I grew up listening to classical music, and “Ode to Joy” is the final movement of Beethoven’s final symphony, Symphony No. 9.
It is a triumphant piece of music, the most amazing part being that Beethoven wrote it without being able to hear the actual music, other than in his own head, for he was stone-deaf at that time.
Years later, Henry van Dyke wrote the words to the familiar hymn “Joyful, Joyful, we Adore Thee”, (1907), setting it to the famous melody “Ode to Joy”.
The words are ageless, and powerful. Verse four says:
Mortals join the mighty chorus
which the morning stars began;
Father-love is reigning o’er us,
brother-love binds man to man. (don’t you just resonate with that?)
Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife
joyful music lifts us sunward
in the triumph song of life.
Oh yes. Music that gives us hope, marches us toward victory, ever knowing that there is a Father loving us,
and we are bound, one to another in love… powerful, indeed.
In the midst of this joyful sound, I also thought of the favourite carol, Silent Night. I wrote a blog some years ago, that was one of my most read pieces. It talks about the not-so Silent Night.
Therein is the paradox – in the midst of a broken world, terror threats, both now and then, people yearning for hope, for a promise of a better life, joy breaks forth as the skies open with angels singing – joyful songs of peace. I’m not too sure the night was silent on that occasion!
Do the angels sing today? As I pondered that thought, I was reminded of the amazing gift of music and how it touches a deep place in the soul. Yesterday I witnessed a miracle – in a hospital ward, with patients with advanced dementia. We were singing Christmas carols with them. One precious lady tried to dance in her wheelchair, her eyes as bright as the sun, and two others whom I was told rarely spoke, were singing, full-on singing. Another dear man, tears rolling down his cheeks, his heart moved by the music.
Oh yes, joyful music lifts us sunward, joyful sounds even in the darkest of places. That is the gift of Christmas. On a not-so Silent night, joy came, and hope in the form of a tiny baby, God among us, Emmanuel.