Sojourn’s Advent Songs album begins with the Isaac Watts’ hymn “Joy to the World,” fitted with a new melody and arrangement by our own Jamie Barnes (pictured). We’ve said here at sojournmusic.com that Advent is the season preceding Christmas, which focuses on the longing and anticipation of a coming messiah who would save us from sin and the dark powers of the world.Â Â But isn’t “Joy to the World” more of a Christmas Carol? Shouldn’t we wait until Christmas day to sing it?
Some think so. However, “Joy to the World” wasn’t written to be a Christmas carol. Although it is certainly appropriate to sing it as such, we need not — and should not — resign it to Christmas Day or the period between December 25 and Epiphany.
It is dangerous to view Advent as only a season of lament, petition and confession — of crying out “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” We must also remember that we are a people of faith, a people looking forward with hope and even joy toward the second coming of Christ. And all the more so because, unlike the Psalmist who penned the words that Watts adapted for “Joy to the World,” we know of Christ’s first coming as a historical fact rather than a prophecy or statement of faith. Christ has come, conquered Satan, atoned for our sins, rose from the grave and ascended into Heaven. He has come. Looking back to this, we know that He will come, He is come.
Isaac Watts based his hymn on Psalm 98:4 and 9:
4.Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
9 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.
If David could write and sing this, long before Christ’s first coming, then we can sing “Joy to the World” before his second coming and before the day that marks our Christmas celebration.
As Sojourn Worship Arts Pastor Mike Cosper wrote in the liner notes for Advent Songs, the season of Advent is a time when we experience fully the “already/not yet” tension.We experience both the “dark anticipation” of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and the “glimpses of light” found in “Joy to the World.”
So sing them both. Sing “Joy to the World” now, before His arrival — while there is time to “let every heart prepare Him room.” This is the very essence of Advent. “Let every heart prepare Him room, and Heaven and nature sing.”
Sing it knowing that your joy will be even more full when you sing it on Christmas morning — but remember that it gets better yet. Christ is coming again, to make the “nations prove the glories of His righteosness and wonders of His love.”
Next week here on sojournmusic.com, Jamie Barnes talks about why he wrote a new melody for “Joy to the World” and shares his original demo with us.