JOY TO THE WORLD
"Joy to the World Cottrill"
The other day, as a little project, I decided to find out how many times the Bible talks about the subject of “joy.” With the help of a computer, I traced the various words found in our English Bibles--joy, rejoicing, gladness, delight, and so on. Such terms are used over 700 times! Not unexpectedly, the book of Psalms accounts for many occurrences. Praise and celebration are a dominant theme of the book.
Nearly three centuries ago, Isaac Watts (1674-1748) wrote a joyful paraphrase of Psalm 98 that he called “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom.” We know it as the carol, “Joy to the World.” Though it is traditionally sung at the Christmas season, the psalm concerns Christ’s second coming, when He will return to set up His earthly reign. The psalm calls upon all nature to rejoice at the prospect. “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises....Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity” (Ps. 98:4, 8-9).
For the Christian, Christ’s coming and return are certainly cause for rejoicing--especially as we see the way things are going in this old world. But the subject most often associated with joy, again in the book of Psalms, is God’s salvation--and by extension, rejoicing in God Himself for what He has done in saving us. That is how the joy at the Christ’s coming is experienced at a personal level.
A few examples will suffice. “Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; let such as love Your salvation say continually, ‘The Lord be magnified!’” (Ps. 40:16). “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart” (Ps. 32:11). “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation” (Ps. 95:1). “My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to You, and my soul, which You have redeemed” (Ps. 71:23).
For those who profess to be Christians to live glum and joyless lives is a contradiction. It may mean they are not saved at all--even though they think they are, or say they are. (They need converting.) Or, on the other hand, it could be they are truly born again but have not realized all the multiplied blessings that brings. (They need some coaching.) Or, it might be they are saved, but sin has hindered their fellowship with God. (They need confession--Ps. 51:12; I Jn. 1:9).
One who found himself in the first category, many years ago, was a man named Edward Cottrill (my grandfather). Though a religious man all his life, he had never understood that he needed to turn from self and sin and make a personal commitment to Christ. But one day the “whoever believes in Him” of John 3:16 dawned on him, he trusted in Christ as his only Saviour and was wonderfully saved.
From that day forward, the joy of God’s salvation just bubbled up in Ed Cottrill’s soul, and overflowed in his life. He wanted to tell everyone what the Lord had done for him, and urge them to come to Christ too. He founded a little mission in Ontario which he called the “Joy to the World Mission.”
In every service he called upon those gathered to sing Watts’s hymn! “Joy to the world! The Lord is come; / Let earth receive her King. / Let every heart prepare Him room, / And heav’n and nature sing.” Little wonder that people began calling him “Joy to the World Cottrill.” Joy had transformed his heart, and shaped his service for the Lord. So it should be for each of us.