Joy to the world!
The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heav’n and nature sing, and heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and heav’n and nature sing.
“Joy to the World” is one of our most beloved Christmas songs, but it isn’t about Christmas at all. Isaac Watts originally penned these words in anticipation of the return of Jesus. Notice that verse 1 above calls Him the King, if you read the full hymn, you will see that verse 2 celebrates His reign, verse 3 tells of the end of the curse and verse 4 proclaims Him as the righteous Ruler of the world.
In Jacob’s blessings over his sons (Gen 49), he said of Judah, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is His” (v. 10). Jacob was declaring the coming of the Eternal King – Jesus. He is the one to whom the royal scepter belongs and all the kingdoms of the earth will bow at His feet.
We love the Baby in the manger; He is the embodiment of God’s holy love for mankind and the fulfillment of His promise to free us from bondage to sin. But we must let Jesus grow out of the swaddling clothes and into the crown of thorns to understand the full impact of Christmas on the world. We must see Him as the risen Lord standing in the Garden and look to the skies as He ascends back to heaven to grasp the fullness of His promised resurrection.
And we must see Him as the coming King in Watts’ song. Zechariah 14:4-9 describes His glorious return: “On that day, His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west” (v. 4). The world missed His first advent, but there will be no missing His second. “Every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7). Christmas brings us Joy as we remember Jesus’ birth, but the greatest rejoicing will come when the King of kings returns to earth.
Jesus promises “Behold, I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:7). And so we say with the Bride and the Spirit: “Amen. Come Lord Jesus” (v.20).
 Words: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748; Music: George Frederick Handel, 1658-1759; Arr.: Lowell Mason, 1792-1872