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#13: Joy to the World

Joy to the WorldThe words to the triumphant song “Joy to the World” are by English hymn writer Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 98 in the Bible. The song was first published in 1719. Watts wrote the words of “Joy to the World” as a hymn glorifying Christ’s triumphant return at the end of the age, rather than a Christmas song celebrating his first coming as a babe born in a stable. Only the second half of Watts’ lyrics are still used today.

The music was adapted and arranged to Watts’ lyrics by Lowell Mason in 1839 from an older melody which was then believed to have originated from Handel, not least because the theme of the refrain (“And heaven and nature sing…”) appears in the orchestra opening and accompaniment of the recitative “Comfort Ye” from Handel’s Messiah, and the first four notes match the beginning of the choruses “Lift up your heads” and “Glory to God” from the same oratorio. However, Handel did not compose the entire tune.

As of the late 20th century, “Joy to the World” was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.

Lyrics

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 Earth! the Saviour 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.

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