Harold Bauman suggested in his comment The Wonders of Love that I continue my analysis of the carol: “Joy to the World.” I write this post because others may have similar questions. I stumbled on the following link that explains the difference between the Lord “is come” and “has come.”
If I understand correctly, the phrase “the Lord is come” is an archaic form of English that was common in 1719 when “Joy to the World” was written by Isaac Watts. In this construction, the subject does not actively initiate, or is not actively responsible for, the action of the verb.
This is consistent with John 3:16 which says that “For God so loved that the world that he gave his only begotten son . . .” The birth of Jesus in the manger of Bethlehem was initiated not by Jesus, but by God as a love-gift. Isaac Watts used what is now an archaic English construction to communicate his theology to the readers of his poem in his day.
Today, when we say “The Lord has come,” we emphasize the action of coming, and imply that Jesus initiated his own coming. That’s why we should not sing, “The Lord has come.” It removes God from the coming of Jesus.
Another word makes me ponder. I inadvertently used the word in the preceding sentence. The word is make or makes. Make sometimes suggests change by force, or being compelled against one’s will. But I have not been compelled to ponder against my will. I ponder because of my curiosity.
“Make” in the context of the carol is much gentler than force. The blessings of God flow to water, nurture, and bring life, not as a powerful, destructive stream that sweeps everything away in its path.
No more let sin and sorrow grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found –
The word makes is found again in the last paragraph. Watts believed that Jesus rules the world with truth and grace. While he was alive, Jesus influenced society by the simple way he lived and taught. So Watts pictures the triumph of Jesus and his people in the end of the age, not in the beginning. Note:
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of his love –
The United States and Russia, Palestinians and Jews, Muslims and Christians will prove the wonders of love when they take on his righteousness. When every one lives and loves like Jesus there will be peace.
I like this Pope! He inspires hope.