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Joy to the World, The Lord is Come

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” Psalm 98:4 ESV 

Isaac Watts was born in 1674 in Southampton England. As a child he loved creating rhymes (and was even reprimanded for it in church). He lived at a time when it was believed that only the Psalms should be sung in solemn services. Outside in the streets people merrily sang carols during the Christmas season, but inside the church the songs were serious and traditional. When he was a teenager, Isaac complained that the Psalms were too stagnant. He thought that people should be singing with joy and passion and that the songs should reflect Christian lives, not the Old Testament before Christ returned. Later in life, he was quoted as saying “To see the dull indifference, the negligent and thoughtless air that sits upon the faces fo a whole assembly, while the psalm is upon their lips, might even tempt a charitable observer to suspect the fervency of their inward religion.” His father eventually got so tired of his teenage son’s complaining that he challenged young Isaac to write something better. This began a lifetime of hymn writing.

In 1719 he wrote Psalms of David imitated in the language of the New Testament. These hymns were based on the words of David in the Old Testament but included the gospel of the New Testament. Many traditionalists were, not surprisingly, against his new music, and called his songs “whims and flights of fancy,” but on the other hand, many prominent people supported him, such as Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Franklin, Cotton Mather, and John Wesley.

Isaac Watts is considered The godfather of modern hymn writing and many of his songs are still recognizable to us today, such as “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “This is the Day that the Lord hath Made.” His most famous Christmas carol is “Joy to the World” based on the joy David sang about in Psalm 98:4 (ESV). “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” However, his words also reflect the good news that the angels sang to the shepherds the night Jesus was born. “The Lord is come, Let earth receive her king! Let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature sing.” Even though this song was written in 1719, the message of it is timeless. In fact, it was the most popular hymn of the 20th century (based on how many hymnals it was printed in).

I think the popularity is because the message is so simple yet so profound. The angel in Luke 2:10 (ESV) said “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The angels rejoiced and the good news of the birth of Christ was for all people of all time and for the whole world, so I agree with Isaac Watts. We should be singing with joy and passion about the miraculous entrance of our savior on the earth. “Joy to the world! The Lord is come!”

Sharing your joy in Christ,

Erin Tabor 

Photo Credit: Image courtesy of https://www.freeimages.com/photo/angel-christmas-ornament-1442351

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