Announcing Joy - Bible Study

by Eric Wright and Stephanie Thomas on

Bible Studies 1 document
Luke 2:8–20

  • Announcing Joy | The Scrolls | December 24, 2023

    Copyright Central Bible Church

The Scrolls is a weekly Bible study written by pastors and other leaders at Central Bible Church, based on that week’s sermon topic. Use The Scrolls as a personal Bible study tool, for family devotions, and for small group discussions. You can read part of it below. The downloadable PDF also includes discussion questions, more in-depth commentary, end notes, and a kids’ page designed for families to study the topic together. This lesson goes with the sermon "Announcing Joy."

Joy can be expressed in many different ways. Perhaps the most readily accessible avenue for the expression of joy is through the medium of music. Psalm 98:4 exclaims, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music!” The Psalm continues in 98:8-9, “Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.” Music and singing are highly compatible with joy. Not all music is joyful, but it is such a short distance between exuberant joy and expressive musicianship. Both often feed each other. A heart full of joy is a heart that wants to sing.

For over 280 years Christians and even non-Christians have been captivated with the joyful musical masterpiece of George Fredric Handel’s moving oratorio, MESSIAH. The work takes selected texts of the English Authorized Version of Bible and sets them to beautiful Baroque music to tell the story of Jesus Christ through Old Testament prophecies and New Testament depictions of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection. Through a combination of expressive solo vocal arias, powerful group choral anthems, and masterful orchestration, Handel reflected the glory of the story of Jesus through a meditative reflection upon key biblical passages depicting the timeless story of the good news of God’s greatest gift of love for the world.

MESSIAH has been associated with the Christmas season due to the large number of pieces dedicated to the predictions of Jesus coming from Isaiah and other OT prophets and the birth narrative of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke. The entire English text of MESSIAH was collected and arranged by Charles Jennens. Jennings called it a “Scripture Collection” and passed this libretto on to Handel for him to compose a musical score for the biblical text. Handel started work on the music in August of 1741 and completed over 260 pages of music in a total of 24 days. Handel often wrote in fits of inspiration, frequently skipping food or sleep while composing. The first performance of MESSIAH was held in April of 1742 in Dublin, Ireland for the celebration of Easter. The first performance was at a music hall and not a church. Proceeds from the performance were dedicated to the support of local charities including a hospital and a society supporting those suffering from debtors’ prisons. Later, Handel would perform MESSIAH repeatedly in London.

The Christmas section of MESSIAH focuses exclusively on Luke 2:8-14. Five different movements highlight the message of the angel to the shepherds with a beautiful soprano solo about the great joy coming to shepherds because of the child who was born for them. The Advent movements climax with the glorious choral recitation of the heavenly host found in Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men” (KJV). Many churches, cities and concert halls today host performances of MESSIAH, often in December. Perhaps some of the most famous pieces from MESSIAH are the moving “Hallelujah Chorus” and the powerful conclusion “Worthy is the Lamb.” Legend has it that in one London performance of MESSIAH, King George II was so moved during the “Hallelujah Chorus” that he stood up in honor of the piece’s theme and the power of the music. Because the King stood, the audience around him followed suit. Today it is customary in every performance of MESSIAH for the audience to stand during the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Classical music may not move you like it did King George II, but there should be some style of music in praise of Jesus that should move you to joyful praise. Listen for songs of worship at church, on your radio or streaming service that move you to express joy. Sing with these as best you can to express your appreciation for your Savior. The angels of heaven are loudly calling out God’s praises (Rev. 5:12). Figuratively, the rivers are clapping their hands (Ps. 98:8). Don’t be left behind. Express joy to God through music and praise. Do so at Christmas and at all other times of the year! Your inner joy needs to come out! Music and singing are not the only ways to express joy but they may be “just the ticket” for you experiencing and expressing joy.

Central Message of the Text: 

Angels announced the coming of Jesus as Savior, Messiah and Lord. The first recipients of this announcement enthusiastically praised God and shared this good news. Go and do likewise.  

  Family Talk:

What’s something you remember as a child that’s lost today? For me it’s landlines, fax machines and the dreaded rope climb in gym (look that one up and cry for us older folks; elementary PE trauma is real). This time of year, I always think about going Christmas caroling. I have such fond memories of going house to house singing Christmas carols to our neighbors. We’d ring the doorbell, sing “Jingle Bells” or “O Holy Night” and drop a gift of yummy treats. Kids would run circles around their parents and the adults would generally be of good cheer (which really meant the kids wouldn’t get into too much trouble for being, well, kids). Inevitably we’d collect a few people along the way and the festive mood would continue through the evening with a beloved cup of hot cocoa topped with a dollop of whipped cream or marshmallows. I don’t think too many people go caroling anymore and that makes me sad. Imagine the anticipation of waiting for the door to open or the fun we had as we sang ridiculously off key. What would your reaction be when opening your door to a whole group of friends singing “Joy to the World” or “Hark! The Herald Angles Sing”? Let’s bring this back! If a great company of the heavenly host gathered to praise God to the shepherds, shouldn’t we do the same? Help your kids understand we don’t need to be within the confines of the church walls to praise God. Gather your home group and spread the good news of great joy to those in your neighborhood this Christmas season!