Joy To The World

(c)iStockphoto.com/AmandaLewis

Joy To The World has long been my favorite Christmas hymn, in no small part because of its Kingdom message, which praises King Jesus for coming to earth, reigning and turning back the effects of the curse.

Here are some highlights. Verse 1 “Joy to the world! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King.”

Verse 2: “Joy to the world! The Saviour reigns.”

Verse 3: “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…”

Verse 4: “He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love…”

Good Kingdom stuff. I get goose bumps every time I sing it.

Joy To The World was written by Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 98, and has been the most published hymn in North America.

Isaac Watts was born in Southampton, England on July 17, 1674. His father was a prosperous clothier, as well as a schoolmaster and deacon in the local Congregationalist church. His mother was of French Huguenot descent.

At the age of 14, Watts came under a “considerable conviction” of his own sinfulness, resulting in his conversion. He then obtained his degree from a London theological seminary and returned home to his parents. After a church service one Sunday, he complained to his father about the quality of the hymns. His father said if he felt that way he should do something about it.

Watts did do something about it. He began writing hymns and before he was done would pen more than 600, earning him the moniker “The Father of English Hymnody.”  Perhaps more than any other person, Watts is responsible for how Evangelicals worship, writing such classics as At The Cross and When I Survey The Wondrous Cross.

Watts was considered radical because he wrote hymns that went beyond merely quoting scripture, but he wrote out of his knowledge of Scripture, theology and from his relationship with the Lord. Like any good writer, he wrote what he knew.

Watts pursued marriage, but when the woman with whom he had corresponded met him, she was so disappointed in his appearance she turned him down. Watts, out of the depth of rejection, wrote At The Cross.

Watts would never seriously pursue marriage after that, but perhaps we are all the better for it because he was able to devote the fullness of his life to pastoring, study and writing, leaving a legacy of hymns that would benefit the kingdom of God for hundreds of years after him. GS