Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Day 11-12 (8): Glory to God in the Highest! - Scene 4 (13-17)

(Meditate on this over the next two days)

Scene 4 - The appearance of the Angels to the Shepherds

Let's review two musical terms and introduce one new one:

Secco recitative is a "dry recitative" usually with only harpsichord and cello accompaniment. It recites the words directly and does not repeat them.

Accompanied recitative also recites but has more instruments involved.

Turba chorus means "crowd" or "throng" chorus meaning to convey a lot of voices (like a multitude of angels).

13. Pifa (Pastoral Symphony)

File:Piffero 20090502.jpg
Pifferi By Wikinaut (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (
or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
"Pifa" is Handel's word for how the musical instruments imitate the sound of a piva (bagpipe) and a pifferi (shepherds' reed pipe from the oboe family). In Italy, country shepherds would come down from the mountains to Rome in order to play these instruments during the Advent season.  It sounds like bagpipe drones with a simple melody in triple rhythms on top of that. The mood is quiet and peaceful. This sets the perfect mood for how the shepherds are described in Luke 2:8. 

14. Recitative (Soprano)


There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. (Luke 2:8)


And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. (Luke 2:9)

15. Secco recitative (Soprano)

And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10,11)

16. Accompanied recitative (Soprano)

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, (Luke 2:13)

17. Turba Chorus

Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14)

Note: this is the first time trumpets are used in the Messiah.


Luke 2:8-14

This is where prophecy turns into history in the Messiah!

When the angels appear, the music sounds like lights shining in the sky pungent with excitement in the music! It is such a contrast to the somberness of the secco recitative right before it.

How wonderful that angels would appear to poor, outcast shepherds.   The work of the shepherds made them ceremonially unclean.  God calls the poor and lowly to Himself (Luke 1:51-53; 1 Corinthian 1:26-29). This baby was also the Good Shepherd (John 10) and Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). 

Stomer-adorationThe shepherds were to "fear not" ( Remember this is the most often repeated commandment in the Bible. See also in this context: Luke 1:13, 30, 74; Matthew 1:20). 

The angel pronounced GOOD NEWS of a GREAT JOY (and JOY is a theme in the book of Luke.) of a Savior who is Christ the Lord! 

Also notice this was for ALL PEOPLE, not just the Jews. This is HUGE. 

Then a multitude of angels came praising God and announcing PEACE for the whole earth. Even though the Roman Peace ("Pax Romana") had been in effect since 27 B.C., there was really no peace.

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus (A.D. 55 – A.D. 135) said, “While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.” The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 176

The Hebrew word for peace, Shalom, is translated as eirḗnē in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint). This Greek word:
Has to denote, not merely rest, but a state of well-being or wholeness [emphasis mine], so that one can even be said to die in peace (as distinct from suffering violence). Nor is this well-being restricted to material welfare. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, p. 208
They also announced GOOD WILL (eudokias) toward men. These "people of good pleasure are the recipients of God's grace by his free and unfathomably sovereign choice or counsel" (The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, p.273).



As I have meditated this morning, the quote from the Stoic philosopher above made me realize that a military and political response will not quell what is happening in our world today, with the rise of ISIS and terrorism in our own land. This will not give "peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace."  We cannot have "well-being or wholeness" apart from Jesus because He brings:

Good News,

Great Joy, 
Peace. and 
Good Will. 

Doesn't that just thrill you?

Let this wash over you and soak in deeply. It is so easy to just gloss over this because you hear it so many times during Christmas. Jesus is our Peace! It is amazing!


"I will" pray for ISIS. Here is a guide to help you:

30 Day Prayer Guide for ISIS

Please listen to these two messages about the response we as followers of Jesus should have toward people like ISIS:

Part 1: "Serve to Win"

Part 2: "The Other Side of Fear" (exciting news about current events)

I encourage the use of the Loyola Method of meditation for this particular passage. Imagine yourself as a shepherd out in the fields. You might even like to go outside on a starry night and plop yourself in the middle of a field. 

There is also an entire handout on many methods of meditation for download HERE.

Get Totally Involved -The Loyola Method

(Note: Here’s an approach to meditation adapted from the “Spiritual Exercises” of Ignatius Loyola. He was a spiritual director in the 16th century. The Loyola Method works better when you have a passage that involves a narrative story.)

PART ONE (Preparation)

a. In prayer, ask God for grace to direct your thoughts, words, and actions to service and praise of his Divine Majesty.

b. Read the passage upon which you intend to meditate. Read unhurriedly, but without attempting yet to meditate on the passage. Your goal now is simply to familiarize yourself with the passage.

c. Determine an objective for your meditation time and ask God to help you accomplish it. If the passage you choose, for example, is the account of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2:1–7, your objective may be a sense of awe and humility as you contemplate the mystery of-your Savior’s entry into the world.

Usually this preliminary request is formulated in terms of some emotion you wish God to give you as a result of your meditation. Ignatius Loyola believed that the ultimate purpose of meditation is application (that is, an act of the will), and that the will is motivated primarily by emotion rather than reason.

PART TWO (Meditation)

a. Visualize the scene. In the case of Luke 2:1–7, see in your mind the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Is it level, or does it wind through valleys and around hillsides? See Mary, in her ninth month of pregnancy, riding on a donkey, accompanied by Joseph who is perhaps leading an ox. They are going to Bethlehem to pay a tax. What kind of people are they passing on the way? Soldiers? Peasants? Merchants? Other families?
Study in your imagination the place of the Nativity. Is it spacious or cramped? Clean or dirty? Warm or cold? How is it furnished?

b. Assume the role of one of the characters in the passage, or of someone else who might be present. In Luke 2, for example, you could be the hotel’s servant or maid.

c. Now apply your five senses to the scene. Look carefully, watching all the action. Use your ears as you listen in on conversations. Apply your senses of smell and touch. What odors are present? What quality of garments are being worn? Feel the woodwork of the manger. Smell and feel the straw. Apply your sense of taste—is there anything there to eat?

d. Analyze your own feelings as a member of the scene. How do you feel about what is happening? How do you feel about the persons involved? How do you feel about yourself?

PART THREE (Conversation)

Talk to Joseph, or Mary, or someone else in the scene. Talk to them about the thoughts that have come to your mind as you have meditated on this passage. Talk to God or to the Lord Jesus.
          This conversation should in most cases lead to some form of action or personal application. 

Discipleship Journal, Issue 6 (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress)

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