Given the somewhat somber tone of part of the last post, I feel obliged to focus on an unequivocally Biblical and Saviour-focused carol: Joy to the World by Isaac Watts. This may be the quintessential Christmas carol, instantly recognizable by even the grinchiest of grinches.
The hymn dates back to 1719 when it was published in the collection The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and worship (they had manly titles back then :-). Watt's history is pretty well-known as is the obvious source of inspiration for the hymn (Psalm 98).
What you may not know is that we do not enjoy Watt's interpretation of the entire psalm. What we sing as Joy to the world is just the second part (which is entitled The Messiah's coming and kingdom), and it is absolutely fitting for Christmas. Depite "tradition" leaving out the first part – which is subtitled Praise for the gospel – it, too, embodies the message of Christmas and is based on Psalm 98:1-3:
Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
I can think of no better reason to shout with joy.
I leave you with both parts of Watt's inspiration in the hope that you also remember the context for our celebration.
Psalm 98 – First Part.
Praise for the gospel.
To our almighty Maker, God,
He spake the word to Abraham first,
Let the whole earth his love proclaim
Psalm 98 – Second Part.
The Messiah's coming and kingdom.
Joy to the world; the Lord is come;
Joy to the earth, the Saviour reigns;
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
He rules the world with truth and grace,