Sunday, December 1, 2013

Day 1: Introduction to Handel's Messiah

"I did think I did see
all heaven before me,  
and the great God Himself." 
George Frideric Handel 
after being asked 
what his feelings were while writing

 the "Hallelujah Chorus"


What better way to prepare your heart for the coming of the Christ Child this Christmas than Handel's Messiah! Like the Jesse Tree, it is a great review of the Bible Book Club and goes along nicely with your Advent reading. The libretto (the text for a musical work) is
 straight from God's Word with 60% of it from the Old Testament!

Messiah's libretto was written by Charles Jennens and given to Handel as a gift. Here is a video about Jennens that is well-worth the 4 minutes 33 seconds:


You can read a fuller history of Messiah HERE. 

(When you have some time, I highly recommend the book Handel's Messiah:Comfort for God's People, especially if you want to learn more about the musical aspects of Messiah. I have emailed with the author asking him questions as I have written this devotional.)

This piece of creative historical fiction about Handel is very touching:

The composer was in despair.  Struggling to earn a living in London, he knew days when he could not afford to buy meals.  One night in 1741, depressed and defeated, he wandered the lonely streets; it was almost dawn when he returned to his shabby room.  On a table was a thick envelope.  It was from Charles Jennens, the man who wrote his librettos.  Examining the pages, he found them covered with Scripture texts. 
        Wearily, he tossed the pages aside and crawled into bed.  But he could not sleep.  The words he had read returned to him: 
        Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God ... The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light ... For unto us a Child is born ... Glory to God in the highest ... Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
        Too stirred to sleep, he got up and went to his piano.  The music flowed from his heart-rich, majestic, triumphant.  He began to write.  Night and day for three weeks, he wrote feverishly.  He forgot sleep, food, rest.  He refused to see anyone.  At last, on the day the work was finished, one friend managed to gain entrance. 
        The composer was at his piano, sheets of music strewn around him, tears streaming down his face.  "I do believe I have seen all of Heaven before me, and the great God Himself," he exclaimed. 
        Millions of people have been able to believe that.  The first audience to hear the composition -- in Dublin in 1742 --gave it the greatest ovation in the city's history.  Weeks later, London heard it for the first time, and again it was a triumph.  The King was so impressed during the Hallelujah Chorus that he rose to his feet -- a custom that still prevails. 
        This Christmas, in churches and concert halls around the world, millions of people will once again find hope and faith in the message what has become the most beloved composition of all times -- George Frederic Handel's Messiah. 
(From: Sadly, the website no longer exists. I have no other way of attributing credit to the author because the website never stated who wrote it.)

Messiah was originally performed as part of the Passion Week before Easter. Now, it is traditionally performed at Christmas, but two-thirds of Messiah is about what happens after Christmas:
Part I - The coming of Christ as foretold by the prophets, His first coming (Christmas), and His life. 
Part II - Redemption by Christ's sacrifice and mankind's rejection (Holy Week and Easter). 
Part III - "A Hymn of Thanksgiving for the final overthrow of Death" at His second coming.
We will be covering Parts I and II before Christmas and Part III between Christmas and New Year's Eve.


The best way to enjoy these meditation is to listen to the music as you meditate. Here is a free version with the words from the MIT Concert Choir for Parts I & II, and Part III is from very old recordings done by Thomas Alva Edison (Yes, the same person who invented of the light bulb!) in 1916: 

Messiah: Wikisource

You might want to invest in your own affordable version.

I listen to and love Handel Messiah: The Complete Work because it is economical and includes a book with the libretto:

Handel's Messiah: The Complete Work
The experts say there are more "definitive" versions:

Handel: Messiah (Dublin Version, 1742)

Handel's Messiah: Choir of King's College, Cambridge

HERE is a video of the Choir of King's College performance with reference to the time of each movement in the notes below it.

I will have the words to the libretto in each individual post, but you can print off the entire one HERE.

Or follow along with the words and the music on the Wikisource page!

It is my prayer that this devotional will be according to Mark 12:30-31:

"Love the Lord your God 
with all your HEART, 
and with all your SOUL, 
and with all your MIND, 
and with all your STRENGTH" 
(Mark 12:30-31)

Therefore the structure of your time with God will include:

Heart Hearing of God through the music, 
Mind Meditation on the Scriptural text, 
Soul Searching as you let the text sink in deeply, hopefully leading to 
Strength Stretching by a personal "I will" application!

The most important thing is to SLOW DOWN during this fast-paced season, enjoy a nice hot beverage, and encounter the Messiah as you listen to this beautiful oratorio!

Do not forget Advent Week 1: Prophets

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