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This is the last post in an Advent blog series. Read last week’s blog in this series.

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.

It is one of the most recognizable Christmas hymns in history. It would have been a rarity to find a church that didn’t play “Joy to the World” this past Christmas season.

And yet, this famous hymn by Isaac Watts was never intended to be a Christmas carol. The first line of the hymn says it all. The lyrics are not “the Lord has come” but rather “the Lord is come!” In other words, the hymn is saying the Lord is coming.

“Joy to the World” is not about the first coming of Jesus but His second coming—and there is much to do before these lyrics can be fully realized.

Joy Not Yet Here

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” -Romans 8:22-23

Jesus’ birth brought much rejoicing to those who understood its significance, and His salvation and forgiveness bring joy to those who put their faith in Him. Yet Christ followers groan inwardly as we await the second coming of our Savior. Sin still mars the world and affects every aspect of life.

No more let sins and sorrows grow 
nor thorns infest the ground … .

When Christ returns, sin and sorrow will be no more, and everything will be different. Until then, “we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).”

More lyrics in “Joy to the World” point to the hymn describing a joy that is yet to come.

Let earth receive her King; 
let ev’ry heart prepare him room … .

Jesus was not received as the King when He first came to Earth. He was widely rejected and mocked, all of which came to a climax when He was crucified. When He returns, the world will recognize Him as King.

And then—as if to counter the fact that Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room at the inn—Watts wrote that every heart will prepare room for the Lord.

He rules the world with truth and grace 
and makes the nations prove 
the glories of his righteousness 
and wonders of his love … .

Jesus gave a command to make disciples of all nations. That commission has not yet been fulfilled as billions of people still have no access to the gospel. One day, the nations will proclaim the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love. On that day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:9-10).

Bringing Joy

The lyrics to “Joy to the World” will become a reality someday. Until then, believers have a task to accomplish.

In order to bring good news of great joy to all people, the gospel must go out to the ends of the Earth. More than 40% of the world’s population is unreached with the gospel, And Jesus will not return until there are disciples from all nations (Matthew 24:14, Revelation 7:9).

Christ has uniquely tasked His followers with carrying out this mission. Whether physically going to the nations or supporting those who do, every believer has a role in the Great Commission.

Once the mission is finished, the world can finally sing for joy. Heaven, nature, and mankind will declare God’s glory as Earth receives her King.