Joy to the World!
A Christmas message from National Director, Grant Dibden
It is a wonderful blessing to be grounded by the rhythm of each year, so as we approach the celebration of the birth of our Lord it is important to reflect and remember the most important things. Recently I saw a piece on Jonah being a Christmas story, which caught my attention. I knew about Jonah being a sign of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Matthew 12:28-42), but a Christmas story?
You know the details – Nineveh had no shame, no conscience, no moral compass, no compassion. They were barbaric and ruthless. Every nation around them – including Israel – feared them and hated them. That included Jonah, who headed in the opposite direction. Then there was a storm, a fish, a proclamation, the repentance of Nineveh, and a sulky Jonah when they repented as he wanted them to be punished by God.
The author said Jonah is the Old Testament’s John 3:16. It’s the clearest statement in the Old Testament that God loves the whole world, including the most wicked people in the world, and he wants to save them. He wants to save the world. Jonah is a story that points to Christmas. It’s the story that was echoed by the angels’ announcement to the shepherds that first Christmas night: “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people …” Jonah’s story declares that the “all people” of the angels’ song include even people like the Ninevites.
When Nineveh repented, God saved them instead of destroying them. This is God seeking and saving the lost, just like He did when He sent Jesus through Mary’s womb into the world, just like He did when Jesus died on the cross to provide forgiveness for the sins of the world. No person is too vile, no person too far gone for God’s long arm of salvation to reach them. That’s just who God is—finding joy when the lost sheep is found and when even one person repents and is saved. God is willing to go to extreme measures, sending storm and fish to spare a rebellious preacher and get him to lost, wicked Nineveh no matter how much trouble it was and no matter how much inconvenience it caused.
The good news is that God loves and God saves and Christmas really is good news to all people. God spared Nineveh, and instead of breaking into a chorus of: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come,” Jonah says, “Bah, humbug!” Jonah might have been willing to sing, “Joy to Israel” or maybe even, “Joy to everyone but Nineveh”, but Jonah couldn’t possibly sing, “Joy to the world!” because he didn’t want the whole world to find joy. Jonah only wanted select people to get in on God’s mercy and grace and joy—people like himself—certainly not the evil people of Nineveh.
May we show the love of God to all people, especially to those people God places us in the midst of, but we also should have compassion for the billions of lost adults and children on the earth who have yet to hear the gospel. People who aren’t like us.