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.