Right before Christmas, I went with a group to see Handel’s Messiah at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. I went tired—a Friday night after a week of trying to get my personal, vocational, and Christmas act together during the previous week. Then there was an overpriced uber ride because the guy seemed to be taking all the long-cuts. Plus, I was now sitting on the end of our group’s row. When I go with a group somewhere, I feel most snuggly sitting in the middle third somewhere. End equals outlier equals bad feeling. But there I was; I had paid for my ticket, and this was a Christmassy thing to do.
As the choir and orchestra came out, I found myself looking at the variations of black and white in which they were clad. One woman in a tux-like thing; no men in dresses as far as I could tell. That sounds cynical, but I think that’s how my tired self defaults. And then, they began.
Comfort ye, Comfort ye My people, saith your God… They instantly had me! I needed comfort, and I was going to listen. It was as if the whole three hours of music flowed out to remind me of—literally, to remake my mind with—reality. Of course there were the classic melodies and lines—and the glory the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together (and there was a lot of flesh in that crowded concert hall)—but what struck me most were lines I’d never paid attention to.
He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. The powerful, National Symphony Orchestra was playing and the singers were singing about hairs plucked off cheeks. Amazement at a our God who attends so closely—even to the detail of hairs on cheeks—and offers himself, at such a pointedly, painfully granular level, that we might know him, grabbed me and shook me. And later as I heard Why do the nations so furiously rage together, and why do the people imagine a vain thing? I found myself, saying, “Yes, why?!” Handle doesn’t directly answer the questions of why ISIS is doing what it’s doing (or any of the myriad of other tough ones) but all the evil referenced in Part II of this work is answered with the most famous words of all, Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth. Evil will be fully conquered. As I watched all but perhaps 10 of the 2400 people in that hall stand in honor of those words, I realized that this was just a glimpse of where the whole big story is actually headed: towards the unmitigated honor of the Lord God who reigns.
Perhaps, though, it was in Part 3—a part I’ve never paid that much attention to—that I found encouragement, heart comfort, pouring into me. The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. I sat there recognizing that this isn’t yet fully true. But I also knew once again, deep in my knower that this is coming.
Overpriced uber rides, lonely feelings, long weeks are not the final story. For now is Christ raised from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep. Really, all things being made fully right is just a matter of time. The music was like a powerful infusion of this hope-filled picture deep into my bones: Blessings and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen.
So from deep down inside of me I jumped up with 2400 other people, and I clapped. I clapped. I clapped. And I clapped. Over and over and over again.