Joy to the World, The Lord Has Come

Text by: Isaac Watts 1675-1748

Tune: Antioch by: Georg Friedrich Handel 1742

Tune: Richmond by: Thomas Haweis 1792



1 Joy to the World; The Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King:
Let every Heart prepare him Room,
And Heaven and Nature sing.

2 Joy to the Earth, The Saviour reigns;
Let Men their Songs employ;
While Fields & Floods, Rocks, Hills & Plains
Repeat the sounding Joy.

3 No more let Sins and Sorrows grow,
Nor Thorns infest the Ground:
He comes to make his Blessings flow
Far as the Curse is found.

4 He rules the World with Truth and Grace,
And makes the Nations prove
The Glories of his Righteousness,
And Wonders of his Love.

According to, which is the largest online repository of hymns, this is by far the most popular hymn in North American hymnals, appearing in over 1300 hymnals and yet, it makes no mention of the birth, star, Mary, or anything else which would directly tie it to the Advent, Christmas, or even Epiphany seasons.

Isaac Watts, as a young man, would frequently complain to his father about the abysmal and outdated hymns they would sing in church. Keep in mind Watts was a mere teenager in the year 1700. Not much has changed in over 300 years. After growing tired of Isaac’s unending teenage griping, his father says: “If you think you can do better, then write your own!” Now Dad’s admonition didn’t fall on the usual deaf ears of a teenager. Watts began to write new hymns set in “modern English.” He largely continued the Reformation tradition of using the Psalms and other parts of Scripture as a direct inspiration or format for his new hymns.

John Calvin had first introduced this principle for hymn writing during the Reformation in Geneva, Switzerland. He commissioned completely new setting of all 150 Psalms in lyrical prose (that is metrical and rhyming) along with what was supposed to be 150 new tunes for these hymns. (If you ever see a hymn tune name such as “Old 100th” this is the tune for the 100th Psalm.) (The music composers fell a little short and a number of the tunes were pressed into additional service to fill the gap.) This Genevian Psalter was soon moved to Scotland and was translated into the Scottish Psalter and formed the basis for much of the music used in the Anglican, Reformed, and Presbyterian churches throughout England and its commonwealth, including the US.

Watts uses Psalm 98 to write this hymn.

98 O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvelous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.

The Lord hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen.

He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.

With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King.

Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together

Before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.

This is one of the most joyous of all the Psalms. We are called to sing a new song because of the great things God has done. Watts looks at this Psalm though with a Christological understanding. In Vs 2, the Lord having made his salvation known, becomes an exclamation that the Lord has indeed come. This good news is so great all of creation exclaims it in a loud noise. The seas roar and the floods clap their hands and the hills even join in!

The third stanza doesn’t come from Psalm 98, but Watts adds it to complete his Christological picture. It takes us back the beginning of the story, when Adam and Eve sinned against God and were banished form the garden, a curse was placed upon them. The ground would yield thorns and sorrow would overtake them. But now the curse has been removed far away and His blessings will overflow to us. Just as was promised when God said: “I’ve got this” as He covered their nakedness and promised them salvation will one day come.

The Lord our God, who keeps his covenants has come to judge the earth in righteousness and equity. For this He rules the World with Truth and Grace, And makes the Nations prove The Glories of his Righteousness, And Wonders of his Love.

Of all the hymns we sing during this season, this one deserves year round use. The Lord has indeed come to us in the form of a child resting in a feeding trough. But he has promised much more. He will come again and since he is a God who keeps his promises, this is indeed something worthy of great joy. Not happiness, but overflowing, unbounded, and great joy!

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Here are some of my favorite Hymnals:

Presbyterian 1955 Hymnbook:

Episcopal 1940 Hymnal: 

Broadman 1940 Hymnal:

Methodist 1939 Hymnal:

Pilgrim 1935 Hymnal:

Now Sings My Soul, New Songs for the Lord by: Linda Bonney Olin:

Choice Hymns of the Faith 1945

Book of Psalms for Singing    (1912 Psalter is unavailable)

Hymns Ancient and Modern

Here are my new projects:

Trinity Hymnal 1960

Lutheran 1909 Hymnal

J S Bach Riemenschneider 371 Harmonized Chorales


Dictionary of Hymnology:

American Hymns Old and New