Learning my lines . . .
. . . discovering what it means to follow Jesus, seeing my story swept up into his . . .

Spine-Tingling Reality. . . . .

There’s a tradition at our church that I absolutely love. On the Sunday before Christmas, our service ends with the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus, that thrilling piece from Handel’s “Messiah.” Members of the congregation who can sing – and a smattering of those who can’t – join the choir and some musicians up in the balcony for some three-plus minutes that are absolutely unbelievable.

Now I’m not the kind of guy who sits around and listens to classical music. But this is one piece that I could listen to every day of the year. I remember as a kid watching my dad take the vinyl discs from his boxed “Messiah” LP set, then placing them carefully on the metal rod on our record player. The music, which was not exactly my type, filled the house from time to time during the days before Christmas. Hearing the now familiar music takes me back to those early Advent seasons. All of that is rather nice in and of itself, but it’s my growing understanding of the amazing, liberating, and life-giving message Handel penned and embedded in such a beautiful piece that makes my hair stand on end. In fact, it’s a hopeful message that we should hear and heed every minute of every day.

I listened yesterday and was reminded of who I am – a sinner deserving of nothing but death. In his mercy and grace, God has come in the flesh to undo what’s been done in every nook and cranny of creation and life, to usher in His everlasting Kingdom, and to breath new life into me. Consider the simple, straightforward, and earth-shattering text of the “Hallelujah Chorus”:

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,

King of kings, and Lord of lords,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!

I recently read a story regarding how transcendent Handel’s music and message really are. An orchestra performed “The Messiah” in China to an audience unfamiliar with Handel, his music, and the God of the Bible. In the audience were all sorts of people, including communist military and government officials. When the time came for the conclusion of Handel’s work and the playing/singing of “The Hallelujah Chorus,” the audience rose to it’s feet, with the exception of the straight-faced and still-seated officials. Nobody knew this tradition existed. They were simply moved to doing it. Afterwards, one attendee said something like this: “I don’t know who God is, but I jumped to my feet because at that moment He was here.”

This week we celebrate the fact that God is, and He is here. He has revealed Himself in His Son. I invite you to take a few moments, to turn up your speakers, to watch and listen, and to ponder the amazing reality that Mr. Handel’s work continues to communicate with timeless clarity. And if you so desire, stand up.

Hallelujah. Praise Jehovah! The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord!

2 Responses

  1. I, too, love the tradition at Westminster! I was disappointed at first this year, when I realized I was scheduled to be in the nursery. But then I realized what a great opportunity it was to share the beauty and music with even the 12-24 month-olds! As the service ended, we turned up the speaker in the nursery and sang along. 🙂

    King of Kings… and Lord of Lords!

  2. Handel’s Messiah is alive and well here. At our school’s annual Christmas concert, we always end with the Hallelujah Chorus. It is played by the orchestra, sung by the high school choir and any one else who would like to sing with them. Many alumni attend the concert and join in the singing as well. It is a fitting end to the concert and launches the Christmas season on the right note!

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