While walking home from a church service in Southampton, England, 20-year-old Isaac Watts told his father that the metrical psalms sung at their services lacked the dignity and beauty that should characterize hymns used in worship. His father encouraged him to try to create something better. So in the year 1694, Isaac Watts began writing hymns, and eventually put the book of Psalms into rhyming meter for worship.
Watts took the prophetic references to the coming Messiah in the Psalms and expressed them in their New Testament fulfillment. His hymns proclaimed that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. When Watts came to Psalm 98, he wrote:
Joy to the world! The Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.
This hymn has become a favorite of the Christmas season. It calls us to acknowledge Christ as Savior and King, and to open our hearts to His rule of love and grace.
The psalmist wrote, “Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!” (98:1). Isaac Watts did just that in his proclamation that Christ has come, and we can rejoice in Him.
To find joy at Christmas, look to Jesus.