'Joy to the World' Chords and Some History

Here's how to play the carol on the guitar, plus some background

Senior African women singing in a choir
Hill Street Studios / Getty Images

Here are the guitar chords to "Joy to the World," followed by a history of the song, the details of which might surprise you:

Chords Used: C | Dm | G | F | G7

Joy to the World

C                 Dm   C   G   C
Joy to the world!  The Lord is come;
     F        G        C
Let earth receive her kKing.
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n and nature sing,
     C      F   C     Dm   C  G7  C  
And heav'n and heav'n and nature sing.

Additional verses

Joy to the world! 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.

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.

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.

The History of 'Joy to the World' 

One of the most interesting things about the popular carol “Joy to the World” is that it wasn’t written about Christmas, or even as a song. Isaac Watts, a minister, and prominent hymn writer, in 1719 published “The Psalms of David: Imitated in the Language of the New Testament,” a book of poems based on the psalms. More than a century later, the second half of the poem that drew on Psalm 98 was adapted, set to music, and became “Joy to the World.”

Instead of being written for Christmas, the original poem was composed to celebrate the Second Coming of Jesus. No one seems to know how it eventually was associated with Christmas.

The music accompanying the song is thought to have been composed in 1839 by Lowell Mason, another prominent hymn writer, with some notes possibly borrowed from Frederick Handel’s masterpiece “The Messiah.” Some writers believe that the Handel himself wrote the music.

Watts believed that the songs performed in worship services in his time lacked joy and emotion “To see the dull indifference, the negligent and thoughtless air that sits upon the faces of a whole assembly, while the psalm is upon their lips, might even tempt a charitable observer to suspect the fervency of their inward religion,” he said. It’s unfortunate, then, that he never heard what began as Psalm 98 set to such joyous music.

In 2014 TIME magazine set out to determine the most popular Christmas carol, also called a noel, in recent times. After combing through files at the U.S. Copyright Office going back to 1978, the magazine learned that “Joy to the World” was the second most recorded Christmas song over that period, following (distantly) only “Silent Night."