Today is the anniversary of the birth of one of my daughters. It is also the birthday anniversary for one of her daughters and one of her cousins – as well as several friends. It is a joyful day in spite all the awful things going on in the world.
The topic of joy in the world brings my thoughts to the reason for the Christmas season. Isaac Watts wrote a hymn titled “Joy to the World,” and his story, as told in a Christmas card, is an interesting one.
In the late 1600s, most worship music in Europe consisted of singing the Old Testament Psalms. Isaac Watts (1674-1748) loved the Bible, yet he thought these songs felt `unnatural’ to sing. After one Sunday service, 15-year-old Isaac complained about `the atrocious worship.’ A deacon challenged him with, `Give us something better, young man.’ He went home and penned his first hymn, and the love of hymn-writing stuck with him all his life.
Later in life, and inspired by the last half of Psalm 98, Watts penned the beloved Christmas carol “Joy to the World” (1719). Watts transformed the old Jewish psalm of praise for historic deliverance, into a song of rejoicing for the salvation of God that began when Jesus came `to make his blessing flow far as the curse is found.’
The music is by an unknown composer using fragments from George Frederick Handel, some scholars say it resembles Handel’s greatest work, “Messiah.”
Watts’ “Joy to the World” is simple and beautiful. However, the LDS version is different with some words and phrases added/repeated by William W. Phelps (1792-1872) with music by George F. Handel (1685-1759). This version brings rejoicing for the birth of Christ, and it brings joy to my heart.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
And Saints and angels sing, And Saints and angels sing,
And Saints, and Saints and angels sing.
Rejoice! Rejoice when Jesus reigns, And Saints 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 will sin and sorrow grow, Nor thorns infest the ground;
He’ll come and make the blessings flow
Far as the curse was found, Far as the curse was found,
Far as, far as the curse was found.
Rejoice! Rejoice in the Most High, While Israel spreads abroad
Like stars that glitter in the sky,
And ever worship God, And ever worship God,
And ever, and ever worship God.