Christmas: Themes Of Hallelujah And Worship

Dec 25th, 2021 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

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Sometime during the 2021 Christmas season, you have no doubt heard the reverberating words from George Friderich Handel’s imposing oratorio, Messiah.  Written in just twenty-four days in 1741, Messiah has three distinct sections:  part one, the “Christmas Story;” part two, “The Redemption Story”; and part three, “The Resurrection and Future Reign of Christ on Heaven and Earth.”  Initially, Handel’s oratorio was performed more during the Easter holiday, but gradually it became associated with Christmas, such that today it is almost always performed sometime in December by community, church and college choirs throughout the nation. The Hallelujah Chorus, now almost always sung at Christmas, is the majestic culmination of Messiah, the story of Jesus that Handel detailed in music:  The story that was foretold by the Prophets (especially Isaiah), heralded in the Annunciation and portrayed throughout His earthly life.  The story’s message centers on the King and His Kingdom.  Indeed, the central theme of both the first and the last book of the New Testament is Jesus as King.  For example, Matthew’s gospel is the only one to record the visit of the magi from the East, who sought “the one born king of the Jews, for we have seen his star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2).  Once they found Him in Bethlehem, their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (2:11) were worthy of royalty.  The book of Revelation records the astonishing song of heaven’s multitudes pronouncing, “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).  In addition, throughout the Gospel accounts, we see Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead and casting out demons—all the while proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand.  His titles—“Son of Man,” “I am,” and “Son of God”—all reflect His divine royalty.  His preaching, especially the Beatitudes, provides the ethical paradigm for kingdom living.  Finally, as He answered His disciples’ questions in Matthew 24, He charted the course of His Second Advent, when He will establish His earthly kingdom in all its fullness.

Therefore, for genuine biblical Christianity, Christmas is more than Christmas carols, white lights, sumptuous food and family.  It is the inauguration of God’s kingdom.  In the New Testament, Jesus is declared to be the “King of kings and the Lord of lords.”  In fact, near the end of Handel’s oratorio, we hear the phrase, “King of kings and Lord of lords!” (from Revelation 19:16) sung in a stirring fourfold refrain, culminating in a fivefold “Hallelujah!”  Tradition has it that England’s King George II was so moved in 1743 by the performance of Messiah, especially the Hallelujah Chorus, that he stood to his feet, giving reverence for an even greater King.  The rest of the audience stood as well, as have audiences for generations since. “The Hallelujah Chorus” anticipates the day when “a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language” will stand before His throne in celebration of God and His salvation (Revelation 7:9-10).  For Christians, then, that is why we sing the Hallelujah Chorus:  God, His Messiah and His kingdom have come to earth! And the worship at Christmas time is but a prelude of all that is to come, for then the chorus of hallelujahs will ring for evermore!   Hallelujah!

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