By Mike Whittlesey

Gracing the cover of The Progress Review’s annual holiday edition are the lyrics of a popular Christmas hymn, Joy to the World. Many variations of the song have been produced by recording artists over the years. Some of the more recognizable versions have been sung by Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Whitney Houston, Nat King Cole, Neil Diamond and Mariah Carey.

While each artist adds their own unique interpretation to the performance of the song, Joy to the World is also easily recognized as an instrumental piece. The Progress Review’s annual Lights of La Porte City slideshow, which can viewed online on our Facebook page, features a rendition performed by Doug Hammer.

The story of how Joy to the World came to be is an interesting one that dates back 300 years. When Isaac Watts composed the hymn in 1719, it came at a time when songs that accompanied worship services were little more than a recitation of psalms or scripture set to music.

As the story goes, Watts found the practice boring and complained of the congregation’s seeming indifference as they recited passages in what he thought was a monotonous fashion. His father’s response was a challenge: If you don’t like it, write something better. So, with Psalm 98 as his guide, Watts did just that and thus, Joy to the World was created. It’s hard to imagine he could have expected that his composition would become a beloved hymn, sung in churches throughout the world three centuries later.

While the song predates The Progress Review by more than 150 years, there is something to be said for holiday traditions and the joy of the season that radiates from the birth of the Christ child.

As you explore the pages of this special holiday edition, we hope you’ll enjoy the messages of peace and hope shared by area pastors and the thoughts of fifth grade students at La Porte City Elementary School, who write about “What Christmas Means to Me.” We very much appreciate the time members of the clergy, students and their teachers have invested in these compositions that offer a 2017 perspective on the joys of the season.
We also thank the number of area businesses who express their holiday greetings on the following pages. It is their commitment to the community that helps make this special edition possible.

Christmas Day will soon be upon us. As you celebrate the season with family and friends, please accept our best wishes for a holiday that is filled with wonders of His love.