Most Christians in the English-speaking world will sing Isaac Watt’s hymn, “Joy to the World” this Christmas season. Although Watts intended it as a celebration of Christ’s second coming, we’ve adopted it as one of our favorite Christmas hymns for obvious reasons. Christ's first coming offers the promise of redemption and a world made new.
It’s my favorite hymn for that reason, as well as the hope that it offers for the workplace. Christ’s reign brings healing for mankind and creation—and also our work.
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.
Thorns point to the curse that Adam brought on our work and all creation by his rebellion against God, recounted in Genesis 3. When our relationship with God was severed, every part of life came unraveled. All of creation now rebels against the rebels (that’s us). Animals growl, instead of bow, because they know that we have a problem with their Maker opined C.S. Lewis. Also ...
- Thorns choke out crops.
- Machines break down.
- Businesses fail.
We all experience the thorns of the curse on work. It’s inescapable.
But this is not the end of the story. Two thousand years ago, God Himself invaded planet earth to rescue us from our willful rebellion and from Satan's dominion.
Jesus worked and lived the life we should have lived,
And He died the death we deserved to die,
to restore our relationship with God—and with it our work.
According to God's word, each of us has an important work to do in this great story of redemption before Christ returns "to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found." God has designed us, gifted us and empowered us to do work that no one else can do and to accomplish things vital to His kingdom.
No matter how insignificant you may feel,
You are more important than you ever dared to dream.
You are more loved than you ever dared to hope.
And you are more influential than you ever dared to imagine.
The reality that Christmas brings is this: Though the world remains badly broken, God expects us to fix broken things, develop new things, resist evil and bring grace to our domain—no matter how large or small—for His glory.
So what does it look like to do God’s work in a broken world?
- It looks like an engineer asking for wisdom—puzzling over the design of a five-level-stack highway interchange to relieve traffic congestion.
- It looks like a researcher hunched over a microscope, peering deeply into God’s creation, asking for the discovery of a cure for cancer.
- It looks like the satisfied smile of an accountant who just discovered the inaccurate entry that has thrown off the balance sheet.
- It looks like a caring third-grade teacher who stays after class to help a struggling student.
- It looks like the prayerful attentiveness of an air traffic controller landing planes on a snowy day.
- It looks like a mother who sends her children off to school with a prayer and lovingly packed lunch.
- It looks like the smooth finish of a crafted table built by a skilled carpenter from Nazareth where a family will gather for meals to celebrate for years to come.
- It looks like a student digging deep late at night to understand a concept or develop a skill that could one day blossom into a future breakthrough.
Ordinary tasks done in faith, done with excellence, done in love, done for God’s glory, become extraordinary opportunities to see God at work.
It’s at times like these—when thorns are pulled and the curse is held at bay, if only for a moment—that we experience what we pray for, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
And one day, the frustrations of work will be gone and the joys will be ours in full, because the rightful King will return to earth to dwell among men and restore His dominion over our planet. The final mending of the great rupture between God and man will bring healing to all other fractured relationships and will heal our work.
If you know Christ, this is your story too. Until He returns, we can do our work in light of Christmas. We can reclaim whatever small part of the planet God entrusts to our care. We can bring His love and truth to those who don't know Him.
And, when we do, we participate in God’s work as we wait for that day when Watts’ words become a reality and “blessings flow far as the curse is found.”
When you sing these words this Christmas, remember Christ’s promise to your work:
Joy replaces sorrow.
Blessing replaces thorns.
And, the wonders of His love replace the curse.