Joy to the World!

Many Christians would be surprised to learn that “Joy to the World”, one of our favorite Christmas carols, was written by Isaac Watts in 1719, is not actually about Christmas at all.

When we sing “Joy to the world the Lord is come, let Earth receive her King, let every heart prepare him room, let heaven and nature sing,” in the context of the Christmas season, it makes sense to think those lyrics are talking about the birth of Christ, and God coming to earth to dwell among us, but “Joy to the World” is really about the Second Coming of Christ, not about his birth in Bethlehem.

But sung in the Christmas season, this loved carol also reminds us that Christmas isn’t over; the promises of Christmas are not yet fulfilled. Earth will fully receive her King when Christ comes again, to reign and to rule. “Joy to the World” is based upon Psalm 98, which declares creation’s joy when the Lord comes to rule and to judge.

The final verse of the hymn reverberates with hope of His second coming: “He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove, the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love, and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders, of His love.”

The typical warm fuzzy Christmas story misses the point and misleads people and gives them a false sense of security. The typical Christmas story disguises Jesus as a baby as cute, sweet and helpless instead of the Prince of Peace who came to the Savior of the world, and the Redeemer of all mankind. The Baby didn’t stay a baby. He became the King of Kings, and He will return again.

God always has a plan. For hundreds of years people looked for the day when the Messiah would make his first appearance in earth. 700 years before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah being born of a virgin. 500 years before Jesus’ birth, the prophet Micah foretold that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. The people waited and hoped.

Having been persecuted and scattered through hundreds of years by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, the Jewish people never gave up their hopes for the first coming of the promised Messiah. Though things seemed dark at times God was using world powers to accomplish His plan.

The Persians under King Xerxes allowed people like Ezra and Nehemiah to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, the walls, and the culture. Greece under Alexander the Great defeated the Persians and gave the known world a common language. Then the Roman Empire defeats Greece and built an expansive system of roads for their armies to travel on, but those same roads paved the way for the spread of the gospel as the early Christians used those same roads to take the good news about Christ across the known world.

When everything was in place, or as Scripture says, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4). Today, we live with their “hope” in the first coming of Christ as a reality today.

We no longer are hoping for a first coming of Christ, but we are waiting and hoping for his second coming. God still has a plan, and when the fullness of time has come, when all the things are in place, Christ will return!

“Joy to the world. The lord has come.” He HAS come, He IS here, AND He WILL be coming again.