Good News, Great Joy...for All People

10:18 AMHeather

She sat at the kitchen table, thumbing through the little booklet she had made of "Family Christmas activities."  A lot like me, my daughter likes to plan things.  My mother-in-law had flown in for less than 24 hours in order to attend my son's Christmas choir concert last night.  Caris was trying to find a fun thing to do with her while I finished cooking supper.  

"Oh, look, Mom!  We're doing this tonight!  We're attending a Christmas concert."

Indeed we did.  After a long wait in uncomfortable pews, the concert began.  My son's jazz and then acapella choirs were the last to perform.  I was impressed with them, proud of their hard work. Pleased with my son's enthusiasm about working so hard for the choir teacher he loves.  It was worth the wait to hear the songs that he's been singing under his breath for months.

And then.  Came the final selection.  

The Hallelujah Chorus.  

I just can't even describe how I felt watching these incredible middle school kids and hearing them sing such a powerful and amazing song.

Goosebumps doesn't begin to describe it.

I'm not even sure that I can articulate it.

These preteens and teenagers singing like angels inside a beautiful church to a standing crowd.  A song first written in 1741.  First performed in 1742 in Dublin and then premiering in London in 1743.  Being sung in 2014.  It felt profound to me to stand and listen to this song that has been sung for hundreds of years.  Listening to it being performed so well by young people who have spent countless hours perfecting their version.  As I listened to the words, I imagined the thousands who have sung and heard it over the centuries.  

And I must admit that I teared up as they sung, "and He shall reign forever and ever...and He shall reign forever and ever...Hallelujah...hallelujah."

Forever and ever.

It humbled me to think of the tiny dot we are.  A crowd of hundreds.  Listening to a song written 273 years ago.  About a reign that will never end.  Forever and ever.  It occurred to me what a blip on the radar I am.  How tiny in the grand scheme of world history...and eternity.

I haven't been able to get it out of my mind.  

In the thousands of years of the history of mankind, who am I?  In the eternal reign of an Almighty God, who am I?  

Yet, this song speaks to each of us about our place, our role in this world, in this time, for this moment. It speaks to the miracle of Christmas.  To the sacred role that each of us play in the nativity. To our place in that scene...and the eternal reign of God himself.

The Hallelujah Chorus from George Frideric Handel's Messiah was written to reflect the promises of God to the prophets Isaiah.  That was some 700 years before the angels offered the most glorious birth announcement of all time to the shepherds, as described in the gospel of Luke.  Messiah's second and third parts cover Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension, as well as his redemption and final victory over sin and death.

How fitting during this Advent season, as I reflect on Christmas carols, that this piece of music becomes a place to pause.

Because the Hallelujah Chorus is all about us.  As was the coming of God through his son Jesus.  

To consider that as the world was set in motion and sin entered the world, God had a plan.  God, unbound by time or place, could see the entire story.  From beginning to end.  And every player in that story.  Every person.  Every heart.  Every soul.  Down to every hair on our head.  The God, who created the universe and carved out the oceans and the mountains and the valleys, is well aware of the details of our lives.

And while we may feel so small in this world, in this time, in this place in history, we couldn't be more important to God.  We couldn't be more beloved and cherished and honored.  Because even as the music swells throughout the decades of the world's story, God has engraved our names on his palms (Isaiah 49:16). Even as we consider the scope of all human history, God calls us redeemed (Psalm 77:15) and HIS.  He calls us his own.

In the expanse of all mankind, God sees us.  He goes before and behind us, and we can never hide from him.  He even says that every day of our lives were written in his book before one came to be (Psalm 139).

The Creator of the Universe and the One who sustains it all invites us to remember this.

When he spoke to Isaiah, revealing his grand story and the climatic hope for every man, woman and child...he was thinking of you.  In the 700 years between the prophecy and the coming, God was orchestrating every step for our good...for our redemption.  

Just consider this proclamation from Luke 2:10-12:

 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

That is a proclamation to YOU.  Good news.  Of great joy.  For ALL people.  Not just the Israelites of the Old Testament or the Jews of the New Testament.  Not just for those peoples in that time.  But for all people throughout all of history. 

A Messiah.  The Lord.

You are there, in that shepherd's field.  You are the one going about your business...the one whom God wishes to show up and interrupt and whose future he longs to change because He has made a way.  He invites each of us to hear that announcement anew and fresh.  Considering what it means to each of us.  

That the Almighty God parts the veil of heaven to reach into our broken world, our mess, our dark night to say this to say this to our say this to our say this to our say this for our future.

I bring YOU good news.  Of GREAT joy.  That is for every single one of us ever born throughout all of the world's history.

I have made a way.  I have paid the price.  I have a plan to fix all that is wrong.  I have sent a Savior.  A Messiah.  A Redeemer.

And your striving can cease.

Your need to earn a way out is over.

Your need to follow the law is null and void.

Because I invite you to come and see.

A babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.  

And lying in a manger.

The Son of Heaven.  Come to earth.  The one I've promised for generations.  The one who came for all generations.  To save us all. To demonstrate God's love and grace.  The one who came to die.


And not just for now.  Not just for this generation.  But for all of the world's history.  For every single person.  Ever.

And he shall reign forever and ever.

His kingdom will have no end.

King of kings.  Lord of lords.

King over it all.  Lord over every concern we have.  The one who came to make us co-heirs with him.

He broke through the separation between a sinful man and a Holy God in order to make a way.

He is indeed the light in every darkness.  The answer for every dilemma.  And no matter how things look today, we must make no mistake.

The story has a never-ending happy ending, as my pastor often says.  Jesus came as a baby and brought the light of hope into our darkest days.  He invites us to share in his good news and to claim the angel's announcement as a declaration over our very own lives.

And all of it...every detail of every life in all of the history of the world leads to one glorious conclusion.

He shall reign forever and ever and ever, hallelujah.  Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

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