handel-messiah-poster

“The Messiah” is a piece of music by George Frideric Handel for chorus and orchestra. It is traditionally performed during the Christmas season.  The words all come from scripture. Charles Jennens selected the verses and arranged their order. Beginning with old testament passages, the lyrics tell the story of Christ: from prophecies to His passion, to His parousia (second coming).

Handel composed the music in 24 days. That’s three hours of music for multiple instruments and voices. “Astonishing” doesn’t quite cover it. But Handel had higher things than his own genius in mind.   Composing “The Messiah” was a revelatory experience, a time of precious fellowship with the Lord. The proceeds from the first performances were donated to charity. As far as the crowds that attended, Handel famously commented, “I should be sorry if I only entertained them; I wished to make them better.”

The final movement of “The Messiah” opens with words from Revelation:

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.  Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.

After this, the chorus sings a fugue. Fugue means “chase” and is a musical device like a round. A melody is played or sung by instruments or voices. Other instruments or voices come in at staggered points with the same melody so that the tune “chases” itself around the ensemble. The visual equivalent of a fugue might be watching a tapestry weave itself—all the melodic threads flowing over and under one another in seamless, growing, layered patterns.

But the music isn’t the most striking thing about the final measures of “The Messiah.” During the fugue, for nearly five minutes, there is only one word sung: AMEN. Amen is a Hebrew word whose meanings include, “Truth,” “So let it be,” and “Yes!” AMEN is the ultimate affirmation. And what else can you say by the end of “The Messiah”? The prophetic testimony of Jesus has been given.   Christ has accomplished all divine purpose through His death and resurrection. All heaven and earth has been brought together in Him (Eph. 1:10).   One day, Christ will be revealed in all of creation (Luke 17:30; Rom. 8:19-21). There is nothing left but to throw crowns at His feet and adore Him.   There is nothing left but to say, announce, shout, and sing “AMEN!!”

Christianity, in its deepest sense, is about living in the AMEN, now and eternally. Our faith is comprehended in the fact that Jesus Christ has done it all, is all, and is in all.

“For every one of God’s promises is ‘Yes’ in Him. Therefore, the ‘Amen’ is also spoken through Him by us for God’s glory” (2 Cor. 1:20).

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