A few days ago I took an unscientific survey of my Facebook friends. I asked what particular Christmas song they could listen to repeatedly for a day. The most popular answer was “O Holy Night” and very close to that or tied, “Silent Night.” Since we are all wired a bit differently and uniquely created, we all have different tastes. If someone told me that I had to listen to a particular arrangement all day, I would choose the brilliant, moving music of Handel’s Messiah. Here’s a little about that famous sacred oratorio.
In a letter dated 10 July to his friend, Holdworth, Edward Jennens wrote: “I hope [Handel] will lay out his whole Genius & Skill upon it, that the Composition may excell all his former Compositions, as the Subject excells every other subject. The Subject is Messiah.” That is a quote from a letter in 1741.
The English sacred oratorio, The Messiah, was written as were many of George Frideric Handel’s works, with concentrated effort and in relative short periods of time. This work took him 24 days. The Scripture was compiled by his friend, credited in the quote above. Jennens had previously supplied Scripture compilations for other Biblical oratorios.
The Messiah was first performed on April 13, 1742, in Dublin, Ireland. Easter is also a very appropriate time for this music as section three covers the resurrection. Most people associate only the birth of Christ with this musical composition, however, it includes much more.
I usually listen to the whole two and one-half hour presentation at least once a year. Yesterday I allowed myself to become once again absorbed in the message of Scripture portrayed by voice and orchestration. The listening, for me, is spiritual and emotional as I move through the whole of the presentation. I sit down and allow the Word of God do its work. Although I like it all, the most moving parts for me are the portions from Isaiah 53.
While other Christmas music is inspiring, and some fun, Handel’s Messiah is the very best and most worshipful. For me, Christmas is a time of reflection on the whole of the life of Jesus. We are surrounded, nearly immersed, in shopping, giving, receiving, baking, and singing that we tend to leave out the One whose birth we celebrate. Set aside some time for personal worship. Spend time in the Shepherd’s presence.
Sources: The Smithsonianmag.org, gfhandel.org, and the two websites mentioned in the weblog.