“Joy to the World” Was Not Written as a Christmas Carol

Joy and Christmas

One of the most well-known Christmas carols of all time, “Joy to the World,”  wasn’t written for Christmas. In 1719 Isaac Watts wrote it as part of a group of hymns on the Psalms. If you read Psalm 98 that it’s based on, you won’t find the phrase “Joy to the World” anywhere in it. Over 100 years after Watts wrote it American composer Lowell Mason wrote the musical arrangement we know today.

Joy to the World

Even though it wasn’t written for Christmas the theme of joy resonates with us at Christmas time. Let’s take a quick look at this theme in the Christmas story. Surprisingly there are only three places in the biblical story where the word is used.

3 Places Joy Is Mentioned in the Christmas Story

  1. Luke 1:44  The unborn John the Baptist had joy.
  2. Luke 2:10 The angels declared a message of great joy.
  3. Matthew 2:10 The wise men had exceedingly great joy.

We aren’t told that Mary or Joseph were joyful but we don’t have to be told that. Of course they rejoiced!  Let’s take a closer look at these three passages

John the Baptist Rejoiced In the Womb

This is a fascinating verse on so many levels. John was filled with the Holy Spirit while still in the womb Luke 1:14. What goes through the mind of an unborn baby? One thing is joy! Undoubtedly Spirit filled, he made the connection between Mary’s voice and Jesus. He understood she was Jesus’ mom. His response was to leap, although not very high, with joy.

The Angels Delivered News of Great Joy

The angel’s message was of “great joy that would be for all people.” The news didn’t cause rejoicing to all people that night. Jesus’ birth was largely unnoticed. The angel was speaking of the rejoicing because of the salvation that Jesus would make possible Romans 15:13. It was the anticipation of joy.

The Wise Men Rejoiced Upon Seeing the Star

The wise men were on a mission that started with seeing a star. When they were close to their goal they saw it again. They “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” We aren’t sure what the star was but they knew what it meant. They were close to personally seeing the king. They were delighted!

The Key to being Joyful

The key to being joyful is participation. Watching others rejoice doesn’t give you joy. John and the wise men rejoiced in their personal connection with Jesus. The angels predicted joy for all who would have a personal connection with Jesus.

Are you rejoicing this Christmas? If you don’t know Jesus personally, it’s hard to be joyful about Him. If you’d like to know more about having a relationship with Jesus click here.

Sometimes, even when we know Him, we let things steal our joy. We get too busy to talk with Him. We don’t think about Him and let selfishness and sin steal our joy. If that’s the case spend some time with Him right now.

May the joy of Jesus overflow from your heart today!

I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or question below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Tim Schnake

    Ward, I just wanted to thank you once again for you insight and encouraging devotionals, I usually not one to read daily blogs, but I don’t miss your. May you and your family have a wonderful and JOY filled Christmas.

    • Tim, it’s so good to hear from you! Thanks for your encouraging words. Merry Christmas to you and your family! I hope we see you again in 2015.