Isaiah 40: Handel Messiah

Every valley shall be exalted

HandelOne 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.

Part 1

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</em> 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.

Christmas: the waiting is over

The Dream Isaiah Saw

The Christmas waiting is over. Now you can open those presents. Grumpy Uncle Harry will be going home soon.

Understand that some folks don’t have any presents. There was a nice story in PostSecret recently. An overworked, injured waitress/mom wrote: “I wish Santa Claus was real, so on Christmas, no child would have to go without, and no parent would have to feel like they failed their child.” The bottom line: some folks sent money to a PayPal account.

“Santa Claus is real, and alive and well,” she wrote. “I’m overwhelmed by the love and generosity strangers have shown my family today… I’ve got what I need, so please remove my PayPal account from PostSecret, and I urge anyone who wants to help someone in need to get in touch with their local charities.”

Interestingly, our pastors have shown us in a series of sermons What Can’t Wait, such as repentance. The term, in some traditions, has meant literally turning one’s body in a new direction. Repentance can be rooted in Christian theology, of course. Still, the idea of turning away from things that aren’t working can be a powerful thing. Is that why people come up with New Years’ resolutions at this time of year?

I’m utterly fascinated by the decidedly mixed reaction to the Methodist church’s nativity scene depicts Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as separated and caged family. Like much of good art, it’s designed to make one think.

Music in December

The first three I’ve sung this month.

E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come by Paul Manz, which we do almost every Advent. My sister Leslie posted this version on Facebook.

The Dream Isaiah Saw, which is rooted in this familiar scripture:

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.

The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.

They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

Gloria – John Rutter.

I didn’t sing Handel this year, but I have a half dozen times in the past: Handel Messiah (Christmas Portion) – Robert Shaw and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus.