These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. Revelation 17:14
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. “
There were great voices in heaven, saying,
“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord,
and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
We hear various portions of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah all year round, usually in a non-religious context, like a commercial or cartoon, using this beautiful work to celebrate something other than the everlasting kingdom of the Lord. Handel would be shocked at how mundane the word “Hallelujah” has become largely because of the popularity of his work. It has become the staple of flash mob venues at Christmas, in food courts, train stations and malls, simply because it is so well known.
But it is not at all well understood. This is far from a paean to Christmas, and is not meant to represent the “heavenly host” praising Jesus’ birth. It actually is a celebration of the Messiah conquering death itself. This is a battle cry about the defeat of evil, not at all a lullaby to a new born baby.
And so it should be the rallying cry for the faithful. It should be sung from the rafters of department stores and gymnasiums and the greatest cathedrals. It is a marvelous song to sing at full tilt, each part intersecting and playing with the voices of the other parts. It cannot be sung without a smile, a shiver down the spine and quickening of the pulse. Even if the tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus was started because King George II needed to stand up to stretch his legs after the lengthy first two sections of the libretto, it is worthy ever after of our standing attention.
So too should we attend to the story of Handel’s creation of his Messiah in a mere 24 days. He was depressed, destitute and desperate for the work. When he finished writing “Hallelujah Chorus”, his assistant, who had tried shouting to rouse Handel from the room where he had sequestered himself, walked in to find Handel in tears. When asked what was the matter, Handel held up the score to “Hallelujah” and said “I thought I saw the face of God.”
When we hear these words, read them and sing them, so do we.
Forever and ever.