The Story Behind…“Joy To The World”

The Story Behind…
“Joy To The World”

Joy to the World! the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev’ry 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 is the keynote of this Christmas carol. This great song is traditional today in many Christmas festivities. In only a few instances have the words and music been so thoroughly joined together, yet the music is part of Handel’s great “Messiah,” penned many years after Watts wrote the words.

The story behind “Joy To The World” is a fitting tribute to the providence of God. In 1719 little Isaac Watts (he was only five feet tall) was living on the Abney Estate, near London. There he wrote these words based on the ninety-eighth Psalm. Watts was born poor in health. At the age of forty-five he had come to live on the Abney Estate for a week’s rest. He died there in 1748: his “rest” had lasted for thirty-six years.

George Frederick Handel was a robust German and a master of the keyboard and opera. He had desired to make music his career as a young man, and contrary to his father’s wishes that he study law, he ended up playing the church organ and later went into the theater. Handel realized at age fifty-six that he had not contributed much to the culture of this world. He sought his God in prayer and in 1741 he worked continuously for twenty-three days and nights writing his immortal The Messiah, a masterpiece that is still the basis for numerous compositions penned today.

In 1836 Lowell Mason, a choir director and composer in Boston, rearranged a section of The Messiah to fit the words of “Joy to the World.” This is another example of the working of God in mysterious ways to join words and music to bless hearts of countless millions.