When I was growing up we attended a church with a large music program, and I first sang in a choir as a young child. Our minister of music frequently had us sing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah during December. The adult choir was at the front of the church behind the ministers, while the children’s and youth choirs were in the side balconies next to the front. As the music began, the congregation stood, and then our combined choirs of all ages sang out those wonderful words from Revelation. It was an incredible experience.
As I did with In The Bleak Midwinter, I again have two videos with contrasting locations to emphasize once more that Christ came to all people. The first is of the London Symphony Orchestra.
The formality of a concert setting is fitting for praising the Lord Jesus in His majesty and wonder, while listening in a food court reminds us the gospel is for the reality of who we are.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”
2 Corinthians 8:9
There have been several flash-mob events of the Hallelujah Chorus. The one that occurred in November in Ontario has now set the record for YouTube hits1—I’ve checked and it’s now over 27 million.
In reading about Messiah, I found an online article by Johan van Veen. In his strong criticism of a Dutch staging of Messiah, he quotes musicologist, Tassilo Erhardt, on the historical context in which Charles Jennens chose the Bible passages for the libretto.
“The concept of the Messiah has always been one of the most important topics in the Jewish religion. God promised his elected people to send hid ‘anointed one’, the redeemer, as the fulfillment of the history of salvation. His coming has been foretold by the prophets in many places in the Old Testament. Faithful Jews still await his coming. For Christians, God’s promise has come true through the incarnation of his son in Jesus of Nazareth. The belief in Jesus as the Messiah is therefore the fundation of Christian faith.
Against this background one can understand the furore caused when the deistic writer Anthony Collins published two books, in which he undermines this tradition, in effect calling Jesus himself into question by throwing doubt on his role as the Messiah.”2
Anthony Collins lived from 1676–17293. His works were answered by many authors. Johan van Veen writes:
“In the years thereafter more than 60 publications appeared in reply to Collins’ books with only one goal: to prove that Jesus was the Messiah as foretold in the Old Testament.”4
He then again quotes Erhardt:
“Charles Jennens, the librettist of Messiah, evidently possessed at least one of these publications, Bishop R. Kidder’s A Demonstration of the Messiah, in which more than half of the bible quotations used in Messiah are discussed in detail. Messiah must therefore not be seen as an oratorio like many others, but as an artistic contribution to a current theological debate. This explains also the unique form of the libretto. As its principal aim is not to tell the story of Jesus’ life, but to point out that the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah are fulfilled in the person of Jesus, Jennens avoided the narratives of the gospels almost entirely and describes the life and significance of Christ by means of allusion. In the case of Messiah we are dealing with much more than a mere compilation of Bible verses. The work has a strong message to tell, and the form in which this is done is a unique form of art.”5
Dr. Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, gave a commencement address a few weeks ago titled, For the Mouth of the Lord Hath Spoken It, in which he spoke of Charles Jennens’ deep, personal concern regarding deism. Jennens’ younger brother committed suicide as a consequence of depression he suffered while questioning his Christian faith under the exacerbating influence of a deist.6 Some ten years later, Jennens gave his libretto, chosen from Scripture, to Handel;7 over 250 years later, we still listen with awe to God’s Word set to music.
I did a search on Tassilo Erhardt’s writings, but at the moment Dr. Erhardt’s book on Messiah is available only in German. I did find a reference to him, however, as a guest lecturer in November 2009, for an Oxford seminar titled:
Over 27 million hits on YouTube?
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
“So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
Messiah is more than music; through His Word God gives hope to people shattered by sin. Emmanuel, God With Us.
“…and He shall reign for ever and ever….King of Kings, and Lord of Lords….Hallelujah!”
Messiah: Libretto: Old and New Testament Passages selected by Charles Jennens
Oratorio: George Frideric Handel
1Winnipeg Free Press: Ontario choir that set up flash mob in mall sets YouTube record for hits
2, 4, 5Johan van Veen, musica Dei donum.
3Anthony Collins, Wikipedia.
6Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., For the Mouth of the Lord Hath Spoken It.
7Calvin R. Stapert, Handel’s Messiah: Comfort for God’s People, 2010, pp. 77-78.
8Oxford University Gazette
Original content: Copyright ©2010 Iwana Carpenter