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.
Though this hymn has become a beloved Christmas Carol, it was not originally written for that purpose alone. Its author, Isaac Watts, wrote this paraphrase of Psalm 98 in Christian language for use throughout the year. This is why some hymnals are now offering an additional setting to a tune other than Antioch (the one we all know and love) so that we might pay more attention to the lyrics.
The psalm from which this hymn comes speaks of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who is coming to save the children of God. It speaks of the kingdom that will one day arrive – one that brings peace, plenty, and a life of great joy. It is quite understandable why it can also be seen as a prophecy of the coming Messiah.
For Christians, we believe that with the Christ-child’s arrival, these things have already come to pass (or at least have begun). As the third verse states: No more let sins and sorrows row, nor thorns infest the ground; he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found… This is a song of hope of what has already begun, even though it has not yet been fulfilled.
That does not mean that it’s message cannot impact our lives in this time and in this place. The beauty of Christ’s work is that we are invited to participate. There are a millions ways to spread the joy this song celebrates – so go find some.
And now that the song is thoroughly in your head, I hope you can find a chance throughout your day to join the jovial carol that heaven and nature are singing: 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.
Reverse Advent Calendar: Get a group of friends together and go Christmas caroling. Your neighborhood is a good place to begin, but also think about extended care facilities in your community. Even better, be sure to include those locations that will not be on the local school’s radar and may otherwise be left out.