Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: "Messiah"--The Most Thrilling Choral Anthem Ever Composed

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Amidst the tinsel and glitter of "Christmas," there is a little refuge of sober, quiet peace: the annual performances almost everywhere of Handel's Messiah. When we used to perform it in Nairobi, Kenya, Hindus and Muslims would join Christians at the great cathedral to revel in its sheer musical grandeur. "O pause beside the weary way, And hear the angels sing" is its appeal to us all.

Its lyrics are strictly from the Bible and nowhere else. Messiah conveys the gospel through the grandest musical language ever "spoken." Millions this Season will again hear "Behold the Lamb of God!" and "Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs, and Carried Our Sorrows," and the contralto aria, "He was Despised and Rejected of Men, a Man of Sorrows and Acquainted With Grief." Each aria, recitative, or chorus is an inspired gem. Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism, all have their grand works of literature, but has any of them given the world such a gift? Does atheism? Or paganism?

When I have watched non-Christians in Kenya come to hear Messiah year after year, I have wondered if I am seeing a partial fulfillment of what David said in Psalm 19, "How clearly the sky reveals God's glory! ... It shows what He has done! ... No speech or words are used, no sound is heard; yet their message goes out to all the world and is heard to the ends of the earth" (vss. 1-4, Good News Bible).

"Speech," "words," "sound" are all employed in Messiah. To deaf ears it may "say" no more than what Tchaikovsky or Mozart "say," but some human hearts are touched by the portrayal of the gospel finale of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. When the choir and orchestra perform the "Hallelujah" Chorus, and the final numbers, "Worthy is the Lamb" and the "Amen"--that one little word constitutes the lyrics for what must be the most thrilling choral anthem ever composed. Higher and higher rises that one-word message. Your heart must be stone if you are not moved. Listen! Get ready to hear it again at the end of the real Millennium.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: December 19, 1998.
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