FAITH: Proclaiming the Word of God through Music
“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.”
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.”
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:1-7 ESV
For many, including myself, one of the great producers of joy during the Advent and Christmas season is all the great music proclaiming the birth of Jesus Christ. I am not against the pop Christmas of the past 50 years or so (I especially love “White Christmas”), but at the end of the day I prefer the carols and the great classical masterpieces proclaiming the coming of the Messiah! One of those great pieces is Handles’ Messiah. If you have never heard some of the music in this magnificent musical testimony, I encourage you to listen to at least some of it this season. Especially parts using portions of the scripture mentioned above. “For Unto Us a Child is Born!”
While I was in college, I was blessed to be in a production of the “Messiah” four times. A couple of times I even had some solos. I am confident I would be able to dust off my copy of the music and join a tenor section in any choir and be able to sing every word and not as they are written. In fact, one of my Christmas dreams would be to conduct this amazing oratorio with full choir and orchestra. One of the reasons this choral work has remained relevant for 280 years is not just the amazing musical setting, but the Good News of scripture used as the text. Music is one of the greatest tools to help us not only learn a truth, but to allow truth to set itself deep within our souls.
Martin Luther said, “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through Music.”
I could not agree more!
Music can provide for humans a platform for joy and the experience of joyful emotions. Therefore, joy is so easily attained in the sound and message of the birth of Christ in Christmas specific music. The challenge is to allow the joy of Christmas to remain alive in our lives and churches even when the music is put away for another year. It is especially important this year for our lives to have joy. This joy however, cannot be simply contrived by sights, sounds, gifts and gatherings, it must be a joy founded in the hope, peace, and love made clear to the world in the birth, life, death, resurrection, and future return of Jesus Christ.
“For Unto Us a Child is Born!” This is not just a message for Christmas, it is a proclaiming God has stepped into the world and joy is available to all who will believe! That is Good News!
Rev. Brad McKenzie is Lead Pastor at Orange First Church of the Nazarene, 3810 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Orange.