Monday, December 11, 2023

Second Sunday of Advent



December 10, 2023


I Bring Good Tidings

Isaiah 40:9-10

The Story Behind the Christmas Carol "Joy to the World"

(Taken from

Isaac Watts, and to Since 1719, “Joy to the World” has been a Christmas staple. Its lyrics were crafted by date, it remains one of the most-published hymns in Northern America. However, the fun fact is, the song wasn’t even intended to be a Christmas carol, as its original version had no such link with Christmas. It wasn’t even supposed to be a song!


According to church history, Isaac Watts was one of the most prolific and celebrated creators of hymns. However, his most famous creation, “Joy to the World” was born of coincidence, rather than desire. In 1719, Watts published “The Psalms of David,” a collection of poems where each verse was based on a psalm. But, instead of translating the original texts of the “Old Testament,” he made some subtle adjustments. His poems referred more explicitly towards the works of Jesus, thus seeking inspiration from the New Testament.

Musical Overview

The majority of the hymns of “The Psalms of David “have now fallen into obscurity, except for the second part of “Psalm 98.” Ironically, the poet had no intention of creating a Christmas carol when he composed the verse. However, in 1836, Lowell Mason composed a riveting melody for this second part and combined with its popularity in the church. “Joy to the World” started its journey into the music stratosphere.

The musical origin of “Joy to the World” is somewhat mystical. Lowell Mason’s version remains the most prevalently utilized to date, which was the fourth revised interpretation of the carol. Lowell named it “ANTIOCH,” the tune of which is attributed to George Frideric Handel. The choruses of Handel’s oratorio, titled “Messiah” shared a chance resemblance with “ANTIOCH.” A theme of this musical accompaniment also portrayed an eerie similarity with the orchestral inception of “Comfort ye,” a recitative.

Further, the first four notes also bear a striking similarity to the opening of the choruses “Glory to God” and “Lift up your heads,” all belonging to the same oratorio. However, this claim has its loose ends, since no autographed score by George Frideric Handel exists. This, added with zero documentary evidence suggesting Handel’s involvement offers “ANTIOCH” the benefit of the doubt. In 1986, John Wilson further unearthed the fact that the initial publication of “Joy to the World” was in two separate English collections. One of these versions, titled “Comfort” is dated back to 1833. This again creates a theory excluding Lowell Mason from the list of the composer, as his first version is dated three years after.

Isaac Watts

Although Isaac Watts is well appreciated today, he was considered to be a black sheep back in his time. He severely disturbed the status quo of his contemporary musical culture and was also termed as a heretic for his lyrics. He grew up in a society that consisted only of sections of scriptures and psalms being incorporated with music. Watts broke this hegemony, as he noticed a certain lack of emotion among the congregants who performed it. He hated this monotonous and dull negligence that was prominent upon the faces of the performers. His father challenged him to do something about this, and eventually, he started tweaking his verses, opening a whole new frontier of possibilities.

The Accidental Christmas Hymn

Another widespread debate that is most associated with this hymn is its origin as a Christmas carol. Although it clearly depicts the Second Coming of Christ, it doesn’t have any trivial connection with the Christmas story. However, contrary to popular opinion, there lies a correlation - a “Second Coming” cannot be manifested without a “First Coming.” The piece is all about fulfillment, depicting the notions of a supernatural phenomenon, of what could be achieved from its impact. Similarly, Christmas does not only dwell in the past attainments but also looks forward to the grace that was achieved subsequently. The song proclaims the ultimate joy that is yet to be revealed, establishing a strong connection with the festive period.


We read some of the history of one of the most beloved Christmas songs there is, Joy to the World. As we read, this song was never intended to be a Christmas song. Clearly the first few lines could be viewed as talking about the birth of Jesus. However, that was not the intent. The song really is about the second coming as opposed to the birth of Jesus. The song, we learned, is based off Psalm 98, not Luke 2:10-11. The passage in Luke joyfully says, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.” One could easily believe this scripture was the inspiration for Joy to the Word but it was not. Instead, it is based on the 98th Psalm.


Isaac Watts was looking forward the Lord’s return. Starting with verse 4 of Psalm 98 we read, “Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music, make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the rams’ horn-shout before the Lord, the King.” The next couple of verses say ALL the earth will rejoice before the Lord. Then verse 9 concludes by saying, “Let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.” So, while Joy to the Word is about Jesus, it is not the first coming that is the main focus but His second coming. The scripture I read to begin with talks about several things the Lord was going to be doing. Verse 9 starts off by saying, “You who bring good tidings” twice. At the end of verse 9 it then says, “Here is your God.” Most theologians believe this is a reference of three different things God is going to do.

(1) God’s people returning to Jerusalem from exile.

(2) The first coming, the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

(3) The second coming of Jesus Christ.


So, as we sing the song, Joy to the World, let us consider all of the things this song is saying. The first verse can easily be viewed as being about Jesus’ arrival and the joy that it represents. However, the remaining three verses clearly state what Jesus brought to the world during His ministry, as well as what the world will truly experience when Jesus returns. No matter whether this explanation of what inspired the writing of Joy to the Word changed the way you view this song or not, it is a song of promise, of hope and of true joy. The hope and joy that transformed the world began in a manger 2000 years ago. God has always loved His people. God’s mercy and grace were a key part of every story in the Old Testament. However, God’s love, mercy and grace took on a new dimension when the Savior of the World came to earth as a little baby. That is what we celebrate at this time of year. Whether it is what is written in Isaiah when we are told you who bring good tidings or in Psalm when we are told to shout for joy all the earth or in Luke when the angels said, “I bring you good news of great joy.”

This is our story to claim because God came to earth for you and me. So, let us share the good tidings of God’s love. Let us sing Joy to the World because we have a reason to be excited about God’s love for all who will believe.

Pastor Larry



Sunday School 9:00

Tuesdays 9:30 Bible Study

December 13 6:15 Exec Comm; 7:00 Commissions; 7:30 Board

New and current members—all members check your mail box for info that needs to be returned to Carol today.

December 20 7:00 p.m. Christmas Worship Service here


Needed: Volunteers for Children’s Bible story in nursery during worship. Please sign up in back.

Children’s message volunteers. Sign up in back.


Pastor Larry Traxler- (217) 454-2362

Donation Box: The Lord’s Storehouse

First Sundays: Food Bank donations


Keep in Your Prayers

Connie Ashenfelter; Patty Jo; Patty; Ava; Nora Hanaver; Jonah Martina; Jan Bower; Larry Traxler; Randy and Michelle West; Mike Gentry; Wilma Cable; Eli Brunner; Nancy Fansler; Doug Larrick; Ron & Kathleen Petersen; Debbie Leibrock; Dorthea Wood; Tina Wilhelm; Mike and Carol Seidenstricker;  Adiline Young; Kim Lehmann; Mayo & Darlene Hanaver; Stacie Warren; Nancy Gorrell; many unspoken requests; victims of disasters; victims of shootings; shut-ins; the Nigerian church; Haitian Brethren; Ukraine; Moracco; Israel and Hamas war

Military and Other Services and their families

Brethren Volunteer Service workers; Disaster project workers

District Prayer Calendar: Pray for the Hurricane Creek congregation and the CoB in Spain.

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