Joy to the World

Sunday 10thDecember 2023

No longer will there be any curse.
The throne of the Lord God and of the Lamb will be in the city
and his servants will serve him.
Revelation 22:3 (NIV)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joy to the World
It was only a few years ago that I discovered, to my embarrassment, that Isaac Watts’ hymn ‘Joy to the world’ is not really a Christmas carol at all!  It is actually a Christian interpretation of Psalm 98, and it is about the second coming of Jesus.  Having said that, the first and second comings of Jesus are equally described as his “appearing” (see Titus 2:11 and 13).  You could say that we live in strange times, living as we do between the two appearings of our Lord and Saviour.

Of course, I would sing the carol joyfully every Christmas, and I am glad that we still do.  I think I probably interpreted the lines which are more obviously about Jesus’ return as being things that are going to happen because of his first coming (or maybe I did not read them too carefully).

Some of my favourite lines are the ones that seem oddest to some people, especially with its repetition of the phrase, “Far as the curse is found”:
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Yet, once we realise that Watts was drawing on Genesis 3:17-19, where God judges Adam for his sin and says, “Cursed is the ground because of you,” and when we then read God’s promise that “the creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21), these lines become precious. 

They are saying that as far as God’s curse is found because of human sin – which is everywhere – then that far will his blessings flow – in other words, everywhere.  There will be no part of God’s creation that is left cursed, and every part will be blessed.  This will come to pass when Christ returns, and all because of his first coming where, amazingly, he became a curse for us so that we may receive the blessing of God (see Galatians 3:13-14).

So let us keep singing ‘Joy to the world’ every Christmas, happily, at the top of our voices and with hope in our hearts, thankful for what the Lord has brought about in his first coming, but let us sing it with at least one eye on the glorious consummation of our salvation when Jesus comes again and there will no longer be any curse.

Lord, we thank you for that day when we will be filled with joy, when we see ‘the glories of your righteousness’ and ‘the wonders of your love’ for what they truly are.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Yours warmly, in Christ,

Chris Hobbs (Senior Minister)