For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)
In 1741 George Frederick Handel, the composer, was recovering from a stroke, which paralysed his right hand and blurred his eyesight. He also did not have much money. Someone handed him a libretto consisting of passages from the Bible. It was divided into three parts: (a) prophecies about the coming Messiah (largely drawing on Isaiah); (b) the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection of Christ; (c) the final times with Christ’s final victory over sin and death, largely based in the book of Revelation. He meditated on these Bible passages. He decided that he would compose an oratorio based on these Bible passages. It took him 24 days that summer to write the Messiah. It is said that when his assistant found him writing the Hallelujah chorus, Handel was in tears. He said, “I did think I saw heaven open, and saw the very face of God.”
One of the passages which inspired Handel was this verse; Isaiah 9:6. You hear these words being sung as you hear excerpts of the Messiah on the radio or on the computer this holiday season. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
I think Handel summarises the message of the Advent and Christmas season. First of all, heaven opens. The light from God shines into our darkness. The child is born. The son is given. God comes to be with us in the very person of Jesus Christ. We will see many nativity scenes featuring Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Remember, that we worship a God who humbles himself to become a human being who is a baby. God then experiences the joys and the sorrows of being a human being for 33 years. Heaven opens.
I did think I saw heaven open, and saw the very face of God. A mystery that we face as human beings is; how can we truly know God? Handel says that in his moment of inspiration writing the Hallelujah chorus, he sees the very face of God. How about us? We see the very face of God in Jesus, the Son of God. God becomes a human being. As we read the Bible for God’s guidance and as we pray to Jesus, we see the very face of God. The word “Christmas” consists of 2 words, “Christ” and “mas”, which is the short form of “the Mass” (Roman Catholic worship gathering). “Mass” is derived the Latin word missio. Our English word “mission” comes from the Latin missio. The word “Christmas” therefore means, the mission of Christ. We celebrate Christmas because God sends Jesus on a mission. What is Jesus’ mission? He comes to show us “the very face of God”. He comes to show us that God is Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.