I know from previous experience that the first holidays after a loved one passes are hard. So, here, only a few weeks after my dad’s death, I’ve tried to prepare myself, but really how can you?
I sing with a symphony chorus and a few days ago, we started our practices for the Christmas concert.
I’m doing okay until we get to the last piece, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.
One of my dad’s favorites.
Tears started to well, and lips started to quiver.
Then a thought came to me. What if right then up in heaven, Dad was having a conversation with George Frederick Handel himself about that piece of music? What if he was telling him what a joy the music had been to him in this life and thanking him for his faithfulness in writing it? What a happy thought.
The quivering lips turned up.
In 1741, in deep depression suffering from a series of setbacks including a stroke and the bankruptcy of his opera company, Handel was approached to write a composition for a benefit performance that would help free men from debtor’s prison. He would set to music a text written by Charles Jennens about the life of Christ. He originally anticipated it would take a year.
But according to Christianity Today, 'Handel began composing Messiah on August 22, 1741. Within six days, Part One was finished. In nine more, Part Two. Six more and Part Three was done. It took him only an additional two days to finish the orchestration. Handel composed like a man obsessed. He rarely left his room and rarely touched his meals. But in 24 days he had composed 260 pages—an immense physical feat. When he finished writing what would become known as the Hallelujah Chorus, he said, ‘I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself.’”
Handel had met opposition from the church over previous works regarding how “the words of God were being spoken in the theater!” Again, the church initially opposed him, but in the end, the composition was a success and freed many from debtor’s prison. A year later, when it was performed in London, the tradition, which we still observe today began when King George stood at the opening notes of the Hallelujah Chorus.
The same Christianity Today article quotes John Wesley who was in the audience that evening, "I doubt if that congregation was ever so serious at a sermon as they were during this performance."
It’s said of Handel’s death in 1759 that he hoped to "meet his good God, his sweet Lord and Savior, on the day of his Resurrection."
There’s a lot I don’t know about how things work in heaven. I Corinthians 13:12 says, “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”(The Message).
But even so, my plan this year when I sing or hear the Hallelujah Chorus is to remember the fine time my dad may be having meeting the composer himself. And Handel was only the conduit, the real composer is the one to really be excited about meeting face to face.
And that's God, himself.