“Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts is known as “the accidental Christmas carol” (Greg Foister). Watts had originally included it as part of a book of poetry in 1719. In this collection, he wrote “Joy to the World” as an adaptation of Psalm 98. Over 100 years later, composer Lowell Mason put the words to music during Christmas of 1838, and the rest is history! Although Isaac Watts is famous for hymns such as, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” and “O God our help in Ages Past,” he never knew his poem “Joy to the World” would become one of the most loved Christmas carols of all time!
Psalm 98 is a prophetic Psalm about when Jesus comes back to set up His glorious kingdom here on earth. When we sing “Joy to the World” at Christmas, we not only celebrate Christ’s first Advent, but also His second.
This psalm is not only about the glory of the Redeemer, but about the joy of the redeemed! (Matthew Henry). “Sing a most excellent song, the best song you have.’ Let the song of Christ’s love be like Solomon’s on that subject, a song of songs. A song of praise for redeeming love is a new song, such a song as had not been sung before, for this is a mystery which was hidden from ages and generations….If the grace of God put a new heart into our breasts, it will therewith put a new song into our mouths” (Matthew Henry).
…so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.Colossians 1:25-27 NASB
One of the great truths of Christmas is that through His incarnation, Christ revealed the hidden mystery of God’s grace. Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” (NASB) Jesus is the GRACE of God to us. In the fulness of time, He came. Early in His public ministry, He stood in the synagogue on the Sabbath and read from Isaiah 61. I have touched on this in a couple of other Advent posts, but I can’t seem to get away from it!
“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.” And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “is this not Joseph’s son?”Luke 4:18-22 NASB
“The favorable year of the LORD is not a literal year” [definitely not 2020, right?!] “but rather a space of time that is characterized by God’s grace, redemption, and deliverance….The coming of Jesus Christ into the world ushered in the ‘acceptable year of the Lord.’ The time of God’s grace, redemption, and deliverance is now at hand, and all are invited to come to Christ in repentance and, by faith, receive the gift of eternal life” (gotquestions.org).
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”Luke 2:10-11 NASB
The grace of God appearing in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ is cause for great joy. The incarnation of Christ in us is the hope of glory. Because of His grace, we live in a perpetual state of blessedness inviting us to rejoice in God no matter the circumstances. One day our joy will be made complete when we see Him face to face.
So the ransomed of the LORD will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, and everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”Isaiah 51:11 NASB
I look forward to the day when sorrow and sighing will flee away, don’t you? But most importantly, I look forward to seeing my Lord face to face! 2020 has been tough for so many and we don’t know what 2021 holds. But one thing we know for sure, Jesus is coming back and what a joyous day that will be!
1 Read Psalm 98:1-3 and list what you learn about the glory of our Redeemer.
2 Read Psalm 98:4-9 and list what you learn about the joy of the Redeemed.
3 Read John 1:14. How does this passage describe the Word?
4 Read Isaiah 2:2-5. What do you learn about Christ’s future reign on this earth?
Click here to listen to the Cambridge Singers on YouTube.
Click here for the Casting Crowns version on YouTube.