Handel’s Messiah

It was Beethoven (1824) who said of George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) “Handel is the greatest composer who ever lived. I would bare my head and kneel at his grave.”

Christians can do no less listening to one of the greatest (if not “the” greatest) musical masterpieces of all time.

Handel’s “Messiah” was first performed in April 1742 at the Music Hall in Dublin. It was originally written for Easter, but quickly became the Christmas Season’s favorite musical production, too. Handel wrote it in 24 days and it will be played for centuries. His valet said that he would often find the master weeping at his desk, overcome by the beauty and majesty of the music and words. We can weep through it as well!

Indeed, when I hear the “Hallelujah Chorus” I get goose bumps all over my body and weeping comes easy, especially as I think of my son Brent who is presently in the presence of the Lord and fellowshipping with the composer himself.

Handel’s “Messiah” could well be the music of heaven. I’ve told Summit students for years that they will know if heaven is their home when they hear in the background the “Hallelujah Chorus.” On the other hand, if they hear “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones they will know immediately that they made a serious wrong turn. Having to listen to “Sympathy for the Devil” or “Goat’s Head Soup” for eternity in ear-splitting decibels should scare every sentient human being into heaven!

Who can forget the majesty of the music as the words freely flow — “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Or the concluding chorus — “Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign forever and ever. KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS, HALLELUJAH.”

These two portions of the “Messiah” alone are forever embedded in the hearts, minds, and souls of every believer in Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, and King. But there is more, much more — Part III contains such words set to the most beautiful of music — ” I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. For now is Christ risen from the dead; the first-fruit of them that sleep…Behold I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet. The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed…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 honor, and glory, and blessing. Blessing and honor, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”

Anderson Cooper (of “360” fame) may wonder what it means to be a Christian. Suggestion: prayerfully listen to Handel’s “Messiah” and one will know quite quickly what it means to be a Christian. Of course, the apostles and prophets said it centuries ago, but it still took Handel to burn the message with music into our very being.