December 24, 2022

Christmas and Advent Hymns and their Story

“Joy to the World”

As a young man, so the story goes, Isaac Watts [1674-1748] complained to his father about the way the Psalms were being sung at worship throughout England. The literal translations were torturing and uninspiring to him. His father challenged him to produce something better. He produced a hymn – well loved apparently – and then produced many more.
“Joy to the World” appears in his works as a hymn inspired by Psalm 98, with the original heading, “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom.” He saw in the Psalm a prophecy of the coming of Christ and the salvation He has won through his death, resurrection, and ascension. By 1837, in America, it had become a popular Christmas Hymn, much loved, and has been so ever since.
This is simply and invitation to the world to praise God on the occasion of the coming of Jesus. We are to rejoice because He has come, has saved us from all our sins, has comforted His people, and has had compassion on the afflicted. Bethlehem had little room for the Holy Family on that first Christmas morning, but “every heart” is now urged to “prepare Him room.” With the Psalmist, we are invited to rejoiced at the coming of the Savior.
Philippians 2:10-11 tells us; “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The whole earth will see God’s salvation, and there will be no more sorrow, pain, or tears: what better reason is there for Joy in this world?

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,
And heav’n and nature sing, and heav’n and nature sing.

LSB 387

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