During the Christmas season, many will take to the streets, churches, and even schools to sing the beautiful Christmas carols. “Joy to the World” is quite possibly one of the most positive and uplifting carols of the Christmas season.
Background of the Hymnists of “Joy to the World”
Isaac Watts is the author of this beautiful hymn. He was a pastor, theological author, as well as the “Father of English Hymnody.” He wrote over 700 hymns, many of which churches sing in their weekly meetings. Some famed hymns are “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?”
The composer for “Joy to the World” was world-renowned composer, George Handel. Handel is famous for his composition of such works as Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks, and widely sung Messiah. Due to some wording and the tune being similar to parts of the Messiah, many insist that Handel could be the composer. Some scholars, however, refute Handel’s authorship of the hymn.
The most possible arranger of “Joy to the World” was Lowell Mason. He was an American music educator, editor, and hymn composer. He arranged the Watt’s hymn “When I Survey,” along with many others. Some other famous hymns he composed were “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” and “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”
Background of the Hymn “Joy to the World”
“Joy to the World” first appeared in print in the collection entitled The Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament in 1719. Later, in 1839, it appeared in The Modern Psalmist. The cryptic notation of “from Handel” and the unmistakable blend of Handel’s Messiah and other Watt’s tunes indicated the authorship of the hymn.
The hymn finds its origins from the last half of Psalm 98. The Psalm celebrates God’s protection and restoration of His chosen people. Both the Psalm and hymn looks to the return of the Saviour and His earthly reign. It also has a glint of Handel’s “Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates.”
Carolers joyfully sing this hymn during the Christmas holiday; however, it contains no reference to Joseph, Mary, shepherds, and angels. Tradition of singing this hymn during the winter holidays, celebrating both advents of the Saviour, surpassed the need for nativity type hymns.
Meditation on the Hymn “Joy to the World”
Since there is only one stanza mentioning the birth of Jesus, the hymn can find its place any time of the year. Christians can celebrate the Saviour’s coming with the first verse, “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come.” And even though there was no place for Him to lay His head at His birth, followers of Christ can “prepare Him room” in their hearts.
The reader of the hymn can find that the “joy” Watts found in the Saviour. Men find joy in His coming, but also in His reign. Not just men, but even rocks, hills, and plains “repeat the sounding joy.” Men will also find joy in His payment for sins, so that sins and sorrows no longer have to grow. Lastly, Christians will joy in His ruling the world with truth and grace.
It is the “wonders of His love” for sinners of the world that can bring everlasting joy. It is a song and hymn of encouragement that has lasted for centuries. “Joy to the World” may be considered a Christmas carol, however, it is appropriate for anytime of year.