Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Caroling the Gospel III: Joy to the World

[NOTE:  This is from a 12-part series I did on another blog.  Hence the tardiness.  I promise, it was timely when I first wrote it.  The rest of the series is available here.  Enjoy!]

Not the Three Dog Night one.  Originally composed by hymn-writing rockstar Isaac Watts as a celebration of Christ's second coming, this hymn was quickly adopted for use at Christmastime and is now the most published Christmas hymn in North America.  Though I suspect the full, four-verse version is considerably less popular.

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.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

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,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

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 third verse doesn't usually make it into our holiday singing.  Which is too bad, really.  The imagery is fantastic.  This world is full of sin and sorrow--it seems to grow all the time.  Like the thorns that plague the ground ever since the fall of man (and the resulting curse), sin infests every part of lives and every corner of the globe.  It's a weed.  Not just a pervasive weed, but one with the power to wound anyone who would uproot it or disturb its dominion. 

But as extensive as this curse of sin may be, the blessings of the gospel flow out co-extensively--'far as the curse is found.'  All of creation will ultimately be redeemed through the power of the cross.  What an amazing promise!  As tainted and painful and wretched and broken as this world is, so shall it be holy and good and right and whole!  And while the other verses repeat a more cheerful sounding phrase (heaven and nature sing, repeat the sounding joy, wonders of His love), I think this message is the most joyous of all.  The curse will be undone!  Sin's grip on the the world will finally be broken! 

Not that all men will necessarily benefit from this blessing and redemption.  The blessings flowing from Christmas and the cross are available only to those who acknowledge their sin before God and claim protection and justification in the blood of Christ.  But for that happy multitude . . . Joy to the world, indeed!

It's not as obvious a reference to the gospel, I admit.  Though references to thorns always make me think of the crown of thorns--he took the thorns so that the thorns of sin could be removed from us and from the whole world.  And I suppose the blessings, like his blood, flow to the ends of this cursed world.  But that's a bit of a stretch.  Still, I have respect for any Christmas song that directly addresses sin and sorrow and the effect of Christ's incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection thereon.

To read the next entry in the series, 'Caroling the Gospel: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing', click here.

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