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Joy to the World

The author of the famous Christmas hymn, Joy to the World, nearly lost his rhyme as a child. While other children coupled carriages to trains, a young Isaac Watts constructed couplets and quatrains, and such was his penchant for rhyming that he nearly drove his family mad. When the camel’s back was finally broken by the last poetic straw, his father put young Watts over his knee and prepared to apply his hand to the proverbial seat of learning. Isaac Watts was reputed to have immediately cried: “O father, do some mercy take / And I will no more verses make”.

Perhaps his father smiled and let the young offender go, or perhaps a ‘twitch with the switch’ was applied. Whether the result was grief or relief, the youthful poet retained his skill and courage and with some maturing, gave us the song that has adorned most Christmas mornings: “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.”

But more importantly than being a mere master of rhythm and rhyme, Isaac Watts was in possession of a solid theology that he had been taught while sitting on his seat of learning at his father’s table. For the favourite Christmas hymn, like most of the hymns of Watts, has Christ at its centre, and the glory of redemption in its every line. And like many of his hymns, e.g. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, can be safely passed on from father to son, as the heart of the Gospel embodied in song.

DM 6th January 2015

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