CHRISTMAS DAY The Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah
Text: King James Version of the Bible Tune: Georg Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.(Revelation 19: 6)
The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11: 15)
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19: 16)
Instead of choosing a carol, of which there are so many favorites, I am going to reflect on the great chorus from Handel’s Messiah. Most of us hear it at some time during the Christmas season, even if it is the last chorus in the second part of the Oratorio, which dealt with the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord and his ultimate victory over the powers of death, sin, and the devil.
Christmas is fun and filled with pleasures in the things of this world which our Lord hallows by becoming incarnate and entering into our lives. He comes to the humble and the oppressed to “pitch his tent” among us, as the Gospel of John has it.
Lately I have been reading in a great and very thick book Memesis by Erich Auerbach. One of his main point is how our God chooses to enter into our humanity. He does not choose the royals or aristocrats, as the Greek gods do, but the simple folk: Joseph and Mary, Peter the fisherman, and his disciples, Mary Magdalene and many others. The God of the universe chose to come among us, to walk with us, and even be persecuted by us, unto death, so that he could bring us life and save us.
Not only does he save us from death and destruction by his great sacrifice, he changes us so that we can live and flourish here on earth, serving him and our neighbor with acts of love. The God of the universe works through the simplest to work the greatest miracle of all: changing our hearts and thus our world!
Thus, he is King of kings and Lord of lords. He rules in a different way, not as an earthly king, but as king over all kings. No matter how brutal they have been, they will have to answer one day. And the faithful will live under him in his kingdom, as Luther said, in “everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.” We can keep on, knowing the end of the story is in Jesus.
So we praise him for his love and work among us, even as we marvel at the new life he gives us, and a new world that we glimpse now at Christmas looking down into the humble manger where the Lord of all has housed himself for our sakes. Hallelujah!
Handel wrote the Messiah in the late summer of 1741. It took him twenty four days. He had received the libretto from Charles Jennens, his collaborator, who wanted to write a libretto to contradict the Deist theology of the day which essentially denied the divinity of Christ. The first performance of the oratorio was in Dublin on April 13, 1742. It was warmly received and praised. In London, however, it was not. But by the 1750s, it began to grow in the affection of audiences and since has become the most famous and most performed piece in the world.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Sidney Opera House Chorus
Royal Choral Society