12 Days of Christmas Carols- Joy to the World

watts-santaToday we’re going to cover what is perhaps the most popular carol, “Joy to the World.”  But did you know that it actually isn’t a Christmas carol at all?  Written by Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World” originally appeared in his 1719 The Psalms of David, and it was Watts’s unique take on Psalm 98.  The full title of Watts’s song book is The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and worship, which sounds like a noble effort, but in reality most of the words bear only a slight resemblance to the Biblical text.  Watts began his project in a time when many Puritans only allowed for the use of the Psalms in worship music (no other songs of any kind), and his title makes it clear that the goal was to “Christianize” the psalms, making the person of the Savior explicit.  In retrospect, Watts actually managed to supplant the use of Psalms in worship altogether, as most of his hymns are paraphrases at best and their popularity cleared the way for even less-textually based worship songs in the future.  As an extended result, there aren’t many psalm-singing churches left at all, not even among the Presbyterians.  But that is another conversation for a less happy occasion.  Today we’ll stick to the fun stuff. Continue reading