“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”
Wait, isn’t that a Christmas carol? Why are we going to sing it on Easter Sunday morning?
Yes, the song appears in our hymnal in the Christmas carol section (which is named “Jesus Christ: Advent and Nativity”). Before it is “We Three Kings,” and after it is “The First Noel.” I keep track of the days on which we sing songs in worship, and in my years as pastor at Mt. Haley, we have only ever sung “Joy to the World” in the month of December – or, occasionally, in late November. There is no question that this song is a Christmas-time song.
But we’re going to sing it on Easter Sunday, and I’m excited about that. :)
“Joy to the World” is based on Psalm 98. Isaac Watts wrote these lyrics as part of his quest to point all of the Psalms specifically to Jesus. Take a few minutes right now to read Psalm 98 – which, by the way, will be our responsive reading on Easter Sunday, as well.
Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.
If there were ever a day for us to celebrate the arrival of Jesus as King, it is Easter Sunday. After all hope seemed to have been lost on Good Friday, and after a quiet day of somber reflection on Holy Saturday, Christians around the world will celebrate with great wonder the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Who else would we claim as our King?
Joy to the world! The Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ, while fields and flocks, rocks, hills, and plains repeat the sounding joy.
All creation joins in celebration of the new life found in Jesus Christ. Remember that Easter coincides with the early days of springtime. Take a look around you: fields, flocks, rocks, hills, and plains are all bursting at the seams with new life. (Well, ok, maybe the rocks are a little stoic. But maybe not: see Luke 19:37-40.)
No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.
This is what the Easter season is all about: through his death and resurrection, Jesus has made atonement for our sins. The sorrow of Good Friday has been turned into Easter celebrations. The thorns on Jesus’s crown are exchanged for a royal crown that will never be taken away from him.
He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love.
Jesus came into this world full of grace and truth (John 1:14). His resurrection from the dead proves that the world’s greatest powers – religious and secular alike – are no match for his righteousness and love.
We live in an in-between time, between Jesus’s resurrection and his return at the end of the age. During this in-between time, we remember and celebrate the past: Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the grave. But we also remember and celebrate the future: Jesus will come again in glory, and the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ (Revelation 11:15). Rightly understood, “Joy to the World” is a song about the second coming of Christ. Won’t it be grand to remember Jesus’s future arrival on the day that we remember his victory over the grave?
Come and worship with us at Mt. Haley on Easter Sunday, April 16, at 10am. We will have a sunrise service at 7am and a hot breakfast at 8am as well.