Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing.
This meaningful hymn, penned by Isaac Watts in 1719, is popularly known as “the most jubilant Christmas carol in the English language” (Treasury of Great Hymns – Guye Johnson).
The hymn prophetically describes both the first and second advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the first stanza, the writer speaks joyfully of the first advent, calling on the earth to “receive her King”, and for every heart to “prepare Him room”. The stanza ends with a call to heaven and nature to rejoice in song. Stanza 2 expresses joy that “the Saviour reigns” and calls on men and nature to “repeat the sounding joy”. Stanza 3 prophesises a future end to sin and its curse while the last stanza exalts the Lord who shall one day rule “the world with truth and grace”.
“Joy to the world” is one of the carols we sing at Christmas. Our hearts rejoice as we remember the gracious condescension of our Saviour Who came to earth as a lowly Babe in a Bethlehem manger. As the Lord’s redeemed people, we look forward to a time of rejoicing and sweet contemplation of our Saviour’s love and grace upon us, a sinful people. What a blessing to receive our King and to prepare Him room! What a joy to sing praises to His great and glorious Name!
Our response, as God’s people, to the first advent of Christ is a joyful one. What does Scripture tell us about others who rejoiced at the birth of Christ, the Saviour of the world?
o The angels
Consider the account recorded in Luke 2: 8-20 when the angel appeared unto the shepherds with the glorious proclamation: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2: 10-11).
Indeed, this is joyous news: the Lord Himself has come; Christ the Saviour is born! “The world is at war with God; sinners are at enmity against their Maker and against each other” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible). But Christ, the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9: 6) came to make peace between God and man, and to extend good will to all men: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Lk 2: 16).
“Although the birth of our blessed Saviour was published by one angel, yet is it celebrated by a host of angels; a whole choir of angels sang forth the praises of Almighty God, upon this great and joyful occasion” (William Burkitt’s Expository Notes).
o Simeon and Anna
Luke the evangelist records the joyous responses of two aged saints – Simeon, a “just and devout” man (Lk 2: 25), and Anna the prophetess at the sight of the Infant Jesus.
God had revealed to Simeon through the Holy Spirit, that as the reward of his faith and the answer to his prayers, he would live to see Christ. The same Holy Spirit moved him to go into the temple, at that very time when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus in, to present Him before God according to the law. Simeon, who was “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Lk 2: 25), took the Child up in his arms and blessed God, saying: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Lk 2: 29-32). While Simeon was blessing the Infant Jesus, Anna the prophetess came into the temple and “gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Lk 2: 38).
Brethren, as we remember the first advent of our Lord, let us rejoice with great joy over God’s gift of His only Begotten Son Who came and dwelt amongst men. Let us joyfully receive our King, let us gladly prepare Him room, and let us sing with all Heaven and nature to the glory of our great God and Saviour.
Have a Blessed Christmas and a Joyous New Year!