Thursday, December 12, 2013

#364, in which israel spreads abroad

#13 Joy to the World (music: George F. Handel, text: Isaac Watts and W.W. Phelps)

Yes, that Handel, although it's less likely that he actually wrote the song and more likely that the tune was based on refrains from The Messiah. It's a lovely tune, and not at all surprising that someone like him was involved in its creation. It's also arguably the most famous of the Christmas hymns; Wikipedia informs me that it's the most-published hymn in North America.

And yet I've placed it toward the bottom of the list. Maybe it's how often I hear the song, or maybe it's the sense of shoutiness I get from the song that make me not like it as much as the others, but it's never really been one of my favorites. But that's not to say that it's bad. In fact, it's unique among the 14 hymns. What's different? Listen to the first verse and see if you notice it.

Joy to the world,
The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare him room,
And saints and angels sing.

You see? No? Maybe it's not immediately clear from the first verse. Try the second on for size.

Rejoice! Rejoice when Jesus reigns,
And saints their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

While the first verse is ambiguous, it's clear from the second that this hymn isn't about Jesus' first coming, but his second. He's coming in power, not as an infant. It's the only Christmas hymn that isn't actually about Christmas. Of course, it's still about Jesus. It just talks about the result of His birth and sacrifice rather than the birth itself. That's a beautiful part of the hymn I hadn't really noticed until putting these posts together.

I hate to get all "remember the REAL reason for the season" on you, but that's exactly what this hymn does. It tell us that the blessings will flow far as the curse was found. And it tells us, as I've noted in the title of this post (which wasn't chosen idly; none of them are) that Israel will spread abroad like stars that glitter in the sky. It tells us that knowledge of the Savior will spread through the world, healing it. One day, we can hope to be cured of sorrow, misery, anger, and everything else. Peace on earth, and all that.

Far as the curse was found.

Previously in this series:

#14 While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

4 comments:

Jen said...

Loving these posts. Just so's ya know.

Sam Orme said...

I'm glad at least someone is. They're only going to get better, too.

erin said...

Excellent post, although this is in my top three or four favorites.

Katya said...

"While the first verse is ambiguous, it's clear from the second that this hymn isn't about Jesus' first coming, but his second."

I'm not sure I ever put that together. Nice.