Joy to the World
Joy to the World is one of the most popular Christmas hymns in the world and the most published hymn in North America. Written by Isaac Watts (July 1674 – 25 November 1748), it was one of the 750 hymns he wrote. He is considered the Godfather of English hymnody. Following his education, Watts was called as pastor of a large independent chapel in London, Mark Lane Congregational Chapel, where he served as pastor. Joy to the World was originally published in 1719 in Watts’ work, “the Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament and applied to the Christian state and worship.” He arranged the Psalms through a lens of Christ’s work in the New Testament. Joy to World is based on Psalm 98, where all the earth sings praise to God for God’s saving power. Verse 3 of the song is based on Genesis 3:17. Christ is the one who is celebrated as removing this age-old curse of sin from humanity.
Joy to the World as we know it was made possible by Lowell Mason, (1792-1872) a Boston music educator and musician. Mason was very influential in his time and arranged the music for Joy to the World. It is based in part on Handel’s Messiah chorus. The tune we sing for Joy to the World was made very popular in America but is virtually unknown in Watts’ native England.
This song has been a favorite for centuries, since it joyfully proclaims God’s care and love for the world through Christ.