Have you ever wondered where Christmas carols came from and the story behind them? One of my favorite Christmas carols is “Joy to the World”. It is a joyful song, easy to sing and play and with great lyrics that focus on Jesus and His first coming. Did you know that a teenager wrote it?

The story goes that in the 1700's the "worship music of the day" was rigid and difficult to sing. At the time most of Christian worship in Europe involved the singing of the Psalms. After Sunday service fifteen-year-old Isaac Watts mentioned his distaste for the music used to sing the Psalms. It is reported he said the music was unnatural and the worship was atrocious (appalling, dreadful or awful).

One of the leaders of the church gave him a challenge. “Give us something better young man!” After that Isaac wrote his first worship song. Composing hymns became a passion for him and he wrote the “Psalms of David Imitated” which was published in 1719. The lyric for Joy to the Worldwas part of that collection based on the last part of the old Jewish psalm of praise found in Psalm 98. Watts’s transformation of the psalm reflects the salvation Jesus brought “to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.”

“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth;

Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.

Sing to the LORD with the harp,

With the harp and the sound of a psalm,

With trumpets and the sound of a horn;

Shout joyfully before the LORD, the King.

…For He is coming to judge the earth.

With righteousness He shall judge the world,

And the peoples with equity.” (Ps 98:4-6,9 NKJV)

George Frederick Handel composed the music resembling the great oratorio Messiah. These men together have inspired the worship of our Savior to this day.

Isaac Watts was born into hardship and persecution so extreme that he was sickly most of his life. Yet from a worshiping heart forged on the anvil of adversity came over 750 worship songs. I can confirm great difficulty squeezes the most precious melodic cries from our hearts of worship. Worship is not the sound of music but the sound of the heart! Let your heart sing with joy this Christmas, because our Savior has come.

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.

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