The season of Advent begins this coming Sunday. I’ve noticed a number of bloggers are already addressing themes associated with Advent and Christmas. For some reason, I’m still stuck on thanksgiving. This past Sunday I preached a sermon in which I called on people to make thanksgiving a way of life, not just a holiday celebrated once a year. There are certainly many biblical calls to thanksgiving. The Psalmist encouraged us to enter God’s “gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.” (100:4) The apostle Paul commanded the church at Thessalonica to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18) I believe that God deserves all the thanks and praise we can give Him and that living with an attitude of gratitude also makes life much more enjoyable and meaningful.
At the end of our service on Sunday we sang the wonderful hymn, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” The words to this hymn were written by Henry van Dyke and the music was composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. I’ve sung this song my entire life but had not really noticed all the references to nature in it until this past Sunday. The second verse, in particular, is filled with allusions to Creation: “All thy works with joy surround thee, earth and heaven reflect thy rays, stars and angels sing around thee, center of unbroken praise. Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea, chanting bird and flowing fountain, call us to rejoice in thee.”
In one verse van Dyke speaks of our hearts unfolding to God like flowers before the sun above. In this same verse one finds the plea, “fill us with the light of day.” Another verse describes God as “well-spring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!” In still yet another verse the writer calls on humans to join Creation in joyful praise but also bids “stars of morning, take your part.”
Beethoven’s music, taken from his Ninth Symphony, adds much to this delightful summons to praise. It is truly a wonderful hymn and does a wonderful job of reminding us how we, along with the rest of Creation, are called to offer God joyful worship. The Creator deserves not just the praise of His people but the adoration of all He has made!
Even though the Psalmist, and people like St. Francis and Henry van Dyke, called on Creation to give God praise I’m not sure how much we can do to spur the rest of Creation to worship God. I have a feeling such spurring is actually unnecessary. Unfortunately, it is we who often must be spurred. So I want to encourage you to stop and count your blessings, to contemplate the goodness of both the Creator and the Creation, and then do your part in offering God your joyful adoration. If you need some help doing so, try singing or listening to “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” I bet it will help.
(I took the top two images at Redwood National Park in California. I photographed the chickadee at my home in Pikeville, Kentucky.)