Songs for Sunday: Joy to the World

Today, the Sunday for before Christmas, this song will be sung in many churches. It is an extremely popular “Christmas Song”, but if you look at the lyrics, they seem to more closely depict the second coming of Christ rather than the first.

Joy to the Word

Joy to the world, the Lord has 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

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

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

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 lyrics, written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), were  mostly based on Psalm 98.

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 his salvation known
    and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
    and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation of our God.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
    burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp,
    with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
    shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it.
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.
He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples with equity.

Isaac Watts wrote over 800 hymns as well as many other works.  Many of his hymns are still found in hymnals today, including of course, Joy to the World. You can read more about him here. 

The tune used for Joy to the World  here in the United States is called  Antioch and while it was arranged by Lowell Mason (1792-1882), it includes at least some parts of George Frideric Handel’s (1685-1769) Messiah. You can read more about that here.

My YouTube search for videos of this song told me that just about everyone seems to have recorded it at one time or another.  However, I wanted to find a choral version. This is a nice one by John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers. It was uploaded by Kate Price in 2009.

See you in church!

Merry Christmas!

Connie

Great Joy

nativity-03
“Shepherds Being Told of the Holy Birth” Walter Crane 1895

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11)

According to Bible Gateway.com the word “joy” is used in the Bible 242 times (in the NIV). Additionally, the word “rejoice” is used 154 times, and “joyful” 28 times. In Galatians, Paul lists “joy” as part of the fruit of the spirit, naming it second, after “love”.

So what does joy mean?

Dictionary.com defines joy as
“the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation”

The word translated as joy in Luke 2 is the Greek word, chara, which basically means gladness, but according to the Revell Bible Dictionary (p.590) “connotes an inner feeling of pleasure, satisfaction of well being.”

Here is the thing about the joy that would come from the birth (and later death, burial and resurrection) of the Christ child. For those who accept the gift, joy is an internal state that isn’t dependent on circumstances or feelings. You can be unhappy about a situation, but still remain in the “joy of the Lord”. As a matter of fact Nehemiah says …”the joy of the Lord is your strength. ” (Neh 8:10 b).

Why should we need joy to be our strength? Living a life in obedience to God through Jesus Christ makes us an enemy of the world, and subject to persecution on both the physical and spiritual level.

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23)

Revell Bible Dictionary says

“In the NT (New Testament), joy often wells up in the most painful and desperate of situations. Such joy, known by those who are obedient to Jesus, is supernaturally produced as we look ahead with confidence, to reaffirm our faith in the goodness, and ultimate triumph of our God.” (p.590)

When we know who we are in Christ, and that our eternal home is with Him in heaven, we can have joy even when we are dealing with heartache and pain in this life. It’s the joy that comes from knowing that regardless of what happens, God is in control and is working it all out for our good and His glory.  I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of joy I want to have. I find it more and more, as I learn to lean on Him.

God is still offering the gift.

Have you accepted it?

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Cor 9:15)

Connie