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12 Days of Christmas (12): Christmas Songs I Love (Part 2)

CHRISTMAS SONGS I LOVE (Part 2): MESSIAH, JOY TO THE WORLD, &                  J – O – Y

The songs of Christmas are widely varied. Many reflect the secular view of Christmas while others are deeply spiritual. Some are light, whimsical, and ephemeral while others are classical and enduring. In this post, I want to highlight three different works with different styles. All three exalt the Christ and His purpose in coming to the earth.


Handel’s oratorio, Messiah, premiered in Dublin, Ireland April 13, 1742. Handel himself conducted that performance. Today it is one of the most popular major Christmas productions. It has some very familiar music, but most of it is beyond the capability of the average congregation to sing, though an arrangement of Handel’s version of To Us A Child of Hope Is Born is in some congregational hymnbooks.

Perhaps the most famous portion of this oratorio is The Hallelujah Chorus, the end of the second part of the three-part oratorio. There is a tradition that when King George II first heard this oratorio, he stood up at the beginning of this part of it. Since royal etiquette of the day demanded that when the King stood those in his presence must stand, the entire audience stood up. Since then, it is traditional for audiences to stand for the singing of The Hallelujah Chorus.

You may enjoy this magnificent piece of music here. Remember to stand as you listen!

Joy to the World

While not in the same musical category as Messiah, Isaac Watt’s Joy to the World, written in 1719, is immensely popular. It is also a song the average congregation can sing. In fact, it is easy to sing it the shower or in family gatherings around the Christmas tree. Its music is stirring – and the words are powerful.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King;/ Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room, And heav’n and nature sing,/ And heav’n and nature sing, And heav’n, and heav’n 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, and wonders of His love.

The joyous celebration of the coming of the Son of God into the world permeates every line of this song. As the earth receives her King, both heaven and nature sing. Watts urges all to join this song of gladsome praise while nature itself sings the counterpoint!

Have you paid attention to the words of verses three and four? These talk of why His coming brings joy. He overcomes the curse of sin. His rule as King is a rule of truth and grace. He shows righteousness and love to all the nations.

We thrill to sing this song – at any time of the year.

J – O – Y

One of my favorite Christmas songs is one I wrote myself (the words, not the tune).

I had sung the traditional chorus to this song many times. One day about 1972 or 73, I was singing it on a “Joy Bus” picking up children and bringing them to worship. I said to the children, “Let’s see if we can think up some words to go with the verse” of the tune we used for the chorus. After a little work on fine-tuning the words, it came out like this:

J – O – Y

(To the tune of Jingle Bells)

(Chorus) J-O-Y, J-O-Y, Happy as can be! Jesus first, yourself last and others in between! J-O-Y, J-O-Y, Happy as can be! Jesus first, yourself last and others in between!

Two thousand years ago, my Savior came to earth. In a manger laid; humble was His birth.

Then on the Cross He died, salvation to impart – And if I’ll live and love with Him, His joy will fill my heart! (repeat chorus)

I love this song, not because I wrote the words to the verse, but mostly because this is a song even children can sing and identify with. It takes a familiar, catchy melody and puts words of eternal value with it. This makes it easy to learn and easy to sing.

Christmas is about Jesus coming to earth. However, Jesus’ coming to earth was about bringing salvation from sin. To do that, He had to die. Not all of the songs of Christmas bring in His death, but His death was in view from the beginning.

The joy of Christmas is not that He had to die – but in the fact He came any way. He came to a world filled with darkness and death to bring life and light.

We find joy in Him by living His life as we walk in His light.

PREVIOUS (11) – Christmas Music I Love: Part 1 (Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and O Come, All Ye Faithful)

Here Are All of the Posts in This Series

  1. Two Kinds of Christmas
  2. Santa and Jesus
  3. No Room in the Inn
  4. How Did Christmas Begin?
  5. When Was Jesus Born?
  6. Christmas Quiz: Fact or Fiction?
  7. THE INCARNATION: What Does It Mean?
  8. THE PROMISE: Christmas in the Old Testament
  9. THE CHRISTMAS SCANDAL: The Virgin Birth
  10. DEATH OF THE INNOCENTS: A Communion Meditation
  11. CHRISTMAS SONGS I LOVE (Part 1): Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and Oh Come, All Ye Faithful
  12. CHRISTMAS SONGS I LOVE (Part 2): Messiah, Joy to the World, & J-O-Y

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