For unto us a child is born

Farmville Enterprise December 27, 2017

In 1741 George Frideric Handel composed the famous oratorio Messiah. Although it is most often performed at Christmas, its premiere took place near Easter in 1742. Charles Jennens, a devout Christian and Anglican who believed in the authority of Scripture, compiled the scriptural text from the King James version of the Bible. Most of the words are from the Old Testament but several psalms were taken from the Book of Common Prayer. Jennens rejected Deist claims that God did not intervene in human history and his selection of Bible verses for the libretto highlight God’s interest and involvement in the affairs of people.

Reportedly, Handel was struck by the power of Jennens’ verses when he first read them and the music began to dance inside him. Handel completed the score in a remarkable 24 days, isolating himself to work night and day and often forgetting to eat. The 259-page score had relatively few mistakes and corrections. Handel closed the manuscript with the letters “SDG” for “Soli Deo Gloria” or “To God alone the glory.”

The text consists of three parts. Part one contains the prophecies of Christ’s birth and the annunciation to the shepherds. Part two covers the Passion of Jesus and ends with the well-known Hallelujah Chorus. Our “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” shall reign “for ever and ever.”  Finally, part three concentrates on the resurrection and Christ’s glorification in heaven.

If you would like, take some time this week to listen to part or all of Messiah. The portion which quotes Isaiah 9:6 is especially meaningful this time of year. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

 

 

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