The following article was originally published by David Kenison as part of his LDS Gems web site.


One of the greatest of our traditional Christmas hymns is one of the most familiar. Even though it actually speaks very little about “the Christmas story”, the exuberance and happiness of the hymn seem to epitomize the spirit of the Christmas season:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come,
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
And saints and angels sing.

(Hymns (1985), no. 201)

This hymn was included in the first Latter-day Saint hymnal, prepared by Emma Smith in 1835. However, it’s interesting to note that the traditional words were changed slightly for that printing (apparently by W.W. Phelps): “Joy to the world, the Lord will come!” This minor change, which remained in the LDS hymnal until the printing of the most recent edition in 1985, alters the hymn from a song of remembrance to a song of anticipation – no longer looking back to the birth in Bethlehem, but looking forward with joyful eagerness for the day when the Lord will come again. What a great association, between the First Coming of the Savior, and the Second Coming, both of which bring unmatched “joy to the world” for those who love the Lord and receive him as their king!

One of my favorite Christmas scriptures comes not from the familiar accounts of Matthew or Luke, nor from the 3 Nephi story of the ancient Americas; but from an earlier Book of Mormon source. The great prophet Alma spoke some 82 years before the actual date of the birth of the Savior, expressing the desires of his heart:

“And now we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels, of his coming; for the time cometh, we know not how soon. Would to God that it might be in my day; but let it be sooner or later, in it I will rejoice.” (Alma 13:25)

Those words thrill me – what great faith and love is expressed by the prophet in his eager anticipation of the glorious birth of the Savior! Alma’s apparent suspicions were confirmed – the event did not occur in his day; he was not privileged to witness the events surrounding that First Coming. But still he rejoiced, knowing the blessings of that event – knowing that he was ready and prepared to receive his King!

Today, on Christmas, more than two thousand years after Alma first spoke those great words, they still ring true. Would that every Latter-day Saint, every Christian, every person in the world could say those same words and feel their power! In the midst of all of our Christmas celebrations, in addition to looking back, let’s take a few moments to look forward to the time of his coming – we don’t know if it will occur in our day, but let all of us watch and be ready – let us be prepared to rejoice. The true meaning of Christmas is not just that Jesus came to earth, but also that He will come again!

Joy to the world, the Lord will come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
And saints and angels sing!


Watch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra On Temple Square perform Joy To the World in a Quietube viewing environment here.