Joyful All Ye Nations Rise

This is an excerpt from “12 Days of Christmas Carols,” a devotional which unpacks lines of familiar Christmas carols you’ve sung for years but perhaps have never really thought about.

Charles Wesley’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is, in my humble opinion, the greatest Christmas carol ever written. The first verse contains this masterful lyric:

Joyful, all ye nations rise / Join the triumph of the skies

Here we see the global message of Christmas: good news of great joy for all people. In a world of despair, rescue has landed– a rescue that has in its sights the everlasting joy of every nation, tribe, and tongue. With the arrival of Immanuel, heaven’s happiness has been unleashed on a wailing world, and is available for all who will bow the knee to the rightful King.

Psalm 67 anticipates the global gladness that Christmas brings: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” These words, surprisingly, are an imperative command: Set aside the works of darkness, abandon the futility of life outside of the King and his Kingdom, and embrace the everlasting, ever-increasing joy of knowing Jesus. Rejoice!

Turning this imperative into a reality is the mission that Jesus began at Christmas, accomplished at Good Friday, and will consummate with his return in glory. In the meantime, his mission has become ours. “The gospel of this kingdom will be preached as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

One day, a great multitude from every nation, tribe, and tongue will assemble around the throne, singing, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10) Until that great day dawns, our gospel message and invitation is, “Joyful, all ye nations rise; join the triumph of the skies!”

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