Last night, Renee and I attended our local Christmas concert with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra and the PSO chorus, led by conductor Rafaele Ponti. Before a sold-out audience at our center for the performing arts, the Carson Center, we heard the 12 Days of Christmas done to various musical styles throughout the centuries and Beethoven’s ever popular “Ode to Joy.”
Before last night’s concert, you could not have told me that we had such an impressive local symphony orchestra or magnificent chorus, with over 100 voices!
For me and probably everyone else, the piece de resistance of the evening was the time-honored tradition of closing with “The Hallelujah Chorus.” But here’s a first: At the start of Handel’s signature masterpiece, everyone stood up, almost as a sign of reverence . Renee and I had never been at a presentation of the Hallelujah Chorus where the audience stood, almost out of respect for the Lord whose reign and rule is the focal point of this classical piece. It was almost like the finale at a fireworks display where they unload everything they’ve got in an explosion of color and sound lighting up the sky. I felt the same way as I listened to Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus as performed by the orchestra and choirs.
What makes Handel’s Messiah so special? Why do so many want to hear the “Hallelujah Chorus” every Christmas? Maybe it’s because of the subject matter. Handel presents Jesus as the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
In our postmodernist culture where students are taught that everything is relative and we are told that there are no absolutes, the only permanence for many young people is a tattoo. There is a yearning in our hearts for that which is enduring, lasting, and that which transcends hip-hop, Miley Cyrus and American Idol. We have been spoon fed a moral relativism that says nothing is ultimately right or wrong. It’s all left up to the individual. My truth is my truth. It’s whatever I want it to be.
But then when we hear Handel’s Messiah and his “Hallelujah Chorus” finale, we realize that the stunning crescendos and the familiar chorus are there as a reminder that there is something more, and someone who is greater than any leader or ruler here on earth.
We are confronted with the foolishness of our clever ways, called to something far greater and more noble than ourselves. We are being called to bow to Jesus, the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords.