Hymn Reflection: Joy to the World

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Last week I shared an advent hymn, if you missed it, read it here.

Now I want to focus on Christmas. It’s only a few days away! I am guessing you probably will sing Joy to the World in church or at home on Christmas. To better prepare you and your heart, I want to share some background on the hymn and invite reflection for the season.

Isaac Watts wrote many hymns and is a well known hymn writer. He was a pastor who often wrote hymns to follow his sermons. That’s talent! Joy to the World was published in 1719. It is paraphrased from Psalm 98. Let’s read this text together:

1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
    he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
    to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
    let the hills sing for joy together
before the Lord, for he comes
    to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity. (ESV).

Now compare the psalm text with the hymn text. Note that stanza st. 2 also comes from Ps. 96:11-12 and st. 3 eludes to Gen. 3. This is where the phrase about the curse comes from. It is referencing the first time Christ is prophesied, when Jesus comes to crush the serpents head and break the curse.

And listen along:

1 Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her king;
let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

2 Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let all their songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

3 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,
far as the curse is found,
far as, far as the curse is found.

4 He rules the world with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness
and wonders of his love,
and wonders of his love,
and wonders, wonders of his love.

The theme of this hymn is to praise God. Christ is the one who is bringing joy to this dark world. We should all shout out along with this song! So this Christmas season, sing your heart out to the baby that came to save instead of just being happy when a well known hymn is played at church.