The Messiah. Christ. The Anointed One. These are all synonyms for our Savior that remind us of His kingly role in God’s plan for our salvation. This name should bring us hope and joy in God’s grace in giving us a Savior, and at this time of year, this name may also remind us of the famous oratorio, Messiah, by George Frideric Handel.
I recently had the opportunity to listen to Handel’s Messiah performed by the Zeeland Civic Chorus. Although I have heard it several times in the past, this year I was particularly struck with the beauty of the message. The choir was full and harmonious and the soloists had beautiful voices that filled the church even without microphones, but more than that, the words resonated with the promise of the gospel. Handel’s Messiah takes its words directly from about 50 texts concerning Christ found throughout scripture. Although it is traditionally sung around Christmas and its most familiar pieces concern the birth of Christ, Handel’s Messiah actually tells the whole message of Christ including the Old Testament prophecies of his coming, his birth, death and resurrection, the spread of the gospel, and the glory of his second coming. Handel actually wrote the piece to be performed in celebration of Easter, but its beautiful choruses about Christ’s birth became a popular part of the Christmas tradition. Regardless of when it is sung, Handel’s Messiah beautifully draws together the entire story of Christ found in scripture. Consider some of the words sung in Messiah:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6)
“And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will towards men.” (Luke 2: 13-14)
“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows! He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.” (Isaiah 53: 4-5)
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 5: 12-14)
These words, taken from the inspired Word of God, are familiar to all of us, but Handel’s Messiah allows us to consider them in a new way using the gift of music that God has given us. Now, when I read these texts in scripture, I cannot help but hear the melodies of Messiah in my head, and this gives them new beauty and meaning. Handel’s Messiah also gives us an important reminder about the significance of Christmas. During the Christmas season, we celebrate the joy of Christ’s birth, His becoming flesh for us. This is certainly the focus and wonder of Christmas, but it is also beneficial to consider the whole gospel message of Christ at this time from the promise of his coming to his final glory. Christmas finds its meaning in the entire life of Christ.We can be thankful for the gift of music that helps us to celebrate our salvation in Christ and that God, in his providence, used a man from Germany to write this beautiful oratorio that is still performed to praise his name after more than 250 years.
If you have never listened to Handel’s Messiah in its entirety, now is the perfect time to find a performance or even begin listening now online. You can find hundreds of Messiah performances on YouTube, including some pieces by the Zeeland Civic Chorus found at the link below.