I was a romantic this Christmas and took Deb to the Houston Symphony’s performance of Handel’s Messiah. As you might imagine Deb was thrilled with the evening and I have to say that I was quite impressed myself. Like many people I had heard parts of Messiah before. One of the most famous movements of the work is the Hallelujah Chorus which draws the audience to their feet like the coronation of British royalty. I wasn’t aware of the unofficial rise of the audience beforehand, but quickly connected it to a respect for Christ the King.
I also didn’t know before the performance that Handel had crafted the entire symphonic work around direct quotations from scripture. That’s it. Every word sung by the soloists and chorus were direct quotes from either the Old or New Testament recounting the life, mission, and glory of Christ. I have some music appreciation and background myself (no; I’m not as barbaric as I might seem at times) so I was able to appreciate the talent and time investment of every piece of the performance from the strings to the soloists and combined vocal chorus to the few brass and wind instruments as they combined into a profound musical and maybe even spiritual experience. It was indeed a great evening. Not to mention I got to sit next to the hottest lady in the building.
It was interesting on a side note to hear the president of the symphony board plead the case for yearend tax deductible gifts to the foundation at the outset of the evening. I found that noteworthy and somewhat funny as I have some atheist friends who complain about tax exempt statues for Churches yet would have no problem with such gifts and deductions going to a symphony or opera. Even with those charitable gifts, one still has to pay to get into one of those performances while attending a church service is free to everyone. But I suppose I digress on that one.
In all Deb loved the evening and my gift was a success. For me though one of the most fascinating parts of the performance was simply watching the conductor, Nicholas McGegan. I had never seen anything like him. He was electric and I’m sure it was evident all the way up to the most nose bleed seats in the balcony. He smiled almost the whole time like a child let loose in an amusement park. His rhythmic conducting was way beyond an elementary metronomic 4 beat dictation. He passionately moved with the feel of the music from beginning to end as though he were one with the fabric of the masterpiece himself. He and the symphony were all alive together.
I don’t know if this man is a follower of Christ or not, but his connection in the musical drama appeared to be more of a worship experience than a mere job to earn a buck. Though a refined buck it may have been. The feel is that he was doing just that; he was worshiping God with his talent as a musician, conductor, and we just might even say; a visionary. He saw the glory of God in music and responded with worship.
As I continually found myself drawn to this man I sensed that his attitude toward the ancient work of Handel really pictured how all Christ followers should respond to life. It all reminded me of a quote attributed to St. Irenaeus of the second century: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” The point of Irenaeus was not one of modern self-actualization, but God actualization. When we realize who God is and what he’s done for us and in us we are free and called to live out radical lives in which God is truly glorified. In the words of Jesus, “I have come that they might have life and have it to the fullest.” When we realize who we are in Christ that is exactly what happens. We can experience life beyond biology. We can see life as it was meant to be.
That’s why Jesus came 2000 years ago. He came not only to redeem us from our sin, but to re-create us as God intended us to be all along. He created us for life. So as we launch out today into 2014, prayerfully consider who God is, who He created us to be, and how we can show his glory and the Kingdom of Heaven in the here and now.
Have a Happy and Lively New Year! For the Symphony and History lovers, check out Nicholas McGegan on Handel’s Messiah.