Joy to the World

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This article is about the Christmas carol. For other uses, see Joy to the World (disambiguation).

"Joy to the World" is a popular Christmas carol.[1] The words are by English hymn writer Isaac Watts, based on the second half of Psalm 98 in the Bible. The song was first published in 1719 in Watts' collection; The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and worship. Watts wrote the words of "Joy to the World" as a hymn glorifying Christ's triumphant return at the end of the age, rather than a song celebrating his first coming.[2] The nations are called to celebrate because God's faithfulness to the house of Israel has brought salvation to the world.[3]

As of the late 20th century, "Joy to the World" was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.[1]


The music's origins are unclear. The name "Antioch" is generally used for the tune. It is often attributed to George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) on the grounds of a 'chance resemblance'[4] to choruses in the oratorio Messiah (premiered 1742), not least because a theme of the refrain (And heaven and nature sing...) appears similar to the orchestral opening and accompaniment of the recitative Comfort ye. Likewise, the first four notes seem to match the beginning of the choruses Lift up your heads and Glory to God from the same oratorio. However, there is no autographed score by Handel and no currently known documentary evidence to suggest that Handel wrote it, so 'Antioch' remains, at best, a skillful collection of borrowings from Handel.

Other hymnals credit the tune to Lowell Mason (1792–1872), who introduced it to America (US) in 1836 as 'arranged from Handel'. But, in 1986, John Wilson showed that 'Joy to the World' was first published in two English collections,[5] one firmly dated 1833. Being three years earlier, this is thought to exclude Lowell Mason from being the composer, but his original attribution remains a likely cause of the often-stated link to Handel.


Verse 1

Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Verse 2

Joy to the earth! the savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

Verse 3

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Verse 4

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

Lyric variants[edit]

In the Latter-day Saint hymnal, the refrain in the first verse is "And Saints and Angels Sing" (see Joy to the World (Phelps)).

Modern recordings, including those aimed at children such as VeggieTales (part of A Very Veggie Christmas, The Singing Christmas Tree) and Disney Sing-Along versions, often omit the third verse.

Mariah Carey version[edit]

"Joy to the World"
Mariah Carey - Joy to the World.jpg
Single by Mariah Carey
from the album Merry Christmas
Released November 1994
Length 4:21
Label Sony Music
Mariah Carey singles chronology
"All I Want for Christmas Is You"
"Joy to the World"

Mariah Carey's version was first released as a promo only in November 1994. The song was re-recorded, taken from her fourth studio album Merry Christmas (1994). It combines the chorus (with slightly altered lyrics) of the Hoyt Axton song "Joy to the World" (made popular by Three Dog Night) with the traditional Christmas song. A year later, it was released as a commercial single in Australia. There were several club mixes made of the song remixed by David Morales, and a remix video was shot. The video features the song's Celebration edit.

Formats and track listings[edit]

Australia 5" CD single

  1. "Joy to the World" (LP version)
  2. "Joy to the World" (Celebration Mix)
  3. "Joy to the World" (Flava Mix)
  4. "Joy to the World" (Club Mix)
  5. "All I Want for Christmas Is You"

USA 5" Promo CD single

  1. "Joy to the World" (LP version)
  2. "Joy to the World" (Celebration Mix Edit)

USA 12" vinyl promo-single

  1. "Joy to the World" (Celebration Mix)
  2. "Joy to the World" (Flava Mix)
  3. "Joy to the World" (Club Mix)
  4. "Joy to the World" (Crash Dub Crash)
  5. "Joy to the World" (LP version)


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1994–95) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[7] 33
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[8] 17

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1995) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[9] 94

Other notable recordings[edit]

Among the recordings that are well known is an instrumental version of "Joy to the World" by conductor Percy Faith. First recorded in 1954 on his Music of Christmas LP (Columbia CL 588), it was re-recorded in stereo in 1959 as Columbia 8176.

In 1965, The Supremes recorded the song for their album Merry Christmas.

Andy Williams recorded the tune in a medium-slow ballad style in his 1974 Christmas Present LP.

The popular European group Boney M. covered the song in 1984 which was internationally released in 1986 on their record The 20 Greatest Christmas Songs.

John Rutter arranged the carol in the style of Handel and recorded this arrangement twice with the Cambridge Singers, for their Christmas albums Christmas Star (1983) and Christmas with the Cambridge Singers (1989). His pseudo-Handelian arrangement has also been recorded by other choirs including those of St. Paul's Cathedral and King's College, Cambridge.

Natalie Cole recorded the song twice: it first appeared on her 1994 Gold-certified album Holly & Ivy, and then a decade later on Caroling, Caroling: Christmas with Natalie Cole.

In 1998, Glen Campbell recorded the song on his Christmas album A Glen Campbell Christmas.

Whitney Houston recorded the song for The Preacher's Wife: Original Soundtrack Album (1996), and also included it on One Wish: The Holiday Album (2003).

Charlotte Church recorded a version of this song for the 2000 holiday album Dream a Dream. The Jonas Brothers recorded a version of this song called "Joyful Kings" for the 2008 Disney Channel Holiday album All Wrapped Up.

In 2002 Patty Loveless & Jon Randall recorded a duet of the song for Patty's Christmas album Bluegrass & White Snow: A Mountain Christmas. Clay Aiken recorded it on his 2004 album Merry Christmas with Love.

In 2008, Faith Hill recorded the song for her Christmas album Joy to the World.

In 2014, August Burns Red recorded the song for an additional track off of their Christmas album August Burns Red Presents: Sleddin' Hill.


In the sitcom Two and a Half Men, Charlie Sheen sang a parody of the song with sexual dialogue, causing a rebuke from the American Family Association. [10]

An album of punk rock band The Vandals, consisting of several Christmas themed songs, called Oi to the World! was released in 1996.

"Death to the World" was included in the 2006 album of parody carols An Even Scarier Solstice by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society.


  1. ^ Joy to the world! the Lord is come! at
  2. ^ Joy to the World!, Worship Leader magazine (, 2011-07-18)
  3. ^ The Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia, Annette Landgraf, David Vickers, Cambridge University Press, 26 Nov 2009. 'Joy to the World' entry by Nicholas Temperley
  4. ^ Bulletin No. 166 of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland
  5. ^ "Mariah Carey - Joy To The World". Discogs. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 
  6. ^ " – Mariah Carey – Joy to the World". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  7. ^ "Mariah Carey – Chart history" Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs for Mariah Carey. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  8. ^ Gavin Ryan (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988-2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing. 
  9. ^ 'Two and a Half Men' Rebuked for More Inappropriate Content, The Christian Post, Feb 5, 2007

External links[edit]