2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined…6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
It was a dark time in the life of composer, George Frederic Handel. He thought that his life had come to an end when he was moved to write his immortal oratorio, Messiah. Upon Handel the light of the Messiah shined.
Handel’s popularity had sharply declined and he believed that he had given his last concert. The public had lost their taste for the German immigrant’s kind of music. One London newspaper even mocked him as that “German nincompoop.” Then followed a string of bad investments that left him almost bankrupt and facing debtor’s prison. Added to that was Handel’s paralysis from two strokes and the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Handel withdrew into near seclusion and fought the crippling darkness of depression
Then, unexpectedly, and we might say, providentially, Handel received a parcel in the mail from his friend Charles Jennens. The parcel contained Bible verses that Jennens suggested Handel set to music. Handel read the Bible verses and was strangely and powerfully taken up with their message. He was so affected by the scriptures he read that he put pen to paper, and began composing at a furious pace. Often going without food and sleep Handel completed the 226 pages of Messiah in only 24 days. At one point in his composing, he burst from his study, script in hand and tears in his eyes, declaring, “I think I did see heaven before me, and the great God himself seated on the throne!”
Handel’s Messiah opened to great acclaim on April 13, 1742, in Dublin, Ireland, and has since been a treasured part of Christmas worship and celebration. Yet Handel chose to never receive a penny from productions of Messiah, but directed all receipts to charities, especially the care of homeless children and prisoners. At a performance of Messiah in London honoring his seventy-fourth birthday, a blind Handel responded to the thunderous ovation by saying, “Not from me, but from heaven, comes all.”
From heaven came the light into Handel’s dark world, and the inspiration for his great offering. Weary of life and spent, Handel was graced with a new beginning. What Isaiah had foretold of Messiah was true for George Frederic Handel, and true for any who will look to the Christ: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. For unto us a child is born…”
Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest with today’s scripture text,
Isaiah 40:3-5, and devotional.