I love listening to Handel’s Messiah around Christmas time. Although it was originally presented as an Easter musical, it just seems to highlight many aspects of the holiday season.
Let me share a bit of the back story associated with that incredible piece of music. It was written in 1741. The lyrics are almost exclusively scripture texts taken from the King James Bible. They were arranged by the writer, Charles Jennens. Charles urged his friend, George Frideric Handel to compose the music for this oratorio. But the lyrics sat on Handel’s shelf for 18 months, until with an amazing burst of creativity, Handel composed the three-part oratorio in just 24 days.
Part One details the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the birth of the Messiah. Part Two covers the passion of Jesus, and Part Three speaks of the resurrection and Christ’s eternal reign.
The tenor begins Part One with the words “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40, vv.1–3)
It recently struck me that the first words to begin such an amazing array of Biblical truth set to music was “COMFORT MY PEOPLE.” In the historical context of Isaiah 40, God’s people needed comfort. And in the greater context of the prophecy, you and I are frequently in great need of God’s comfort.
The holidays just seem to exacerbate our trials. Frayed relationships are highlighted at Christmas. Financial woes are underscored. And physical pain seems to hurt a little more during this season.
We need His comfort, not to make the circumstances go away, but to help us face the issues. We need His strength to move through the season with His praise on our lips.
So, this week, if you are in need of some comfort, remind yourself of His promise in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
And you might want to listen to The Messiah. It is an amazing way to acknowledge Him!