The lights dim, the audience quiets. The notes of the overture begin. As the symphonic introduction winds down, anticipation builds. Soon the words to the first recitation are sung: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people. Speak kindly and cry out that her warfare is ended, that her sin is pardoned.”
For the past 269 years listeners have thrilled to the music of Handel’s Messiah. Its initially modest reception has grown over the years, until now it is one of the best-known and most frequently heard compositions in the world. Originally performed at Easter, it has become a staple of the Christmas season.
Its message of comfort, redemption, and rejoicing are universal. I don’t know anyone who does not need comfort and encouragement. And as we contemplate the many problems that face us—financially and otherwise—its three-part structure of prophecy, passion, and promise seems to speak as clearly as the words themselves: there is hope; don’t despair; trials and weeping give way to rejoicing. The gentle melody of “Comfort ye” moves to the bright ebullience of the Halleluiah Chorus and closes with the ornate counterpoint of the “Amen.”
This holiday season, it seems especially poignant: military conflicts continue; people face tremendous economic uncertainty; demonstrations for political and financial freedom are everywhere. The daily news is dominated by daunting challenges and flashpoint events. Messiah speaks “Comfort, comfort.”
The music calls to our hearts as well as our heads. The message of hope is timeless.
[display_podcast] A Hopeful Story