Merry Christmas, Mr. Watts

Today is December 25, so it’s Christmas. And I thought for our Christmas episode, we would talk about a great Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World,” and about its author, Isaac Watts. Isaac Watts was born in 1674, he was born into a family of Independents, or Nonconformists. We tend to call them Puritans. And these Nonconformists would not conform to the church of England, and this opened them up to persecution. In fact Isaac Watts’ own father was jailed on two different occasions because of his Puritan beliefs.

Well Watts was a very smart young man, a very gifted young man. He had hoped to go to Cambridge or go to Oxford. But because he was a Nonconformist, he wasn’t allowed to go. He still made the best of his education, and from an early age, he showed that he was quite poetic. In fact, Isaac Watts did something very clever, he turned his whole name into an acrostic poem. I can just read that to you very quickly, he said,

I—I am a vile polluted lump of earth
S—So I have continued ever since my birth
A—Although Jehovah grace doth daily give me
A—As sure this monster Satan will deceive me
C—Come therefore Lord, from Satan’s claws relieve me

W—Wash me in Thy blood O, Christ
A—And grace divine impart
T—Then search and try the corners of my heart
T—That I in all things may be fit to do
S—Service to Thee and they praise too

Well, that’s exactly what Isaac Watts did with his life. He gave his life in service and in praising God. He was a minister himself. He served a independent church, the Mark Lane Gospel Church. And he also wrote praise songs, we call them hymns. And he wrote his first hymns between the ages of 20-22, and in 1707 he published his first hymnal, “The Hymns and Spiritual Songs.” And we all know and love the great hymns of Isaac Watts. We think of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” or “O God Our Help in Ages Past,” or “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed,” or “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.” But the hymn that I want to mention to you is the hymn “Joy to the World.”

This of course is a great Christmas hymn, we love it right from the first lines don’t we? “Joy to the world! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing.” This I think is such a great Christmas hymn. In fact, it might be one of the greatest hymns of all time. You have Isaac Watts writing the lyrics, and you have George Frideric Handel writing the music. So this is a great Watts-Handel collaboration.

But the verse that I really appreciate is the third verse, and sometimes we skip this one when we sing it, so don’t skip this one when you sing this hymn. The third verse of course says, “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow as far as the curse is found, as far as the curse is found.” And that of course is the meaning of Christmas isn’t it? We see this babe born in a manger. Yet this babe is our King. He has come to bring us peace. He has come to bring us salvation. He has come to take away the curse of the fall; to conquer the curse of the fall. And so we can say, “Joy to the world, for Christ has come.”

So I hope you enjoy this Christmas. I hope you are able to sing “Joy to the World” this Christmas, and as you do, let’s remember and be thankful for Mr. Watts. Actually, it might be a good idea to listen to some now, so I hope you enjoy it.

So, thank you, Mr. Watts. And Merry Christmas to all of you.

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