Anticipating Advent: Moments from Handel

 

One small town
Containing more churches than banks,

A ninety year old choral society
With a Christmas tradition of singing Handel’s Messiah,

Sixty-some enthusiastic singers recruited without auditions
Through church bulletin announcements

Farmers, store clerks, machinists, students
Middle schoolers to senior citizens

Gather in an unheated church for six weeks of rehearsal
To perform one man’s great gift to sacred music.

Handel, given a libretto, commissioned to compose,
Isolated himself for 24 days, barely ate or slept

Believed himself confronted by all heaven itself
To see the face of God,

And so created overture, symphony, arias, oratorios
Soaring, interwoven themes repeating, resounding

With despair, mourning, anticipation
Renewal, redemption, restoration, triumph.

Delicate appoggiaturas and melismata
Of astounding complexity and intricacy.

A tapestry of sound and sensation unparalleled
To be shouted from the soul, wrung from the heart.

This group of rural people gathers to join voices
Honoring faith foretold, realized, proclaimed.

Ably led by a forgiving director with a sense of humor
And a nimble organist with flying feet and fingers.

The lilting sopranos with angel song,
The altos provide steadfast support,

The tenors echo plaintive prophecy
The base voices full and resonant.

A violinist paints heaven-sent refrain
In parallel duet of counterpoint melody.

The audience sits, eyes closed
As if in oft repeated familiar prayer.

The sanctuary overflows
With thankfulness:

Glory to God! For unto us a Child is born
And all the people, whether singers or listeners, will be comforted.
~Emily Gibson

with a thank you to Gerald and Tammy Rutgers!

Worthy is the Lamb

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength,
and honor, and glory, and blessing.
… Blessing and honor, and glory and power,
be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne,
and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
Revelation 5:12-13

Many of you have heard Handel’s Messiah presented live – at least parts of it.  The full work has fifty-two pieces, and takes about two and a half hours to perform.  As glorious and inspiring as it is, let me assure you (as a member of the chorus) it is also exhausting.  Yet, we come to these final words – this big finish – and we give it our all, a sacrifice of praise, because He is worthy.  He needs nothing – He is complete and perfect in Himself.  But this one thing we can give Him – our praise.
~Julie Garrett

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.
Hebrews 13:15

Lenten Observance: Comfort My People

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  – Isaiah 40:1

Heidelberg Catechism Q. and A. 1

  1. What is your only comfort in life and death?
  2. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ . . .

By now, with sixty years and more in my rearview mirror, I have watched and waited at the bedside of my father and then, ten years later, my mother as each by death passed from this life.  They had both lived well and long and were faithful followers of Christ.  Yet death for each was a battle, and those of us children present at their sides sought to comfort the dear one who was dying.  The sustained grip of hand on hand, the caress of the forehead, the moistening of dried lips and mouth with cool water, the soft yet firmly spoken words of love—we were intent to comfort:  you are dear to us, all will be well, we will be together yet again . . . . Then, as one by one they passed beyond our labor to comfort and we were left bereft and alone to witness the flash-freeze pallor of death, we sought comfort for ourselves.

Thus when God speaks comfort to his people through his prophet Isaiah, we are more than ready to identify ourselves with that people.  We have witnessed death’s hard labor, our hearts have been torn by separation from those we have loved, we carry within the purses of our own souls the wages of sin even as we await the final, fatal payday, so God knows we crave comfort.

God commands his prophet Isaiah in this verse to bring comfort. These words are presented to us not as mere wish or fond hope. They are the certain words of command, albeit as Handel draws it out in the opening recitative of The Messiah, a command steeped in lyric beauty. Ah, but is there any basis in reality for such words with their plaintive beauty?  Or is such comfort simply empty promise of a long-gone prophet? Right here is where the Incarnation is in full play.  It is in Christ, the Ancient of Days become babe who grows to manhood to embrace the cross, that God himself has delivered comfort to us and made us his very own.  On account of his mercy our wish is his command. We by faith are made his dear family, his children, his brothers and sisters—and he alone is our comfort, in life and in death.

~Dan Gibson

 

Lenten Observance 2015

Members of the Wiser Lake Chapel congregation will again be sharing their thoughts and reflections this Lenten season, using scripture taken from Handel’s Messiah.  Beginning tomorrow, on Ash Wednesday, we will each take a piece of the Messiah scripture passages to think about how the story of the prophecy of a Savior for God’s people, His incarnation, His ministry, His suffering and death and His resurrection continues to change the world and transform our hearts.

Our writers are from age 11 to age 90, some far flung in many places around the globe including Japan and Burma, all members of this church body that meets weekly to worship on the edge of Wiser Lake in Whatcom County, Washington.

Thank you for being part of this blog’s readership, and we encourage you to share it with your family, friends and neighbors.

~the Wiser Lake Chapel family~

He Shall Speak Peace

He shall speak peace to the nations.
Zechariah 9:10

When there is much discord, relentless posturing by the powerful, oppression of the people as their leaders battle–

He shall speak peace

When there are disasters on a scale beyond comprehension, suffering children and the aged and everyone in between, with ongoing uncertainty–

He shall speak peace

When there is escalating joblessness, failing businesses, mounting debt–

He shall speak peace

When we toss in our sleep, restless and anxious about tomorrow–

He brings us peace.

Darkness Covers the Earth

See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Isaiah 60:2-3

Is there anything darker than what the world witnessed in the shocked and bewildered faces of the Japanese refugees who lost everything in the tsunami?  Their homes and possessions, their livelihoods, their friends and family?  Is there anything worse than a mother describing how she lost her grip on her daughter’s hand, to watch her swept away in the waters?  Is there anything thicker than the darkness that covers these stoic people with the deep despair of fear of the unknown?

There is something darker.  Darkest of all is separation from God.
There is no loss to compare with that abyss.

As Job said in the midst of his desperation, after he too lost everything, all at once:  “I know my Redeemer lives…”
He had lost everything,  but not that certainty.

And with that certainty, there is a new dawn.

In a Little While

For thus says the LORD of hosts,
Once more in a little while,
I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.
I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations,
and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.
Haggai 2:6-7

The devastating earthquake in Japan almost a year ago could have been anywhere on the earth–and it has been at one time or another over many millenia.  We happen to live on uneasy soil.  Previously the devastation has been in Chile, Haiti, Sumatra, Philippines.   It could have been right here in the earthquake prone and long overdue Pacific Northwest. We tread carefully, wondering if with the next step, the earth will rise to meet our feet, alive and seething.

There are many interpretations about what this might mean.  Some imply it is judgment.  Some dismiss it as simple relief of seismic pressure, building since the last major earthquake in the area in 869 A.D.

The Lord controls what happens “once more, in a little while.”  It is a reminder we are only along for the ride;  we don’t do the steering, and we’re not in control of the itinerary or the timing of the destination.  We are shaken awake, not out of judgment (which has already convicted us all), but with the shattering realization that our rescue is at hand.

We must reach out and hang on tight, once more, in a little while.