By Pastor Nathan Richardson
Isaac Watts may not be the biggest household name but you do know his work and I guarantee you have sung his song multiple times. The song is “Joy to the World,” and it is one of the most known Christmas songs of all time. It however was never written to be a Christmas song. When Watts initially wrote the words it was a poem he based on Psalm 98.
Psalm 98:4-9 says, Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; 5 make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, 6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—shout for joy before the LORD, the King. 7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. 8 Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; 9 let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.
Watts thought there was a lack of joy and emotion expressed among the congregants while singing. Watts’ father challenged him; if he struggled then he should do something about it and write something different. He would go on to write 750 hymns, including O God, Our Help in Ages Past, and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. Joy to the World is an upbeat and powerful song.
Just look at some of the lyrics:
Joy to the world, the Lord has come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing.
This song is the very essence of Psalm 98. It achieves the goal of worship and bringing joy to the world. I love the line, “Let every heart prepare him room.” I think if each of us did prepare him room in our lives there would be more joy in the world. If we were to receive the King our world would look very different. In Psalm 98 nature sings, the sea resounds, the rivers clap and the mountains sing. Nature naturally worships God in everything it does.
In writing these songs, Isaac Watts was considered a rebel. At the time, in early 18th century, every song in church would have been taken word for word from scripture. Watts took a chance and was able to instill creativity and beautiful music into the church. I am thankful for innovators like Watts wanting to change the status quo.
Are you having trouble experiencing joy in this season? Maybe Christmas brings up bad memories, or you are so hurried and your schedule is so full you really do not have time to be joyful. Maybe you are struggling financially and are wondering how you are going to provide Christmas for your children.
In the advice of Isaac Watts’ father, “Do something different.” Give yourself permission to slow down. Allow your presence to be what your children need. Go to church, pray, open up the Bible. Allow God to bring you the peace and joy you need in your life.