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Timely New Verses for “Joy to the World”


Health to the earth, so torn with strife:
Its fragile life restore.
No more let greed and waste abound
nor racist hate nor lies be found.
So heaven and nature plead,
So heaven and nature plead.
So heaven, so heaven and nature plead.

Peace to the world, goodwill to all:
so did the angels sing
Of joy, love and equality
of justice and diversity.
The spheres with music ring,
The spheres with music ring,
The spheres, the spheres with music ring.


“Joy to the World”, according to Wikipedia, is the most published Christian hymn in North America. It is clearly one of the most popular and beloved of what are called Christmas carols, but its author, Isaac Watts, a prolific English hymn writer, did not write it with Jesus’ birth in mind. In fact, it is not even mentioned in his verses.

Instead it was published in a collection of hymns inspired by the Book of Psalms of the Hebrew Bible as interpreted with New Testament “Christological” eyes. “Fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat[ing] the sounding joy” refers to Psalm 98 and other examples of “heaven and nature sing[ing]” found often in the psalmody.

These timely new verses seek to update the spirit and language of the carol to today’s earth, “torn with strife,” while reflecting the Old Testament insight that nature sings joyously in honor of the creator.

“Let Heaven and Nature Sing”
enhanced watercolor by Alice O’Sullivan

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