, caroling is quite common in Karen culture. I was overwhelmed by how many of our church members showed up that night. It was an exciting opportunity and I had no idea what to expect. We split up into 3 different groups and took the baskets with us. I shoved the lyrics into my pocket and we left.
As we made it to our first home, the family was clearly elated that we came. They welcomed us with open arms and showed the kind of gospel hospitality that you read about in Acts. It was an unfamiliar house with people who don’t speak the same language, yet it was unmistakably a fellowship of believers. In an instant, I felt the vastness of God’s church. This was a picture of God’s mosaic from different tongues, tribes, and cultures who have been called into His kingdom. I immediately felt that God was doing more than just having us drop off bamboo shoots and Aldi gift cards to an international family. He was calling us closer to His person and work.
It was then that my cold, clammy hands opened up that crinkled paper with the lyrics to the aforementioned hymn. Joy to the World. There was so much to be joyous about in that moment! We were able to give freely to our brothers and sisters in need and we were able to embrace gospel hospitality. It was a seamless transition to sing about joy. But as we were singing, I realized something. I was not only singing about joy for the Savior who came as a baby, but joy about his future coming and reign as king. A coming where the whole world would see Jesus for who he is. This song was a call for the nations to be the ones proclaiming His glory.
Joy to the World is a song about missions.
I stood there singing in the family’s house and was overwhelmed by God’s mission. That night, we were living out a very small picture of what was revealed about the second coming of Christ in the book of Revelation. But, he has even bigger plans for His church:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).
You see, from the beginning, even after people brought sin into the world, God had a plan to make his lordship known among the nations. To “rule the world” and put His glory on display. Not just one ethnic group, but the nations. He is jealous for the glory of the nations. And in God’s grace and through His Son, He has asked us to be a part of that mission. By our declaration and display of the Gospel, dead hearts will be made alive in Christ and the nations will know Him as King. He could have chosen any way to get glory, but by His grace, this is what He chose. We get to be agents of this “Gospel mission” until earth receives her King.
That December night, we were able to carol to all 8 families and show them the kindness that has been shown to us through the saving work of Jesus Christ. We prayed for each family in our language and proclaimed the joy we have together in Christ. I left that night understanding the Great Commission just a little more, but I couldn’t help thinking that when I don’t participate in God’s mission, I’m the one missing out.
So, Christian, as you consider all the possibilities that 2018 will hold, will you consider how you will engage in God’s mission this year? How will you declare and display the Gospel where you are? How will you engage with the internationals in your community? How will you partner in prayer, finances and encouragement with those declaring the Gospel to nations overseas? How will you be a part of bringing the good news to every tongue, tribe, and nation until that blessed day when we are all crying out about the wonders of His love?
“We should have confidence because we know the mission will not fail. We may fail in our faithfulness, but God will not fail in his mission. Christ will have the nations for his inheritance.” – Andy Johnson
Oh, what a joyous day that will be.
Risa Woods serves as the Coordinator of Community Development at Emmaus Church. She and her husband Jon live in North Kansas City where Risa works as an ESL teacher for Kansas City Public Schools. Risa is also a Celine Dion fanatic and an expert in all things avocado.
If you’d like to learn more about ministry of Refuge KC, go to http://www.refugekc.org, or email Risa at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in partnering with Emmaus to serve refugees.