One of the odd results of the COVID lockdown is that I now attend two Bible studies each week. I started going to the Tuesday at 9 a.m. group shortly after I retired over a year ago.
It used to be that I couldn’t attend the Thursday at 7 a.m. group because I had to make sure my daughter got off to school in the morning. But now that she’s attending classes remotely, and the groups are doing the same, I can do both. The Tuesday group reads the chapters from the Old and New Testaments straight through. We’re reading Numbers and (again) Matthew.
The Thursday group reads from something called the lectionary. Basically, in Christianity, it’s a list of Scripture lessons to be read on particular days of the year. The Old Testament reading for December 6 is the book of Isaiah, chapter 40, the first 11 verses. It is an exceedingly familiar text.
The first three verses [except the bracketed part] is the text for No. 2 of the Handel Messiah, Comfort ye my people, tenor recit.
1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: [for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.]
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
No. 3, Every valley shall be exalted, tenor air
4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
No. 4, And the glory of the Lord, chorus
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
No. 9, O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion, alto air and chorus
9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
No. 20, He shall feed his flock like a shepherd, alto air
11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
These are all presented here by the Sixteen Harry Christophers.
Compare the above with the version of Comfort Ye My People by Vanessa Bell Armstrong and Daryl Coley. Then check out Every Valley Shall Be Exalted by Lizz Lee and Chris Willis (with Mike E.) They are from Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration.