George Handel's Messiah
Handel’s Messiah is without doubt perhaps the greatest and most powerful work of music of the life of Jesus. The first part of the oratorio is normally performed in concert halls, auditoriums, churches, and cathedrals all around the world during Christmas time. While most people know the “Hallelujah Chorus” which is only part of the Oratorio, many do not know the conditions in which Handel wrote this phenomenal work of art glorifying Jesus Christ.
George Handel was born in Germany, but he left and went to Italy, back to Germany for a time, and then settled in London in the 1720’s and eventually became a British citizen. Handel had many ups and down in life in regard to his composing and his financial situation. He was struck by a stroke when he was 52 years old in 1740 that left him partially paralyzed and unable to conduct orchestra pieces and play the keyboard. During the summer of 1741, Handel closed himself off in his study and wrote the Messiah in less than a month. While composing the “Hallelujah Chorus” which is based on the prophecies of Jesus in Isaiah, the coronation of Him as Victor and King in Revelation, and His death and resurrection, Handel’s assistant found him crying in his study being overwhelmed by the power of the piece he had just written. He stated, “I did think I saw the heavens opened and have seen the face of God!” What brought Handel to his place in his life is unknown. However, we know that Charles Wesley (the brother of John Wesley the founder of the Methodist church) became good friends with Handel during his misfortunes. Perhaps the forging of this great relationship brought Handel to a spiritual point in his life to go beyond what he had ever done previously regardless of his physical condition.
If you have never been in a live performance of this remarkable piece of music, you are missing one of life and heaven’s greatest blessings. You will be moved beyond your senses to the power and majesty of Jesus Himself. In fact, a tradition started when King George attended the presentation the first time. During the Hallelujah chorus, King George was so overcome by the majesty of the music, he stood honoring Jesus Christ as His King. When all of those attending saw the king stand, they all stood. Now, at every performance of the Messiah, it is customary for everyone to stand when the orchestra and choir come to the climax of the oratorio with the singing of the Hallelujah chorus.
I say all this for us to ponder this. When Jesus was born, there was no fanfare except the angels appearing to the shepherds. There was no powerful music being played on earth introducing this King of Kings and Lord of Lords to humanity. There was no one standing in His honor or clapping because of the event. But we do know this. The prophecies were being fulfilled. God was keeping His promises. When the timing was right (Galatians 4:4), Jesus (the Savior) was born for man. God took upon Himself human flesh (John 1:14), to take upon Himself humanity’s sinfulness. He came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). Christmas is about Jesus coming to save mankind from himself. The Oratorio – The Messiah details this act in a way that stimulates our senses and our spirits.
If you haven’t listened to the Chorus in a while – have someone play it for you on their phone. It’s relatively easy to access. While listening, think about the great love God has bestowed upon us – that He sent His only Son to give us life abundant, eternal, and free!