- Stephen Wiebe
"Far as the Curse is Found"
Of all the Christmas songs that are sung during this time of year, only a few of them distinctly come from the pages of Scripture. The secular world has put its best foot forward in the festive songs that have been written in an attempt to capture the warmth and joy that should be felt in the Christmas season, but all the while missing the key point. Just as the birth of Jesus in a nondescript location was passed over by an oblivious and otherwise occupied majority, the commercial celebration we see today with its frantic, panicked gift gathering gains so much boxed up, gift-wrapped momentum, it roars right on by the quiet and humble Savior who stands as the real "Reason for the Season"!
We who believe are guilty of the same at times. It is important to remember that the ugliness of sin and our enslavement to it is why we celebrate the Father sending Jesus. It is good to pull back a bit and take stock of our motive, to meditate on Jesus' birth, and consider the meaning of Christmas and the songs that we sing. Christmas songs may become repetitive and tiresome to sing every year, but they convey the Christ-centred meaning of Christmas. Hopefully, we will find these songs inspiring as they exalt and magnify the mission and person of Jesus, who came to earth to fulfill the Father's plan of redemption and give us everlasting joy.
The words for the song "Joy to the World" were written by Isaac Watts, who drew inspiration from Psalms 98:4 and 96:11-12. It speaks of all the earth making a joyful noise to the LORD. He also drew inspiration from Genesis 3:17-18, which addresses the cursed earth because of Adams sin. It was first published in Watt's collection of poems entitled, "The Psalms of David: Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, and Applied to the Christian State and Worship." However, the song was removed from print in some hymnals because the third stanza repeats, "Far as the curse is found." The third stanza, which is as follows: "No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found," speaks of Christ's blessings achieving victory over sin wherever its curse is found. This was said to be "un-Psalm-like" and was thus removed, but when viewed in the context of the New Testament as Isaac Watts did, the line makes sense because it was for this purpose that Jesus came to this world. 1 John 3:8 says, "He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil."
The third stanza shows us a glimpse of what is to come when God's redemptive plan reaches its culmination. Romans 5:12-14 speaks of sin coming into the world through one man (Adam) and death along with it, which spread to all men of every race, tribe and tongue. Sin's curse is death, but God created man to live forever. When he set Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, he gave them the freedom to choose between the flesh (sin) and His will, and it was in making a choice to disobey God that they died spiritually and began to die physically. The effects of sin can be seen everywhere around us. We see it shouted in the news headlines, glorified in the entertainment industry, and political platforms are built around some of the very issues the Bible condemns. Romans 8:18-23 talks of creation groaning as all things wait (under the curse God placed on the world) for the redemption of our bodies. God has made mankind the pinnacle of his creation, and all of creation suffers as we wait for our final redemption. Just as sin and death entered the human race through one man, Adam, Jesus' free gift of righteousness, through His abundant grace, will bring life to those who receive it. To receive God's gift of redemption is to have our spirit made alive. Our life is hidden with Christ, according to Colossians 3:3, which means we are secure in him, we are part of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), and have become one spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17). While we live in our flesh on earth, there is an unceasing battle between our redeemed spirit and our rebellious sin nature, which is our flesh. That battle will end only when we are glorified with Christ and given our new bodies, which will be our final redemption. This is what all creation waits for, everywhere that sin's curse is found.