Words of Hope: Repeat the Sounding Joy

We love Christmas music at the Ferch house. One of my new favorites is Aretha Franklin’s “Joy to the World.” I just heard it for the first time this year. Her voice is a miracle, full of power, tenderness, and truth. She sings, “repeat the sounding joy.” For some reason, I have always imagined the line to be “resounding joy,” which means unmistakable and emphatic joy, but that’s not the lyric. Isaac Watts, one of my favorite writers, wrote this as a poem before it became a hymn. He hated how the church sang with no enthusiasm. He wanted people to awaken to what they were actually singing. He was grousing about this apathy to his father who told him to do something about it, so he started to write music – some of the best the church has ever known. He wrote “Joy to the World” and the beautiful line, “Repeat the sounding joy.” Wow! I had never stopped to consider these words though I have sung them all my life.  

Not until the truth of Aretha hit me did I realize the phrase was sounding joy. The root for sounding is son, from which we get the word sonic. It was a word sailors used to measure the depths of the sea or another body of water. In Psalm 98, the Psalmist is asking all the earth to sing praises to God; the seas, the rivers, the mountains. Watts is giving us the incredible image of the Angels filling the entire universe with a song of joy – boundless, unabashed joy ringing through the world.  

Does the world recognize this joy in my life? Would people seeing followers of Christ find this sounding joy?  

My dad was a joyful man. I could tell the difference when he tried to manufacture the joy himself. Then he was more of a caricature of sorrow masked as happy. But Dad learned to find real joy even with cancer, even when dying. This joy cannot be manufactured or willed into existence. This joy comes directly from time spent with Jesus. Jesus promises to give us His joy. He says, “I say these things so that ‘MY’ joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” Dad learned joy is not an act but an overflowing gift that cannot be self-produced. 

Joy as God’s gift overflows without bounds, without borders, without containment – endless joy. Repeat the sounding joy! Merry Christmas from Words of Hope to your family. May you receive the gift from God that is promised to all, given freely without reservation to you. 

May the God of Hope fill you will all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13