There are going to be classical music experts who loathe my feeble attempt to honor this great masterpiece, but I will have to live with that. I simply cannot honestly do a devotional blog about truth in tunes without delving into the classics. And I certainly cannot spend an entire month on Christmas songs and leave out the greatest musical composition of all time about Christ’s birth . Ever. Period. Not even close to anything else.
This song (and the whole three hour oratorio) is the clearest example of what music can do to vivify truth. So when one of the most gifted men in all of history was inspirationally graced with this particular piece concerning salvation history’s greatest moment (aside from the cross) all of humanity was blessed for centuries to come with something that transcends age, musical style, and any other boundary you might think of.
George Frederic Handel, we are told, completed the original score of the “Messiah” in less than a month! 24 days to be exact (which is superhumanly fast, if you know anything about it). His servants said of him that when he was composing during those 24 days, Handel was either praying, weeping, or he was staring into eternity. At the end of his manuscript Handel wrote the letters “SDG”—Soli Deo Gloria, “To God alone the glory”. Handel, himself, was not a remarkable Christian person; but God chose him as a vessel – almost as if God wrote this music Himself (if so, imagine what Heaven will be like!).
The popularity of the “Messiah” grew immensely over the years. When the King of England first heard it performed, he was so moved by it, that he stood at the Hallelujah chorus. This traditional ovation carried on throughout the entire opera house and on into every formal performance of this great work performed ever since then. Here are the lyrics:
Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah
For the lord God omnipotent reigneth
Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah
The kingdom of this world;
the kingdom of our Lord,
and of His Christ
And He shall reign forever and ever
King of kings forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah
and lord of lords forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah
And he shall reign
And he shall reign forever and ever
King of kings and lord of lords
Forever and ever and ever and ever
Of course, I left out most of the repetitions, just so that you can see the plain text, which comes directly from Revelation 11:15 and 19:16. These two passages reflect the angelic and triumphant declaration of who our Lord was, is and will be when He returns – Lord over all.
What I like best about this song is that for a few minutes we get to let go of our embellishing of the humble mode of Christ’s first arrival to earth as a baby; only to embrace the glorious, unbridled magnificence of the fact that GOD was/is that child! The Lord and Ruler of everything came to us and His sovereignty and place among us has always been first and prime – even though He humbled Himself as a man. He did it all! He became like us, to know us and feel like us, so that He could live sinless for us and die for us, BUT He is still and always will be GOD! This song also reminds me of Philippians 2:5-11.
I get excited, because the song stirs up these truths within me in ways that only it can. I pray that all of us find a moment this Christmas to see the Incarnation of Christ through the lens of Handel’s art. And when we feel it in our marrow, may we all stand together and cry out to the heavens, “Hallelujah!”