A few weeks ago we heard the story of Isaac Watts who wrote the popular carol/hymn Joy to the World over 300 years ago. Today when we sing it, few, if any of us, realize that this hymn drew great criticism from the church music “establishment” at the time. Isaac Watts might have been small and sickly but he was also a rebel, big in spirit, and he was determined to change the face of hymns for the future…in spite of malicious attempts to stop him.
His critics especially taunted his use of repetitious refrains and stanzas as in “Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy….Repeat the sounding joy.“
This wizardly little man who had little to rejoice about, especially in his personal life concerning poor health and love, understood better than anyone that happiness, in regard to man, is fleeting, but “Joy cometh in the morning.”
Many a night Watts cried himself to sleep but found joy in each new sunrise…a gift from God. He read and re-read the Bible discovering that it doesn’t say much about happiness (only 27 times in the NIV Bible) but the words joy and rejoice are used 320)
He wrote in a journal: “Happiness has to do with what happens to me and fluctuates according to circumstance” Whereas joy overrides circumstance. Joy is a remarkable sense of well being that abides when the circumstance is unfavorable. We are not always going to be happy but we can have joy within.”
The reason for the repetitive “Repeat the sounding joy” in the hymn Joy to the World deals with his one and only attempt at love that, alas, meets with failure. But in spite of the sting of rejection and his subsequent bout of sadness and unhappiness…Watts’ joy grew stronger with his God… Who never stops loving His creation.
The love story of Isaac Watts resembles an on-line dating attempt (today) gone bad. Some relationships are just best left in letters or emails, in imagination and anticipation, than face to face contact. Here is what happened to poor Isaac.
Watts’ music inspired a woman named Elizabeth Singer so much that she wrote to Watts and said, “I am your biggest fan.”
They began to correspond and fell in love through the mail, even though they had never met each other. Elizabeth proposed marriage via the mail. When Watts accepted, she anxiously raced to be by his side. But when she saw him, she was so disappointed by his appearance that she turned around, went home, and would not marry him.
She rejected him because he was only five feet tall. She wrote:” He was only 5 feet tall with a shallow face and a hook nose, prominent cheek bones, small eyes, and a death-like color.“
Unable to see the brilliance that was beneath the surface, Singer returned home with no intent to marry him. Watts was heartbroken and poured himself into his writing, never again to seek the companionship of a woman. From then on Christ reigned as King in the life of Isaac Watts.
At the time of his heartbreak… he was working on Joy to the World; in his anguish to dispel his unhappiness and find his inner joy and peace again….he purposefully emphasized the lyrics “Repeat the sounding joy” over and over as if to remind himself where true joy lies.
So with the Advent Season upon us…maybe we should set our alarms clocks to continue going off every five minutes first thing in the morning…while we say/sing “Repeat the sounding joy.”
Today I didn’t have to ‘wait’ long at all before my name was called to see my oncologist…the blood work looked good and so far the new medication seems to be keeping “little c” in check. A couple of side effect issues have emerged but since I don’t feel them…(literally) and we are working on them….Christmas came early today.
I stopped by the “chemo room” (upon leaving) to see Linda, the most wonderful oncology nurse of all, and she showed me a cactus I gave her last Christmas which didn’t bloom until Easter… but this year it finally got the timing right. (Must have set its Advent Alarm Clock!) It is covered in buds and blooms.
This little angel looked ‘transparently locked into a clear box’… There was something about her appealed to me-a mystery perhaps….I had to try several locations to get her image to emerge….anything with a background swallowed her up.
I, finally, took a picture of her beside the glass wall leading outside and she magically appeared. It looks like she is on the outside looking in at all the “chemo patients” …Guarding and keeping them safe and loved.
Linda is holding a nurse “cow” that someone gave her….and I am pulling a blank about her name (really cute)…but it could have been Nurse Moo-liscious! Because that is what Linda is…. every kind of “liscious” there is!
So until tomorrow…stop and look…there’s an angel over your shoulder guiding and guarding you! So just keep putting one step in front of the other….you will get there and you will know where “there” is when you arrive!
“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh
And speaking of angels….don’t forget…this Saturday, December 7 from 9-4…Honey “Angel” will have pottery angels and everything else one could possibly want for Christmas! 111 Ayers Circle: Contact Honey if you need directions: 870-9698!