Sunday, December 17, 2006

Handel's Messiah

Along with the typical Christmas music we find ourselves constantly bombarded with this time of the year is Handel's Messiah.

Familiar to your ears may be the glorious Hallelujah chorus and the rendition of For unto us a child is born performed by choirs and orchestras around the world.

We typically hear Handel's Messiah only around this time of the year, but pigeonholing it as Christmas music is nothing short of doing this breathtaking work of art grave injustice. In fact, the portion of the oratorio deemed relevant to the birth of Christ consists of less than ten movements out of 53 all together.

As Paul Harvey likes to say, here's the rest of the story.

The first section primarily draws from the Old Testament which prophesies the coming Messiah who was to come and deliver the world from darkness. After a succession of the prophesies, this part concludes with Christ's birth.

The second part concerns the Passion which extensively covers the sacrifice, the scourging and agony on the cross and Christ's ultimate triumphant resurrection. This part makes Handel's Messiah celebratory of, and relevant to Good Friday and Easter as much as Christmas if not more.

The last part speaks of the future. It is about God's final victory over death and sin.

I think our selective hearing of Handel's Messiah reflects what we choose to hear when it comes to the story of Christ. Shelved and ignored are his suffering and agony followed by the empty tomb.

No 23. Air (Alto)
He was despised,
and rejected of men:
a man of sorrows,
and acquainted with grief

No 24. Chorus:
Surely He hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows;
He was wounded for our trangressions;
He was bruised for our iniquities;
the chastisement of our peace was upon Him

The majestic Christ sung in the Hallelujah chorus is but a small fraction of the story. The majestic Christ is not complete without the story of his suffering and death.

To echo my favorite author Philip Yancey:

We worship a risen Christ. We worship a crucified Christ. Anything less is not enough.


At December 17, 2006 7:45 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Great post, David! Thanks for making us aware of this. Honestly, I had never taken the time to consider any of this in the past. I've simply enjoyed listening to it at Christmas. But since I haven't heard it once this year, I'm gonna be paying attention.

At December 17, 2006 10:34 AM, Blogger annadams95340 said...

I just stopped and am now listening to the Messiah. I copied my Joan Sutherland cd to Music Match a couple of years ago. We're at the Overture.

I play it at Easter and Christmas and sometimes in between just because I like it so much.

You're right of course. Back in my choir singing days (alto) we sometimes split up the Messiah into Easter and Christmas. Both had the Hallelujah Chorus of course. Can't leave that out.

I think part of it is the music associated with each part. The showy, fast moving selections are much better known.

At December 17, 2006 11:00 AM, Anonymous BarBarA said...

its one of the most beautiful things ever written...wonderful quote too.

Merry Christmas to you, David.

At December 17, 2006 6:05 PM, Blogger Jeje said...

Kind of funny . . . I'm listening to the Messiah as I read your post. You're right, it is a masterful work from beginning to end. Thank you for your reminder of the entire scope of the Savior's mission.

At December 18, 2006 7:23 AM, Blogger A thinker said...

Really, really good point, David. Majestic piece of work and not limited to Christmas. Well done.

At December 18, 2006 9:59 PM, Blogger SUPER said...

It is such a beautiful piece. It is a shame it's only celebrated at Christmas. We need to hear the entire story more often, as well as the glorious music that accompanies it.

At December 19, 2006 7:32 AM, Blogger Brian Buriff said...

You're right on the money on this one David. Good observations. I only wish I had more patience with "Handel's Messiah." Every time I've tried, I grew restless waiting for the "Hallelujah Chorus" climax.

At December 19, 2006 10:19 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

Brian, one reason I find it so beautiful is the lyrics from start to finish are taken verbatim from the King James Bible. They are not Handel's.

I am not KJB guy, but the beauty of the language shines through.

At December 19, 2006 11:07 AM, Blogger J.OTIS MERSTER said...

The song is an excellent example of pure truth set to music. Thank you for sharing the rest of the story with everyone.

At December 20, 2006 6:50 AM, Blogger Brotha Buck said...

Its a new piece for me, unless I'm not recognizing it without hearing the tune. Sounds beautiful, words.

At December 20, 2006 2:10 PM, Blogger Oricon Ailin said...

Handel's Messiah is one of the most beautiful and amazing pieces of work.

I have loved it since I was a little child.

I always knew that it was basically in two parts. I love it listening to it both at Christmas and Easter. The Hallelujah Chorus is most appropriate for Easter though. hehe

Thanks for this lovely post!

Have a blessed and wonderful Christmas, David!

At December 20, 2006 6:28 PM, Blogger The Gig said...

Actually, I believe that Christmas Carols can and should be sang or played all year around. They are beautiful and the words are even better.

Isaiah 53: 3-5 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. "and with His stripes we are healed." I often read those versus when someone is ill; this is to let the Lord know that we know we were already healed by his stripes. I read those scriptures to my granddaughter when she was going through her bone marrow transplant ordeal. Through those verus the Lord comforted her and made her forget her pain.

At December 21, 2006 12:29 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

Wow Gig, that is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

At December 22, 2006 10:01 PM, Blogger Friar Tuck said...

Well said.

At December 23, 2006 8:35 AM, Blogger Bruce said...

Merry Christmas David! May the God of Peace and the Peace of God be with you.


At December 23, 2006 11:39 AM, Blogger Gary Means said...

May you have a wonderful Christmas celebration. Thank you for all that you bring to the blogosphere!

At December 24, 2006 12:11 PM, Anonymous BarBarA said...

Dropping by to wish you a very Merry Christmas, David!!

At December 24, 2006 8:30 PM, Blogger Miss Cellania said...

Very insightful post an I agree wholeheartedly. I'm still posting the Hallelujah Chorus for Christmas. Merry Christmsa, David!


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