Friday, December 17, 2010

Joy, History, Original Translations, and Personal Applications.

This is one of my all-time favorite songs to play on the piano.  So often, when songs about joy are played or sung, they are loud, exuberant, and happy sounding - for example, Joy to the World.  It's a triumphant song about Joy coming to the world in the form of a tiny baby coming to earth (and really, an absolutely wonderful song).

But there are times when joy is more of a calm, quiet knowledge that the Lord is God, that He is Sovereign, and that He lovingly holds me in the palm of His hand.  For me, this song embodies that emotion. 

This song is based off of Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, which is one of Bach's most famous works, from the 10th movement of the cantata Herz und Mund Und Tat und Leben.  Most often, the English lyrics that we hear are the following: 
Jesu, joy of man's desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright; 
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring 
Soar to uncreated light.
Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.
Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.
Theirs is beauty's fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom's holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own 
In the love of joys unknown.

As beautiful as those lyrics are, they aren't the original lyrics. Here are the original lyrics in German:
Jesus bleibet meine Freude,
meines Herzens Trost und Saft, 
Jesus wehret allem Leide, 
er ist meines Lebens Kraft,
meiner Augen Lust und Sonne,
meiner Seele Schatz und Wonne;
darum laß' ich Jesum nicht
aus dem Herzen und Gesicht.

I personally can't read them, but according to this article, roughly translated, it means:
Jesus remains my joy,
my heart's comfort and essence, 
my eye's desire and sun, 
my soul's love and joy;
so will I not leave Jesus
out of heart and face.

I love these lyrics, and I feel the heart of them when I play George Winston's "Joy." Last year about this time I was nervous because I had an appointment with my doctor, as I had been feeling a weird lump in my breast. I kept playing this song, over and over, with every note an on-going commitment to keep Jesus as my joy, my heart's comfort despite my fear and uncertainty. Playing this repeatedly brought joy and peace to my heart in a quiet, consuming way.

This year is so much different. I have faced cancer, fought it, come out on the other side, and am moving on with life. We've started the adoption process, and this year for Christmas, I find myself pondering where our kids are, whether they're happy and safe, and whether anyone will read the Christmas story to them this year. Sometimes it's so difficult not to know those answers. So, once again, I find myself at my piano, in quiet moments of prayer and petition for our future kids, knowing all the while that Jesus is my heart's comfort, and that Jesus can comfort their precious little hearts as well.

For me, this song has become a musical explanation of the joy that comes from a continuing devotion to Jesus. It's not always a loud, exuberant sound, but it's a quiet joy that fills your heart to overflowing.  I love that Winston took the song and titled it so simply: "Joy," because that's precisely what my heart finds in this song. May you find "Joy" this season in the music and the words as well!

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