Joy to the World, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King!
There it is! No truer Christian statement has ever been made!
I ended my December “Pastor’s Corner” with:
Giving birth takes nine months. Can we give four weeks to give birth to New Hope? Slow down, wonder and dream, make room for God to Break In to your life through the coming of this Christ-Child and then you, too, will be able to sing “Joy to the World the Lord is Come!
This first line of Joy to the World (words by Isaac Watts/music by Georg Frederick Handel, mid-1700’s/Classical Period in Music) beautifully combines melody and lyric to proclaim the wonderment of the Incarnation (God-IN-Flesh-ment). “Joy to the World” = God’s love and grace comes down to earth in the birth of Jesus. Have you ever noticed the melody? Handel knew what he was doing! It starts at the top of the D Major Scale and comes down one note for every word. God comes down to us – melody comes down! During the Classical Period, the D major scale was considered the brightest and happiest sounding of all the major scales. Psychological studies over the past hundred years have shown that we experience the D major scale as happy and uplifting. Brilliant!!!
Next comes “the Lord is come” = God IS present today and IS always present.
Here the melody starts on the middle note of the scale and comes to rest on the first note of the scale – D. We experience the first note of the scale as being very restful, peaceful. God comes to rest: in Jesus, in an earthly manger, in our hearts/souls, in our human experience. The words JOY & COME are the note D an octave apart – JOY is high/COME is low //JOY is above/COME is below. We don’t need to know anything about music theory to intuitively long for a melody to rest on the first note of a scale. All of music creates and releases tension. The same can be said of LIFE. And God is in the midst of it!
Finally, we have the earth’s response to God’s action, “Let earth receive her King!”
For millennia, God has been referred to as being ‘from above’. God’s actions come down and we lift our eyes and our arms UP to God. UP, and that is exactly what Handel has our voices do. The melody jumps UP to the second most important note of the scale and soars right back up to high D – right back up to God! It is the perfect cyclical flow of Grace & Faith. Up-Down-Down-Up/ Round & Round, Again & Again.
Christmastide, which ends with Epiphany on January 6th, is such a short Liturgical season to JOYfully celebrate the In-Breaking of God through the Birth of Hope in Jesus Christ. And so we will sing Christmas Carols and Epiphany Song until the end of January, all the while we are reading of Jesus growing-up and early ministry.
Grace & Peace,