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Joy to the World (1 of 3)
Series: Songs of Christmas
December 10, 2006
Introduction: What is it about teenagers and music? They never seem satisfied with their parents' music. Young Isaac was no exception.
One Sunday, as Isaac, a teenager at the time, came out of church, he let his father, one of the church deacons, know what he thought of the hymns they had sung that day. "They were monotonous. There was no excitement," he said. Isaac's dad responded in typical fatherly fashion, "If you don't like the hymns we sing, then write a better one!" So he did.
Soon young Isaac had completed a hymn of his own and shared it with the church. They liked it so much they asked him to compose another and another. For over four years, Isaac prepared a new hymn every Sunday. Isaac went on to become a Congregational preacher. He would continue writing musical compositions for years. Though small in stature, barely five feet tall, Isaac had a huge impact on the history of religious music. From that beginning, Isaac Watts (1675-1748) went on to single-handedly revolutionize the congregational singing habits of English speaking churches. Historians call him the "father of English hymns." All that took place three hundred years ago.
We tend to think that conflicts over music styles in the church are something new. Far from it! In the 1600's, older church leaders insisted that the only proper music for church was poetic translations of the Old Testament psalms. That was God's music, they argued. Anything else was human invention. The resulting lyrics were stiff and the tunes limited to a very few that were used over and over again with many different lyrics. At first Watt's new music was rejected by many as worldly and devilish. More than a few church squabbles erupted as his work became more and more popular on both sides of the Atlantic.
Churches still sing Isaac Watt's hymns. He wrote over 600 hymns. You will rec ...
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