Isn’t it remarkable that no one has ever become a Christian merely by losing an argument? Here we were thinking we could sweep people into the kingdom simply by the force of our logic, only to discover that after we won the debate, the atheist just headed down to the dive bar to get wasted.
Now I speak no ill against logos. I render a hearty amen to the Apostle Peter, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). I do however speak against being flint-faced ready to give that answer for your hope, while having no one ask you about it because you’re such a grumpy muffin.
Advent season is upon us so we have an opportunity to consider again the good news of great joy. And the great joy of the good news is an essential ingredient to the dominion project underway ever since God told our first parents, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion” (Genesis 1:28).
Grumps to the Left of Me, Grinches to the Right
You do not have to be a son of Issachar to see that we have descended into an oblivion of pouts. America is getting good and angry because she has forgotten the good news which yields the great joy. How could they remember it? The good news came from angels after all, and Americans by and large gave up on those winged creatures long ago—”And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:9-10).
A materialistic and mechanistic worldview has set in upon us. We have forgotten that the world is enchanted. We have gone to thinking that a two-by-four is more real than an angel. And because we have forgotten the heavens, we have also forgotten the blessings that come down from them. We do, however, still have a knack for the mechanics of the operation down here. We put in a few quarters and expect the soda. We plant the seed and anticipate the crop. But we have stopped looking to the Lord of the harvest and now things are getting quite hairy.
The Left, being the progressives, tend to start the fires (pun intended). They are like the child throwing the tantrum at the grocery store. They have discovered a pattern in the world. Pitch a fit, and someone without a spine will end up giving you what you want in a vain effort to keep the peace. But, the point at hand is: the rioter and rebellious child at Walmart are both miserable. The problem with the Right is that they have generally fallen into the same materialistic and mechanistic worldview. It follows that they suffer from the same crankiness. Without Christ, they are doomed to respond in one of two ways. First, like a child-enabler, in a hopeless attempt at harmony, they will give the fitful little one some sort of sweet, even if it is not the expensive one the child covets. On the other hand, like the child-abuser, they may show the child how to really make a scene, or the rioter how to really start a fire. In either case, miserable they are.
Joy Came Down
Christians must not participate in this little dust up of the disgruntled. We are those who have believed in the gospel. And recipients of good news respond accordingly. To be what we ought to be, and that is joyful from the heart all the way to the phalanges, then we must hold on to two truths.
First, joy comes from heaven. We Christians reject outright the materialistic consensus around us that ignores the heavens. We also reject the notion that we can cook up joy ourselves, as if all the ingredients abide within the cupboard of self and we need only mix them up and voila!—joy abounding. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, which means that it comes from outside of the human self, indeed outside of creation. Hence, we sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” If the Creator was not found in the virgin’s womb, then joy would be a nothing but a pipe dream.
But He was found there. Mystery of mysteries, Chalcedon reminds us, “as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin.” Take that in for a moment. Jesus, begotten of the Father and begotten of Mary the Virgin, and this for us and for our salvation. Makes you want to sing Fa La La La La. James warns about the wisdom that, “descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3:15). We want nothing to do with that wisdom. And neither do we want any faux joy that descends not from above.
I referred to two truths that we must hold on to. And the second one needs a good deal of recovery. I speak of the fact that joy indeed has come to earth. Isaac Watts put it quite well, “Let earth receive her King.” Ours is no gnostic joy. Many evangelicals see the fleshly quarrel going on all around them and want to guard against it by being antiflesh. But, if you go that direction, you may end up being antiChrist, “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” (2 John 7).
You do not wage war against the godless materialism of our day by repudiating material. God made the material. He said it was good. Indeed, you are material. We need the joy that comes from heaven to work its way all the way through us, down to the fingers and toes. So eat pie, buy toys, throw wood on the fire, tap piano keys and blow brass horns this season. Sing songs, and brighten the night with those Christmas lights. If we would really show this sorrow-ridden America the good news, then we ought to dress it in the great joy that the angels said comes with it. So deck your hearts, and then get on with decking the halls.