Music that Writes Culture, Part 1

On December 10th, I wrote a blog entitled Joy to the World as the beginning of my reflections on the Advent season. Since then I have done more reflection on this wonderful hymn and I wanted to share some of my insights with you.

While this hymn is sung at Christmas, it is really more of a bridge to the New Year than specifically a Christmas song. Most Christmas carols focus on the birth of Christ as a little baby. In contrast, this carol focuses on Christ the King and His coming kingdom. It could be called a New Year’s carol. Much of the hymn deals with our response and our responsibilities to the coming of the Messiah. So it seems to me that this is really a transition piece that helps us to face the future of all the new years in our lives as ambassadors of Christ and His kingdom.

The power of this carol first stuck me over 20 years ago while I was attending a worship service. We were singing Joy to the World, and for the first time in my life I consciously read the lyrics. My heart and mind had two responses. The first was that this hymn was meant to set the course of the lives of those who profess Christ, me included. The second thought was that I needed to pay more attention to the lyrics of the hymns that I sing!! In the following days, I decided to examine the historical background of this hymn and explore the lyrics to see what they have to say to us as we enter this new year.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, 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
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessing flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love

How incredibly rich these lyrics are!

The New Testament setting of this hymn is just before Christ ascended into heaven, when He gave His people their Great Co-Mission. The commission is comprehensive. We are to take the Good News around the world – geographic (Acts 1: 8), to all creation (Mark 16:15), and to penetrate culture – demographic (Matthew 28:18-20). So, Joy to the World is not so much a Christmas carol as it is a hymn about the coronation of Christ and the marching orders of His people for the Great Co-Mission.

-Darrow L. Miller


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2 Responses to Music that Writes Culture, Part 1

  1. Wow, Darrow!

    This is such an inspiringly beautifully hymn!
    May these truths be proclaimed as we go and serve people in the world.



  2. darrow l. miller says:


    It is beautiful hymn and it is personally and corporately challenging.


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