Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Good-bye, Away in a Manger and the Hallelujah Chorus (the latter at least at Christmas)

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Brian Gorman (yes, he’s related) has a fine post about some of the church’s theologically poor and misleading Christmas music, above all “Away in a Manger” (sorry, kids) here.

I will add my two-cents about the Hallelujah Chorus, which seems to be gaining in popularity, at least in shopping malls. While there’s lots to sing about and shout Hallelujah about at Christmas, Handel’s “Christmas Part” (part I) of his oratorio Messiah does not end with the Hallelujah Chorus. Handel and his collaborator Charles Jennens knew better. The Hallelujah Chorus, derived from Revelation 19:6,16 and 11:15, concludes part 2 of Messiah‘s three parts. It celebrates the victory and reign of God/the Lamb, the defeat of evil and emperor, the reality that God alone is and always will be Lord, and the fact that we know this God in the self-revelation of the Lamb who was slain and who triumphs, by his word, over all God’s enemies.

Can we sing that in Advent and at Christmas? Of course. Jesus’ birth demonstrates and foreshadows some of those Revelation themes. But I doubt most people sing it for that reason (actually, I’m not sure why hey sing it, apart from the one word “Hallelujah”), and I doubt, liturgically, narratively, and theologically that now is the best time to sing it. The end of part two of Messiah celebrates the Lordship of God, over against all false claimants to the throne of the universe, that is manifested in the victory of cross, resurrection, and ascension.

Let’s wait a few months to sing Hallelujah.


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