Merry Christmas!

One of my favorite Christmas traditions has been attending a performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Kimmel Center in downtown Philadelphia. Those memories were fresh on my mind as I listened to an online presentation yesterday.

Of course it’s not the same as being there, but the music, and especially the words, were just as vivid, and just as meaningful.

Classical music may not be your cup of tea, but if you’re familiar with this piece, you know that it is an oratorio whose words are almost entirely from the King James text of the Bible. Passages largely from the Old Testament which predicted Jesus’ coming as well as His passion were adapted by Charles Jennens. (You can read more about this composition here:

The first words are from Isaiah 40:1-3:

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her,
That her warfare is accomplished,
That her iniquity is pardoned. . .
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

I was reminded (again) that the key note in the Incarnation was that the coming of Messiah was to bring comfort to God’s people, especially to those in Jerusalem. The significance of that will not be lost on any Bible student, for both Testaments bear witness to the rebellion of Israel whose capital is Jerusalem.

The point is that Jesus came to pardon our iniquities, to make a way to forgive our sins, and that should be incredibly heartwarming to us sinners. But it’s a point we easily lose track of, especially at this reflective, hectic time of the year. We are apt, on the one hand, to focus upon our failures or the challenges this year has brought, and on the other hand, to get caught up in the logistics of lost packages and loneliness and longings for the festivities of Christmas pasts.

So, whether or not your holiday traditions include a full hearing of Messiah, at least sing one “Hallelujah” for forgiveness to the God who seeks not only to cover our sins, but to comfort our spirits.

“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned–every one–to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”
Isaiah 53:6

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