Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!

Obviously I had a significant brain cramp when I decided late last night that the scriptural basis for Hallelujah! was my focus for today.  I did chuckle to myself that today we like to sing “scripture” praise songs – guess what, though pure classical, it is also pure scripture!

In researching some background on this masterpiece, I found this article entitled “The Real Hallelujah Chorus: A Song With A Different Message.”

Charles Jennens chose these words from the Book of Revelation. Jennens shared these with Handel. Handel was in a bad place personally and professionally. He began to read them and then tossed them aside. He went to bed but could not sleep.  Getting up he began a three-week marathon of composition (September 1741). From that came Messiah! Hallelujah! is the climax though if you ever performed this, you realize that the complete work covers the entire life of Christ.

This article and others I reviewed, points to three verses that are the textual basis of Hallelujah!

Revelation 19:6 – And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
(Sounds like a really really BIG choir and really loud!)

Revelation 19:16 – And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

Revelation 11:15 – And the seventh angel sounded; and 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.

This article also points to Revelation 17:14 also possibly being a source (though I did not find this referenced elsewhere): 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.

When you read these verses in context, you see that, while celebratory, they have a different twist than what you may think.  This is a song of praise to God because He delivered justice to the earth through the judgement of the wickedness that prevailed and slayed his servants. This will be an ongoing judgement that will be complete when God says so. Finally we are called to praise God because He is the God of Truth and because all opposition is overcome, and God’s power on earth is absolute. He is indeed, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS!”

This author makes the assumption that King George II, Handel, or the thousands who stand in the tradition begun by King George II have no idea what is behind the text of this octavo. I might agree that is true of King George II and for many who have heard it or sung it – but I have to wonder about Handel. It is sort of like what I consider the most God inspired anthem of my generation – The Majesty and Glory of  Your Name (Psalm 8). You don’t just develop something like that without “getting it.”

Tonight we celebrate Christ’s birth, mourn His death, and stand in astonishment at His resurrection and ascension into Heaven. We celebrate that He did that for us. And because He did, we know that God will prevail and overcome all opposition. We celebrate that we will spend eternity with Him. And for this reason, we sing Hallelujah!

I believe.

Still choosing joy!

Cille

Herding Cats Revisited

Carols by Candlelight 2012 - photo by Judy Rushing
Carols by Candlelight 2012 – photo by Judy Rushing

When talking about my role with the First Jackson Sanctuary Choir and particularly with Carols by Candlelight, I almost always describe what I do in terms of “herding cats.” I visited that topic in my blog last year about this time.  In a spiritual sense, I wonder if that is how Jesus feels about us?  I am certain He certainly has more patience WITH me than I do with others and certainly with myself.  Somewhere along life’s journey, I developed (inherited?) this “it has to be perfect” gene.  Steve, using Mythbusters‘ logic believes that “failure is always an option.”  I just don’t see it that way. Never have. Not likely to start now. So I expect a lot of others and a whole lot of myself. It is that important to me.

James Arrington Goff, the organist at First Jackson, editor of Our South magazine, and my friend, has graciously extended opportunities to contribute to the magazine to me and at least three others (Barbara Hamilton, Sherye Green, and Eva Hart) from the Sanctuary Choir.  I thought the first time was a fluke, but he asked me to do this fourth article (not me asking if they might be interested in a topic).  He even gave me the title: Herding Cats. He wanted me to tell the story of the first processional rehearsal we have each year and some of the history behind how the process has evolved over the years. You can read it in the issue of Our South published last week.  The entire magazine is great. (Contact oursouth@att.net for more information.)

I could write a book about Carols “behind the scenes”. This is my 33rd and the 44th overall. Trust me – there is a lot of material. I doubt I would ever take that route as it would take away from the mission and ministry goals – telling the Story of Jesus in a way that every man, woman or child can understand and believe.  If we share the Story as a muddled message, then we are not God honoring in what we are doing.

I believe because I know the hearts of the people in the trenches that their desire is the same as mine – to tell others the Story of Jesus. While many who come into the Sanctuary at First Jackson over those three days are “church members” from literally around the world, they are not all Christ Followers. The do not know Him personally. They are literally without hope. Some don’t even realize that until they find themselves in crisis – family, health, financial, whatever – and realize they have nothing – no faith – upon which to fall back.

So as we prepare to share The Hope of Christmas beginning December 13th, it is my prayer that seeds be planted, seeds planted elsewhere be nurtured, and that the preparation of the Sanctuary Choir, the children and youth, the orchestra, the production team, and countless other volunteers will be Christ focused.  This should never be, as Dr. Pollard used to say, “a nervously clocked hour of religious entertainment.” Carols should be a shared experience of worship where God, and God alone, is the Sole Object of our worship.

I have great faith that the “cats” will get it all together.  They actually did great in the first rehearsal last week. More importantly, I pray for those who need Jesus that somehow through something we say, sing or do, that they will “get it”.  I ask that you pray for them, too. Christ commanded us to “go”. Through Carols, we are doing that by taking tickets to folks to come, inviting folks to watch online or via television and being available to go  to answer questions and pray with them as their journey continues.

I know The Hope of Christmas born those many years ago so innocently in that stable is the same Hope Who  died for me and rose again after three days in that tomb.  Do you? Have you shared Him today?

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28: 19-20)

Still Choosing Joy

Cille

Name Calling With a Purpose

In my last post, Silence of Saturday, we found Mary Magdalene distressed and grieving with unseeing eyes at the Empty Tomb, and Jesus called her name! Jesus did some other name calling that I had not really considered until yesterday when Dr. Frank Page preached from this text in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 16, verses 1-8 (NIV, emphasis mine):

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”  But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”  Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.     

Dr. Page’s focus was on “leaving too soon”. Peter certainly missed out and left Jesus too soon when he denied Him that terrible evening in the courtyard of the high priest after he had denied Christ three times, just as Jesus predicted Peter would (Mark 14). Embarrassed, terrified, grief-stricken, Peter is out of the scene. My guess: at that moment when that cock crowed, Peter, burly, loud, braggart Peter, understood finally what sin really is. I also guess Peter sulked off into the night, not to lick his wounds, but to consider what he had done and what he (thought he) had lost.

At the empty tomb that Resurrection morning, Mary Magdalene was given a specific task by the angel at the tomb, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter” – Jesus knew Peter would have disassociated himself in his disobedience and denial. Jesus wanted to make sure that Peter knew he was still important to Jesus, that there was work still for Peter to do, and that Jesus expected Peter in Galilee with the disciples who remained.  Jesus called Peter’s name.

When Christ called Peter’s name, He was saying to Peter to stay with Him. As Dr. Page shared, if we stay with Him, our destiny can be rerouted for Jesus has a job for us to do, too. Our destiny can change just like Peter’s did (remember that Peter was the “rock” upon which Jesus built His church!). Even if we, too, leave Him too soon, we can come back and be changed in Him!

Do you know Jesus? He is calling your name! Have you left Jesus? Come back. He is calling your name!

 
Note: Dr. Frank S. Page is president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee and Transitional Pastor of First Baptist Church, Jackson, Mississippi.