The Old Testament speaks consistently of ‘Joy’: Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. (Psalms 48:2). Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore. (Psalms 16:11).
But, in the New Testament, ‘Joy’ becomes a major theme surrounding the ‘CHRISTmas(MESIAH) Season’: For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. (Luke 1:44). When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; (Matthew 2:10). And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth; (Luke 1:14). And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; (Luke 2:10).
It is the one who takes seriously the discipline of Music Appreciation or the ‘true music language’ musician who has glimpsed into the ‘Ode To Joy’ work in the 9th and final Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven. Born in 1770 in Bonn Germany, the ‘roots’ always, always show as his grandfather, for whom he was named, was Kapellmeister (music director) at the court of the Elector of Cologne; and his father, a tenor, taught piano and violin. This ‘Ode To Joy’ in the 9th Symphony is said to be THE Most important piece of his life’s work. The German lyrics translated into English from this ‘choral’ piece are still ‘foreign language’, but the importance of this work is so easy to believe if you watch ‘10000 singing Beethoven Ode an die Freude’ on YouTube. Prepare to be blown away.
It was Henry Van Dyke, an 1877 Princeton Grad, while a guest preacher at Williams College, viewed the Berkshire Mountains surrounding the college in Massachusetts and found inspiration to write “Joyful, Joyful, we adore thee, God of Glory, Lord of Love. Hearts unfold like flowers before thee, Praising Thee their sun above.” Upon handing the lyrics to the University’s President he said to him it must be sung to the music of Beethoven’s Hymn To Joy.
“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” (Kahlil Gibran)
“The reality of loving God is loving him like he’s a Superhero who actually saved you from stuff rather than a Santa Claus who merely gave you some stuff.” (Criss Jami)
And then there is George Fredric Handel born also in Germany in 1665. For more years than I can mention I have purchased at least 1 Christmas album or cd every year. Top of my list remains Quincy Jone’s 1992 Handel’s Messiah. But, it is Isaac Watts, prolific, profound, prophetic and all of that as a Christian hymn writer, who set these lyrics to Handel’s melody: “Joy to the world, The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King. Let every heart, prepare him room, And Heaven and nature sing. No more let sin and sorrows grow… He rules the world with truth and grace…”
“I will light Candles this Christmas, Candles of joy despite all the sadness, Candles of hope where despair keeps watch, Candles of courage for fears ever present, Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days, Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens, Candles of love to inspire all my living, Candles that will burn all year long.” (Howard Thurman)
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