Friday, October 16, 2020

Joyful, Joyful

Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians  5:21. It is the theme of my Joy Book and a powerful theme of Henry Van Dyke, born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1852.  His hymn is considered one of the greatest expressions of joy in English hymnody. This very able Presbyterian preacher and writer taught at Princeton served as Navy Chaplain in WWI and even became Ambassador to Holland and Luxembourg under Woodrow Wilson.

This hymn is considered his best and has a ring that fits well into the seeming chaos of our world and nation today. The recent Donald Trump inauguration comes at a time when people are afraid of many things, except the Lord.  He writes of his purpose:
These verses are simple expressions of common Christian feelings and desires in the present time, hymns of today that may be sung together by people who know the thought of the age, and are not afraid that any truth of science will destroy their religion or that any revolution on earth will overthrow the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore these are hymns of trust and hope. (101 Hymn Stories, Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, 1982)

The hymn portrays interplay between God’s created world and the manifestation of this same creative spirit in the life of a believer. Great metaphors like hearts unfold like flow’rs before thee, reveal this simile of life. It goes on to speak of the Creator and worshiping Him.  He marshals us to join with all God’s children in a mighty chorus of joy that began at creation’s dawn.  He is giving us the words of encouragement for all circumstances of life. The hymn rises to the mountains of which he was reminded in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

The tune “Hymn of Joy” comes from the first movement of Beethoven’s 9th, or “choral” Symphony, thought to be his greatest. He wanted to combine voice and instrument in a majestic expression. Poet Friedrich Schiller who wrote, “Ode to Joy inspired him.”  I have chosen some of its words linked together that have the power of joyful gladness and the divine light of life.

Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love…stars and angels sing around thee…Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the dark of doubt away…Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day! Call us to rejoice in thee…teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine. Joyful music lifts us sunward in the triumphant song of life.

Martin Luther loved hymns to express the gospel of which he said, “Gladly and willingly sing and speak about it so that others also may come and hear it.” He wanted to remind us of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God, a bulwark never failing.” He may have seen darkness often, but he found strength in the words of Scripture that joyfully set him and us free from works righteousness to just rejoice. “The heart overflows with gladness, and leaps and dances for the joy it has found in God. In this experience the Holy Spirit is active, and has taught us in the flash of a moment the deep secret of joy. You will have as much joy and laughter in life as you have faith in God… I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people joyful; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor. (Martin Luther Quotes)
“Music is God’s gift to man, the only art of heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to heaven.”- Walter Savage Landor

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