THERE IS A QUALITY to hymns that seems timeless and endearing. Although I enjoy the intimacy and simplicity of contemporary worship music, I must admit that I have a particular soft spot for the traditional songs of faith. There is poetic imagery, theological richness, and emotional passion that flow through the words and music of hymns that is sometimes missing in contemporary worship music. Hymns have a way of stirring the imagination, filling the mind with rich colors and textures, and stretching the intellect beyond their set boundaries.

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee

God of glory, Lord of love.

Heart unfold like flowers before Thee

Opening to the Sun above.

Melt the clouds of sins and sadness

Drive the dark of doubt away

Giver of immortal gladness

Fill us with the light of day

In Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee, the vivid images the author uses are glorious! In the first verse, he writes, “Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee/Opening to the Sun above.” This simple metaphor conjures visions of fields filled with blooms unfurling their petals to bask in the warmth and glow of their Maker. What a wonderful portrayal of worship! I sincerely doubt that an entire theological exposition on this subject could render a mental picture of worship more vividly.

Mortals join the happy chorus

Which the morning stars began;

Father love is reigning o’er us,

Brother love binds man to man.

Ever singing march we onward,

Victors in the midst of strife,

Joyful music leads us Sunward

In the triumph song of life.

In the last verse of this hymn, the author writes, “Mortals join the happy chorus/Which the morning star began.” Before we even awaken, the heavenly bodies have already begun to sing their joyful praises to God. Even if our lips are silent, the rocks would still cry out!

Then he writes, “Ever singing march we onward/Victors in the midst of strife.” In a world where focusing on our suffering is such an easy thing to do, this verse is a simple reminder that—even in the midst of our trials— we can still sing a triumphant song of praise as we focus beyond our pain and on the Provider.

My wife and I liked this hymn so much that we used it in our wedding to replace the “Here Comes The Bride” tune. The pianist played the hymn gently as my wife slowly walked down the isle. Later, the entire congregation joined in as we sang with all joy. It was loud! It was wonderful!

Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee

Written in 1907 by Henry van Dyke—an American author, educator, and clergyman—the hymn was inspired by the rolling hills and sweet greenery of the Berkshire Mountains which are part of the Appalachian Mountains. The author set the words to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

GUITAR TIP: When learning to play this hymn on the guitar, it is probably easiest to use an all downstroke strumming pattern. Then, as you get proficient with the chord changes, you can add a more syncopated rhythm.