Way back in 1719, Isaac Watts penned the words to a favorite Christmas song, Joy To The World. The familiar tune paired with Watts’ prose was written by George F. Handel, famous in his own right for well-known oratorio, Messiah.
While the verses of Joy To The World are more reflective of Christs’ triumphant return, it became a popular song attached to the celebration of His birth. So much so, that by the end of the 20th century it may be the most published Christmas song in North American, according to hymnary.org.
Recently, as we were singing this in church, I took special notice of verse two.
Joy to the earth, the savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding Joy!
The use of the word “employ” here can be defined as “to use something as an instrument of means.” One would “employ” or “use” a saw for cutting or a pen for writing. Watts is stating men would use or “employ” songs to praise the reign of their savior.
Do “fields, floods, rocks and hills” sing joyful praise? There is a temptation to dismiss this as hyperbole, an exaggerated expression of an overzealous song writer, but I wonder if there is more to this concept of God’s creation praising Him.
Notice how Psalm 96 conveys this same message;
Let the Heavens be glad and let the Earth be rejoice
Let the sea roar and all that fills it
And the field exalt and everything in it.
Then shall all the tress of the forest sing for joy before the LORD. – Psalm 96:11-12 ESV
As time goes on, I am becoming more convinced that we do not understand praise. We think of praise or worship as a thing we periodically do. But I wonder if praise is supposed to be our normal way of life.
Isaac Watts seemed to think the “fields, floods, rocks and hills” would “repeat the sounding joy.” If God’s creation is singing praise, shouldn’t we, His people, be living our life full of praise? Maybe praise may not just be a thing we do but a state of who we are. Living our life in such a way that we praise Him in everything we do.
Unfortunately, too many relegate praise to a Sunday morning activity. Thinking a twenty minute time of music somehow is an adequate amount of worship due the Creator. I think we cheat ourselves of the experience of walking in the joy of the LORD when we cheapen praise to a small blimp of activity limited to the first day of the week.
During this Christmas season, take time to praise Him. Take a cue from the “rocks and hills” and make your existence an atmosphere of praise. When you wake up in the morning, praise Him. When things go well for you, praise Him. When you run into disappointments, praise Him. Praise Him for all His provisions and the end of the day, praise Him. But most of all, praise Him for coming to us as that helpless infant and growing to become a man who paid our sin debt and is now reigning as our savior!
Joy To The World and Merry Christmas!