This devotional is a part of the 2021 Christmas devotional book – “Joy to the World.” Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.
Scripture Reading: Psalm 98
When is it too early for you to listen to Christmas music? Halloween too early? How about Thanksgiving? Black Friday? December 1? When is your “starting line” for changing out your playlist?
Whenever your start line, at some point, most will begin listening to Christmas music by the time December rolls around. However, there is one Christmas Carol that was intended to be sung in July . . . and April . . . and February! What is that song? Well it is only the most popular Christmas song in North America – “Joy to the World!”
In 1719, prolific hymn writer Isaac Watts wrote this song, and published it in his book, “The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament.” Its inclusion in this book lets us know the origins of the song. Long before Watts arranged it with a Christian perspective, the Psalmist wrote the message in Psalm 98 (way back roughly 3,000 years ago!). What is interesting about this, is that Psalm 98 is not a Psalm about Jesus’ birth. It is a song about when the LORD will come “to judge the earth . . . with righteousness, and the peoples with equity (Psalm 98:9).”
The earth celebrates with joy, in Psalm 98 and in Watts’ hymn, when the Messiah comes in righteous judgment upon the earth. This reference is clearly NOT to Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, but to Jesus’ return at the end of the world as pictured in Revelation 19:11-21. The earth rejoices on that day because the sin and sorrow that has grown on the earth and infested the ground will finally and fully be dealt with. Jesus will rule the world with truth and grace at that time inside His Kingdom, and all will see the “wonders of His love” (see Revelation 20). After the establishment of this Kingdom, Jesus will also usher in a new heaven and a new earth that will make His blessings flow upon the earth in opposition to the effects of the curse (compare Genesis 3:14-24 with Revelation 21-22.)
Knowing this background is it bad for us to sing “Joy to the World” at Christmastime? Absolutely NOT! This song is great any time of the year, including Christmas. When we think of Jesus’ birth, we also can sing for joy at His coming, even if the full effects of what this song promises will not be felt upon the earth until He comes again. The historical reality of His first coming, is a down payment on the reality of His second! Just as Jesus brought forgiveness for our sins and revelation of who God really is at His first coming, He also will bring judgment and righteousness to the earth at His second coming.
So, join the world in singing JOY this year . . . knowing that God’s redemption is coming.
Suggested Carol for today: “Joy to the World”
In this Christmas devotional, there is a song referenced for each day. All these songs, are included in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links: