victors in the midst of strife

Still desiring to intentionally focus on what’s most important and the joys of the season, I’ve repeatedly had one song running in my head (… and thank God it was neither about Grandma getting run over or whatever marshmallows have to do with Christmas).

I can’t shake the words shared in “The Hymn of Joy.”

More commonly called “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” after the hymn’s first line, Henry van Dyke penned the poem in 1907 with the intention of musically setting it to the infamous “Ode to Joy,” the final movement of Beethoven’s final symphony.

Van Dyke felt he shared “simple expressions,” expressions of feeling and “desires in this present time.” As I keep singing along with the ongoing tune, I can help but believe the “present time” extends to now.

He starts first with praise, recognizing someone, something bigger than he…

“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love…”

He then shares a vulnerability, transparency, and submission — a submission that is nothing short of beautiful…

“Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.”

And then the power that submission has, with a clear awareness that sin is real for each of us, although it doesn’t have to be damning…

“Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away…”

The great big God of the universe is acknowledged as the source of gladness and light — no doubt a gladness that extends to peace, hope, and a true, unshakable inner joy…

“Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!”

And while the rest of the joy-filled song of trust and hope goes on to acknowledge more of the characteristics and creation that can only be attributed to God, there is one line in the song that seems the reason it resonates so loudly in my head — the reason it’s evident of the feelings and desires of this present time.

It’s an area where each of us seems challenged… and where each of us could indeed grow… no matter our age, stage, or any ethnic, religious or other demographic category…

Right after acknowledging the works of the Almighty — both on this Earth and in each of us — Van Dyke writes:

“Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine…”

Look at the unparalleled joy when we learn to love one another!

And yet, too often, for too many self-justifying reasons, we — yes, we — intentionally withhold love from another. We act as if another doesn’t deserve our love and respect. They are less worthy, we have somehow concluded.

Oh, how we fail some days amidst the strife. Oh, how so often intelligence seems to get in the way. Intelligence and wisdom are so not the same thing.

Lord, teach us how to love each other.

Let us “join the happy chorus…”
Let us recognize you “reigning o’er us…”
Let us be “victors in the midst of strife…”

In this present time.