Advent Devotions 2017
Day Twelve
December 14, 2017

Sweet “Hymns” of Joy

Years ago at a Christmas service the last stanza of “O Holy Night” suddenly captured my attention. I reflected on what the world received even beyond that magnificent night of the birth of our Savior:

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love, and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us praise His holy name.

The joy of a deep faith ignites our lives as we realize our connection to a divine presence that gives hope and strength. This presence is not a temporary gift but one that provides startling moments through words, deeds, events, natural wonders, and creative processes that move our souls in everlasting, miraculous ways. Even when we face challenges that can overwhelm us, we know that keeping Christ’s teachings within our core enables us to initiate joy and confidence and likewise receive such blessings from what enlightens us.

I borrow the words “sweet hymns of joy” to symbolize some experiences of exalting joy in my own life in the hope others will recall theirs:

  • Harboring worrisome thoughts quickly overpowered by the resonating grandeur of the “Toccata” from Charles-Marie Widor’s Symphony for Organ No. 5 in F Minor, Op. 42, No. l, played one Sunday by our organist with his God-given talent.  When away from River Road, I must depend on my iPhone to locate this captivating selection that propels me to renewed joy.
  • Having “by my side” “the right” teacher, whose “mighty” words exhorted me to write for the school newspaper and broke into my extreme shyness. This moment helped seed my career in education and has never been forgotten. (Thank you, Martin Luther, for words borrowed from the title and second verse of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”)
  • Being strangely beckoned for almost a year to a follow-up trip to the Navajo Tribal Land of Monument Valley, as if something special awaited me.  On the first full day I was mesmerized by a glorious sunrise and later double rainbows over the rustic-red sandstone buttes given names, such as the Mittens and the Three Sisters (nuns). God’s handiwork in this panoramic desert area has embedded sublime, spiritual images into my soul.
  • Absorbing the extensive ideas of Martin Luther King’s defense of civil disobedience to seek justice and break chains of inequality projected in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” His words still impact me with an ironic, joyful force.

What joy and wisdom are thus delivered to and internalized within us in unexpected ways by those who seek to lead “O Holy Lives” in humble, brave, and gifted ways and also through the beauty and power of God’s world!  During Advent, however, we intensify our thoughts on the utmost joy of all, God’s gift of Jesus Christ, the son of God incarnate, whose light reflects the law of love, the gospel of peace, and the hope of the nations!

Written by Nancy Brown
Art by Amanda