Sunday was the third Sunday in Advent and the theme for the day was joy. One of my favorite hymns is “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” Every time I sing it my heart is lifted up. The words were written by Henry Van Dyke in 1907 and the tune is Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from his 9th Symphony. “Joyful, Joyful” is not an Advent or Christmas hymn, but it might as well be. It expresses, better than any other hymn I know, the feeling we have as Christians when our hearts are full of love for God. As you read the lyrics, imagine Jesus in the manger and the angels singing praise all around.
Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!
All thy works with joy surround thee, earth and heaven reflect thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain, call us to rejoice in thee.
Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest,
Well-spring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother, all who live in love are thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.
Mortals, join the mighty chorus which the morning stars began;
Love divine is reigning o’er us, binding all within its span.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music leads us sunward, in the triumph song of life.
To listen to a wonderful version of this hymn sung by Michael W. Smith, click here.
In the cold and snow of this winter season, it is good to remember that frozen hearts can unfold like flowers. In times of trouble and uncertainty, when grief overwhelms us, God is the giver of immortal gladness, the center of unbroken praise. God is the source, the well-spring, of joy. Our joy is certain and deep and true and does not depend on the circumstances of life. When we love one another we are lifted into divine love – the love given so unstintingly at Christmas. We do not sing alone. We do not work or strive alone. We do not love alone. We are part of the mighty chorus that began with God and continues with any heart that loves him.
Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love. Let our hearts unfold before you during this season of Advent. Help us to sing and live joyfully until we are lifted to your joy divine. Amen.