An Unlikely Christmas Carol

Joy to the World

For years, Joy to the World has been a favorite Christmas carol of millions. Ironically, it was originally written as a poem (not a song) about the second (not the first) coming of Christ.

Here’s how it happened:

In 1719, Isaac Watts published a book of poetry based on the psalms. In the collection, he adjusted each psalm to reflect the work of Jesus in the New Testament. Joy to the World was his adaptation of Psalm 98. Isaac Watts interpreted the psalm as a celebration of Jesus’ role as King of both His church and the entire world.

Isaac Watts, however, did not write the melody of Joy to the World as we sing it today, but instead, instructed the reader/singer to present it in common meter to the common tunes of the Old Psalm Book of his day. Over the next 130 years, various melodies were written by several composers. Finally, in 1848, Lowell Mason published his version of Joy To The World with its current melody in The National Psalmist. It was his 4th revision of the song, sampling the opening melody from the chorus Lift Up Your Heads from Handel’s Messiah. Ironically, many today, when listening to The Messiah, believe that Handel utilized snippets of Joy to the World in His work to make it more recognizable and Christmasy.

So now we have a Christmas Carol which is written about the second coming of Jesus and was never even meant to be a song that is now a Christmas favorite for many around the world.

Merry Christmas

Related Posts: New Verses to Away In A Manger

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