Advent literally means “coming.” Beginning four Sundays before Christmas, the season of Advent moves us toward Bethlehem as we anticipate the coming of Jesus. On December 15th, we light the candle of Joy. We celebrate the good feelings of delight, security and contentment that abide deep within our souls as followers of Jesus.
The arts are a way for us to engage with ourselves and each other, so this year at Knox we are presenting a variety of art to guide us through Advent. Please scroll the bottom to begin playing our musical selection for Advent 3.
Joy: Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring – J.S. Bach
“Music is an agreeable harmony for the honour of God and the permissible delights of the soul.” – J.S. Bach
Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring is a piece of music originating from within Bach’s cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life). Traditionally, it’s performed as a chorale – 4-part harmony sung with orchestral accompaniment. However, the thousands of alternate arrangements of this piece are a testament to its worldwide appeal and perfection of form.
The original English lyrics for the piece were written by the poet Robert Bridges:
Jesu, joy of man's desiring / Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring / Soar to uncreated light.
The words are not a direct translation of Bach’s German lyrics but were actually inspired by the same lyrics that inspired Bach: Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne, which were written in 1661 by Martin Janus.
As you think about Advent Joy, consider how Jesus is depicted in some of Janus’s lyrics:
Jesus, delight of my soul, / Jesus, my best pleasure,
Jesus, my sun of joy, / Jesus, it is well known to you
how I love you from my heart / and am distressed without you.
Therefore O Jesus come to me / and stay with me forever and ever.
Ah how Jesus will embrace me, / the consolation and light of my eyes,
All tears, all sorrows, / he will wipe from my face
and with great rejoicing / lead me to the joy of heaven,
therefore let everybody hear: / I shall never abandon Jesus.
Janus speaks to the ongoing contentment and security that nourishes us through our love for Jesus – and of the delight which is made known to us through Jesus’s steadfast love.
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory… – 1 Peter1:8
During Advent we have the practice of lighting the Advent wreath. We light the candles to remember that Jesus’ light is born into the world and is all around us. Each Sunday, we light a candle. We remember the prophets who pointed the way. We journey along with Mary and Joseph, shepherds and sheep, angels and wise ones hoping to find the baby, who is the sign of God with us.