The Story Behind “Joy to the World”

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.

Such are the words of Psalm 98:4-9, ESV. These are the words that inspired Isaac Watts to write the now famous Christmas song, Joy to the World

One could say that this song began to be written back when Watts was a teenager.  It was then that he had a special talk with his dad.  They were on their way home from worship service, when young Isaac flatly stated that he thought the songs in the service were boring and antiquated.  His dad, as many dads would do, challenged him not just to complain, but do something about it. If Isaac thought he could do better, then he should.  Isaac Watts took that challenge and wrote a new hymn every week (initially), mostly based on the Psalms.  In all, Watts wrote northward of 750 hymns.

Incidentally, Charles Spurgeon’s mother challenged him to memorize Watts’ hymns. For every one Charles memorized, she’d give him a dime (10 pence). He put to heart so many of them that his mother had to cut her promise in half, a nickel for each one. This is where Spurgeon most likely got his gift of poetry, which is displayed in nearly every sermon he preached.

Because of this challenge from Watts’ father, Joy to the World eventually came into existence. Isaac was 45 when he wrote this gem (1719).

Interestingly enough, Isaac Watts and Frederic Handel (Handel’s Messiah) were friends. Though they didn’t collaborate on Joy to the World, the version that we typically sing in America comes from Messiah. A musician by the name of Lowell Mason took Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates and rearranged it, calling the tune ANTIOCH, putting a 19th Century spin on both the tune and the words (the repeats at the end of each verse were Mason’s doing, not Watts’).

If one is paying attention, he will notice that the third verse is not found in Psalm 98. That’s true. It actually comes from Genesis 3 and Revelation 21-22. The curse of the fall will be reversed when Christ sets up His eternal reign and there will be a new heaven and earth.  That is what this entire Christmas song is about: the new heaven and earth. For that reason, I would consider this more of an Advent song than a Christmas song, but to each his own.

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 heav’n and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, 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.

For more “the story behind” Christmas songs, you can click/tap on the links below.

Good Christian Men, Rejoice
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
Silent Night, Holy Night

Top 10: Christmas Movies

It is Thursday which means it’s time we get to know each other. This is my personal top 10, but I would love to hear about your favorites as well. Please be sure to leave a comment below.  This week, I am listing my top 10 favorite Christmas movies.

10. Nestor, the Long-eared Christmas Donkey
Most people have never heard of this movie, but it was by far my favorite Christmas movie growing up. I don’t watch it every year, but I think about it every year, and multiple times a year. In fact, one of the little girls in our church looks just like the cherub in the story. The thing about this movie is that it is nearly wrong on everything except the names of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and Bethlehem. That being said…I still like it; in fact, it is the only Christmas movie of that genre (Claymation or whatever type of animation it is) that I do like.

9. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
With the exception of two short parts, this is a funny movie. 

8. A Charlie Brown Christmas
I mostly like this one because of Linus’ explanation of Christmas. As many have made mention of before, when Linus begins to say, “Fear not,” he drops his security blanket emphasizing the truth of Scripture.

7. Disney’s A Christmas Carol
I am not a big fan of Jim Carrey, but this is by far my favorite version of the Charles Dicken’s classic.

6. Elf
Again, not a huge fan of Will Farrell, but he can be funny when he isn’t being crude.

5. The Man Who Invented Christmas
If you haven’t seen this movie, I would absolutely encourage you to do so. It is based on the life of Charles Dickens as he wrote A Christmas Carol. I saw it last July on Amazon Prime and it went straight to my top 5 Christmas movies. I’ve already watched it this Christmas season, showing it to my family.

4. Polar Express
I’ve never read the book, but I am sure to watch this every year.  The animation, the acting of Tom Hanks in varying roles, the warmth and friendships within, make for a great movie.

3. Miracle on 34th Street (the original 1947 version)
No the Post Office doesn’t really have the power to declare a person to be Santa Claus, but it’s still a great classic that proclaims the truth that we do need to believe even when we don’t see.

2. Die Hard
Yes. This is a Christmas movie (at least on the edited for television version)

1. It’s a Wonderful Life
Even though this movie wasn’t meant to be released for another year, thus being rushed and having editing problems due to production of another movie Sinbad the Sailor, and even though it bombed at the box office, it is still the quintessential Christmas movie.

That being said…