The Story of Handel's Messiah

Lindsay Terry

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The town is Dublin, Ireland; the date is April 13, 1742; the place is Neal's Music hall. A choir rises and HALLELUJAH, HALLELUJAH, HALLELUJAH fills the auditorium. A great crowd has gathered to hear the premiere of what is destined to be the most widely known musical in the world.

The most notable guest in attendance is King George II of England. He is so moved by the exhilarating music that he springs to his feet, an action that seemed to prompt the whole audience to do the same. From that day, wherever in the world you hear the "Hallelujah Chorus," which is part of the Messiah, the audience stands.

Each year during the Christmas season millions of people are inspired and thrilled by that great oratorio, the composer of which, like no other, has captivated the music world during the holidays. Who was he?

George Frederick Handel was born in Germany on February 23, 1685. He developed his innate music talent very early in life, playing the clavier--a stringed keyboard instrument--by age seven and mastering most of the orchestral instruments before the age of nineteen.

Handel's mother, daughter of a Lutheran preacher, made sure of his early spiritual training. Although his father, a surgeon, insisted that he study law, he was able to continue his music career after his father's death, which occurred while he was still in college.

After several years of a modest career in Italy, writing and producing operas and oratorios, Handel went to England where he quickly found fame, favor, and fortune, especially among royalty and noblemen. He continued his musical experiences, becoming one of the most famous composers in the world.

In 1741, at age fifty-six, Handel began to reflect on his career. He longed to write something that would be lasting and would make people better. Following a season of prayer he began his work. After twenty-three days of near constant writing, he rose from his labor a victor. He had finished his immortal Messiah, an oratorio that has become the most widely performed musical in the world. To this day thousands of performances are heard each year during the holiday season.

In the hours just before his death he remarked, "I want to die... in the hope of rejoining the good God, my sweet Lord and Savior on the day of His resurrection."

Nearly one hundred years after the first performance of the Messiah, Lowell Mason, a Boston choir director, composer, and publisher, took a melody line from the Messiah and arranged it to fit a poem written by Isaac Watts, one of England's greatest theologians and hymn writers. Handel had known and respected Watts whose poem, based on Psalm 98, was written twenty-seven years before the Messiah. The result was one of our most popular Christmas carols, "Joy to the World."

Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.

Handel wrote in his Messiah, "And He shall reign forever and ever, HALLELUJAH! King of kings and Lord of lords, FOREVER!"

Would you like to know the joy spoken of in the carol and have the prospect of reigning with Christ forever? You can, you know! The Bible says you can. Yet, there are some very simple things you must do.

Sincerely recognize your spiritual need. The Bible says:

"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), and "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked..." (Jeremiah 17:9).

Solemnly accept that your sin must be paid for.

"The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). And "It is appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).

Gratefully acknowledge Christ's payment for your sin.

"... He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8). "The blood of Jesus His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7b). "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8b).

Joyfully accept Christ as your Lord and Savior.

"Him that cometh to Me (Jesus) I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37b). "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

If you will sincerely pray the following prayer, God will give you His free gift of salvation and joy, right now!

Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner. Thank You for dying on the cross to pay for my sins. I receive You as my Lord and Savior. Please come into my heart and make me one of Your own. Help me to live for You all the rest of my life.

If you have received Christ as your personal Savior, welcome to the family of God! Please write to the address below and let us know of your decision, and we will gladly send you free literature that will help you in your new Christian life.



2002 Good News Publishers. Used by permission.
Translated by permission of Good News Publishers
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