Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King;
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
And Heav’n and nature sing.
Joy to the world! The Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love.
Written by Isaac Watts, this familiar, stirring hymn was at first not intended to be a Christmas carol, but rather to reflect part of Psalm 98 in New Testament language. When one stops to consider, one realises that the words say nothing about angels, shepherds or magi, and barely refers to the birth of Jesus. However, its message is clear: Jesus came as the Saviour of the world and the King of kings.
The music we use is attributed to Lowell Mason, an American musician and educator, who actually combined two tunes from Handel’s Messiah: Comfort Ye and Lift Up Your Heads. These woven-together tunes were given the name Antioch to honour the place where Jesus’ followers were first called Christians. (See Acts 11:26.) It first appeared in Mason’s Modern Psalmist , published in 1839. Sung around the world, this carol is truly international, having been written by an Englishman, a German and an American.
A prominent American professor of theology, Dr. H.H. Wernecke, made the following comments about Joy to the World : “It is a great hymn of Advent and of the Nativity. We feel all nature thrilling with joy at the birth. It is a forceful expression of missionary zeal and triumph.”
May we all sing with renewed joy and triumph this Christmas season!