Wednesday, December 29, 2010



In among my Christmas presents this year came a DVD of Handel's "Messiah".
So after a quiet day of opening gifts and enjoying a turkey dinner, we sat down to watch the video from beginning to end.  Now I  know just enough of the musical world  to admit that I don't know much about music at all.  But I have heard, sung and watched this great oratorio performed many times in my life.

However, tonight I had a booklet with the words to accompany the music in my hand. 

As I listened, my immediate and most overwhelming impression was that this man must have thoroughly known the Scriptures and not only that, but he fully understood the teachings of the Old and New Testaments as I understand them.  In a word, the person who wrote this was an " Evangelical"!  Was it possible that this piece of music, so greatly hailed as a masterpiece for some 400 years,  was actually a portrayal of the gospel in a nutshell. And is it possible that people had read, sung and listened to this oratorio all these years, and yet had no idea that they were singing the Gospel?  How could this be?   How could great musicians, singers, symphonies, and choirs, many of whom would not tolerate evangelical beliefs, be actually praising, enjoying and even raving over Handel's "Messiah"?

My next question was, "What kind of a man was Handel to have written this oratorio?"  I had never heard of him as being a 'religious fellow'.

That's when I discovered Handel did not write the "Messiah"!  
He wrote the MUSIC to "Messiah".
The words were actually written by a man names Charles Jennens.   In fact it is not really true to say that even Jennens wrote the words, because they all come straight from the Bible. What Jennens did was to compile Scripture verses  from the Bible. The verses he chose and which we sing today, clearly spell out man's condition and God's remedy. Jennens placed them in the correct sequence, from the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah who is to come, to the message in the New Testament of the Messiah who came.  The famous "Hallelujah Chorus" is the ecstatic overflow of praise for His coming, His dying and His resurrection which fulfilled God's ancient promise and purpose.

The third part of the oratorio is almost anticlimactic after the "Hallelujah Chorus".  It tells of the promise of life after death;  that death is not the end, but the beginning.  It's harder to understand because we are still here on this earth in this present time. Yet just as the first two parts of the oratorio have been fulfilled, so the third part will be fulfilled.  Death will be swallowed up in victory.  God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. He makes intercession for us and our sins are forgiven. We are not worthy, but WORTHY IS THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN!

Of course the music is brilliant and Handel skilled beyond measure.  But the music is only a part of this miracle.  If you are only uplifted by the music, you have experienced only a part of what the whole oratorio is about.  The greatest thrill is to hear the music and fully understand and believe what the words are saying.

That, my friends, is the joy of Handel's "Messiah."


Anonymous said...

When you said Handel didn't write the Messiah I thought - right, the words are straight from the Bible BUT I didn't know someone else had put them together! Good research and a blessed 2011

Wanda said...

Oh Chris, I am so glad to know this information. How very interesting, as I have listened Handel's Messiah many times.

Yes, you said it..the gospel in a nutshell, set to fantastic music.

Thanks for all your research...And a Happy New Year.

New Art Challenge....check out my Art Blog.

kaybee said...

Fascinating history, Chris! And I think it is so wonderful that the oratario is so well known that every time it is sung, and wherever it is presented, it is received and honoured with such respect - the Hallelulah Chorus especially is like the Anthem of Heaven!

Morning's Minion said...

What an interesting thing to learn. Of course I knew that the words of The Messiah are all from scripture--but never questioned how they were chosen and arranged.

photowannabe said...

Thank you for this interesting insight. I never knew someone else put the scripture to
The Anthmn of Heaven".
Happy New Year to you and your family Chris. Looking forward to seeing more of your art challenges.