Noticing the Light • Devotion #3: “Joy to the World”

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) has been called the “Godfather of English Hymnody” as he is credited with some 750 hymns. George Frederic Handel (Handel’s “Messiah”) is said to have also had an influence with Watts on the writing of “Joy to the World.”

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.

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.

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.

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!

My initial thought of this carol is the response of the wise men in Matthew 2:10, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” This intrigues me as the educated unbelievers rejoiced (even great joy) at seeing the star even before they saw the Star.

However, the carol comes from a paraphrase of Psalm 98:4-9 by Watts (it appears in his famous collection, “The Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament” ). Psalm 98:4-9 says,

“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.”

The obvious application is for us to have great joy and rejoice this Christmas season because the Lord has come. However, please notice line three of verse one: “Let every heart prepare Him room.” When Joseph and Mary came to Bethlehem not everyone rejected them, they just did not make room for Him. As we go through this season, we need to make sure we make room for the Savior in our hearts, minds, resources, energy, and schedules.

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!

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