Joy to the World - A History of the Carol
Joy to the World was written in 1719 by Isaac Watts. Watts was a Methodist Minister who wrote the song as lyrical adaptation of Psalm 98. The song was first published in The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament in 1719. Joy to the World is meant to glorify the return of Christ and for all nations to celebrate that God has brought salvation to the world. This was not an original song about Christmas.
An Interesting Fact Behind the Christmas Carol; Joy to the World
Amazingly, Joy to the World was never written to be a Christmas song. It is a song that was written to celebrate the second coming of Christ. Isaac Watts had intended the song to be sung year round and not just during Advent. There is no precise date or recorded reason why this song became so popular only at Christmas.
The music to accompany this song was once thought to have been written by Frederick Handel. Most scholars today refute this claim. Some parts of the song are similar to Handel's The Messiah but the historical ties to him are weak at best. Today, most scholars believe that the music was actually composed by Lowell Mason in 1839. Mason was a prominent hymn writer during his life and spent much of his time studying and being inspired by the works of the Masters. It is also believed that Mason may have "borrowed" notes from Handel's, The Messiah to compose Joy to the World.
While there is no historical reference explaining why Joy to the World has evolved into a Christmas song, it is easy to understand as you listen to it. This song is filled with the positive and uplifting message about the return of Christ. The emphasis that the lyrcist, Mason uses with his exclamations (Joy!) to emphasize celebratory nature of the song makes it a perfect fit for the Christmas season.