“Joy to the World” is a popular Christmas carol that was originally written about the return of Jesus, rather than a song to celebrate his birth as we know it today. In fact, only half of the original song is used today during Christmas celebrations. Despite this, the song is extremely popular and remains one of the most-published Christmas carols in North America. It has been performed by many popular artists and is widely used in church carol services. Let’s find out who wrote and composed this famous carol.
The lyrics for the song were written by Issac Watts and was first published in 1719 together with a collection of hymns inspired by the Psalms. “Joy to the World” was inspired by Psalm 98 from the Bible and the song is based on this chapter. It was written in two parts and it is only the second part that we use today. Watts never thought that this would be used as a Christmas hymn and it wasn’t for more than 100 years that it became popular.
In 1836, more than 115 years after it was written, church composer Lowell Mason adapted an older tune to fit the lyrics. This tune is usually known as “Antioch” and is believed to be adapted partly from the music from “Messiah”, which is a oratorio (similar to an opera) written by George Frederic Handel.
Did you know?
The third verse is often omitted from the song and is considered to be optional.
“Joy to the World” is the best known of the hymns published by Watts. However, he wrote over 750 other hymns and some of these are still used today.