The 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…For 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.
I love the poster that says, “Just when the caterpillar thought its world had ended, it became a butterfly.” True to those words, I have seen again and again how God gives His people new beginnings.
The composer George Frederic Handel thought his life had comes to an end when he was moved to write his immortal oratorio, Messiah. Handel’s popularity had waned until he believed that he had given his last concert. The public had lost any taste for his kind of music, and one London newspaper dismissed him as “the German nincompoop”. A string of bad investments had left him penniless and facing debtors’ prison. Added to all this was his partial paralysis from two strokes and the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Handel retreated to near seclusion as he battled the darkness of depression.
Then, unexpectedly, Handel received a parcel in the mail from his friend Charles Jennens. The parcel contained Bible passages that Jennens wanted Handel to set to music. As Handel read the Bible passages he was taken with the words before him. He was so moved, in fact, that he put pen to paper and began composing music at a furious pace. Often going without food and sleep, he completed the 226 pages of Messiah in just 24 days! At one point in his composing, he burst from his study with tears in his eyes and script in hand, declaring, “I think I did see heaven before me, and the great God himself seated on his throne”.
Handel’s Messiah opened to great acclaim on April 13, 1742, in Dublin, Ireland, and has ever since been a treasured part of Christmas celebration. Yet Handel chose never to receive a penny from Messiah, but instead directed all receipts to charities, especially the care of homeless children and prisoners. At a Messiah performance in London honoring his seventy-fourth birthday, a blind Handel responded to the thunderous applause by saying, “Not from me, but from Heaven, comes all.”
It was from Heaven that Handel’s light and inspiration came for his darkest days. Just when he feared his life was over God gave him new beginnings. What Isaiah had foretold of Messiah’s coming was personally true for Handel, and is true for any who will look to the light of the Christ: “They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
Let His light shine!
Photo by Martin Bleek