The Messiah

Yesterday my friend, E, invited my friend K and I to go with her to hear The Messiah which was being performed at the catholic church in Alamosa by the Valley Community Chorus and the San Luis Valley Symphony.

Remember. The “community” is as large as Connecticut and has fewer than 50,000 people in it.

The sanctuary was PACKED. We were a little late because of me. I had some problems with the dogs while I was getting “gussied up” (elegance? not quite) and ultimately forgot to close the back door and we had to turn around, but we still got seats.

The first singer was a young man with an amazing tenor voice.

I listened to the music and its story and thought of Jesus.

I think a lot about Jesus. People’s belief in Jesus is about all I write about. And, it’s a big thing for people. When I bought my new table, the very nice people from whom I bought it asked me about my church. It’s a normal thing here. I am also OK telling the truth which is that I’m good with God, I don’t want to join a team.

Some atheist friends of mine in San Diego who were using a Christ based curriculum to homeschool their kids got around it by calling it the “Jesus story.” I think it’s a lot more than that. I think it’s a very important story beyond the boundaries of any organized religion. It’s humanity’s story. I was conscious of it again listening to the Messiah.

This little baby is born — a birth that is miraculous because we can’t have an ordinary birth or an ordinary baby if we’re going to make this an important story.

In The Messiah (and in the Christmas story) my favorite part is where the angels appear to the terrified shepherds and say, “Be not afraid…”

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2

Compassion, in the sky.

When they got to “…peace, good will toward men” I wanted to cry.  I saw the whole thing.  Thousands of generations people at war with someone, mothers and fathers mourning the deaths of their children, cultures destroyed. I saw acrimony and anger everywhere FOREVER. Me in an argument on Facebook about whether my “remote” valley “deserves” tax money from the good people of Denver to keep operating our tiny, rural, life-saving airport.

And all the while, people are yearning for peace, including me, but I also want to punch the guy’s face in for not getting it.

Why is it so hard? Jesus — and others — have laid it out very clearly. “Love God and love your neighbor.” It’s totally possible to do those two things whether God’s name is Yaweh or Lamont. It doesn’t matter. And if there IS no God, you can still love your neighbor.

And I thought — not for the first time — “Poor Jesus.”

The story spun itself out climaxing in Jesus resurrection in the “Hallelujah Chorus” for which everyone stood and some sang along. It was a beautiful moment observing the people who live in ‘my” valley.

26 thoughts on “The Messiah

  1. I grew up with Handel in a way. The Creation and The Messiah were part of the music class and we sang it at school. I attended a performance of The Messiah in London in the royask -festival Hall. Everyone stands when they sing The Hallelujah Choras, it is custom. My No. 2 son was discovered to have a good voice and sang in the boys cathedral choir in our town of Solothurn. I attended the performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio many years when my son was still singing in the choir. I also practiced with him at home: me playing the piano and him singing along. That is a great Oratorio and we still like to listen to it today. Jesus means nothing to me, a story, but I appreciate good music when I hear it.

    • Wow. I cannot imagine being able to sing any of that music. ❤ Jesus means something to me, and I can totally see the ideas he is reputed to have shared as being salvation, but religion? I'm Conrad in The Brothers Path. "Believe what you want but leave me alone to raise my horses, protect my heritage. I'll try to be a good person. I think that's all that's in my power."

  2. I feel a certain kinship with you, as I, too, have lived in an area where people find it absolutely necessary to dissect your relationship with God and assure that it is the same as their own. I live in the Bible Belt of the Southeast, particularly Northern Georgia (think, Deep South). Just as you, I feel that my spirituality is less like an anchor tying me to a particular sect, and more a set of dewy, billowing leaves, picked up by the winds of God and taken wherever I may need to go. Despite my identification as a Christian, I’ve never been able to reconcile the guidelines with my own idea of what spirituality and a relationship with God is and should be.

    I enjoyed the excerpt that you chose and your take on it. It is, indeed, quite simple, isn’t it? We all want peace, happiness, health – a simple concept made complicated both by uncontrollable circumstance and the nature of man. I’ve a three and a half month old baby and was in the hospital for approximately four weeks before I had him. For the sake of brevity and not getting too personal, I will only say this about it: peace of mind and spirit for all became more of a priority than ever it had for me after my experience. That’s not to say that it wasn’t a priority before, I just gained new perspective and have been able to shed the dust of trivial nuances from my brain. There is no denying, during my time in the hospital, I prayed voraciously and have done so since. I’ve a new trust and a new bond with God, as I am sure that He pulled my son and I through and blessed me with doctors and other professionals of great ability.

    Thank you for the read! Best and Blessings! xoxo

    • Thank you for reading my post. ❤

      One of my favorite and most consoling Bible verses when peace of mind and spirit is far away, "Therefore do not ye be busy into the morrow, for the morrow shall be busy to itself; for it sufficeth to the day his own malice." I like the Wycliff version because of the word "malice" — sometimes it feels like malice. It's been a good friend to me in dark times. 🙂

      I just don't know about religion — all that is a mystery and I'm OK with doubt. I think religion provides fellowship for those who want it. I had really bad experiences in church as a young person. I was thrown out of Sunday school for suggesting maybe evolution was right. I was thrown out of my youth group for some other things. I couldn't reconcile the idea of an Infinite God with what the narrowness of church doctrine. I dunno. I can't really explain it, but a little voice inside says, "No. Just take a hike or something."

      I'm so happy that you pulled through and your little guy is there with you! ❤

      • Thank you, Martha! He was certainly worth the trouble!

        I’m sorry to hear of your experiences, but I understand. The infinity of God is impossible for the human mind to conceive and I believe that is why man has always attempted to box it up.

        As a biology major, I’ve had my share of conversations on religion and science. I don’t believe the two to be mutually exclusive!

        • I don’t believe religion and science are mutually exclusive either since — Wow! — they exist in the same world (who’d’a thought?) they are obviously not. 😀

  3. I do not get the mindset of people who claim to love Jesus yet live a life that is the exact opposite of his worldview. I don’t think there is an answer for us. There is something going on in their heads that is just wrong. Backwards. Probably, it is better if I do not see it.

  4. Knowing and claiming to love Jesus means there is a god as well. They ignore one or both in order to carry on as usual so they aren’t held responsible for their actions and can do as they please. I’m not a church-goer. I believe in God and that the bible is his written word complete with the flaws as recorded by writers who didn’t let kings off with bad behaviour but recounted it. Just my take.

    • I don’t really care what anyone believes. And, I’m not judging people whose behavior (apparently) contradict the Bible. The Bible contradicts itself. I haven’t done much but study Scripture and the evolution of the major Christian religions for the past 20 years. Where that’s left me? No clue. I think people have to muddle through these questions on their own. It’s when they DON’T do that, don’t take that responsibility, there is a problem. Even then, it’s not my business. I have a hard enough time with myself. 🙂

      • roflmao what you say is definitely true. The only time I take exception and will yell loud and long are when those who proport to believe the bible and ESPECIALLY those in leadership of any religion flout the bible and carry on with activities that are completely WRONG whether you believe in it or not, morals tell you what is wrong, and do it anyway, abusing children the HIGHEST on my list of screams and rants and abusing women treating them as chattle or abusing men who are for whatever reason not considered high on the food chain as inferior and using positions of authority to do so. Those are the instances that make me crazy. Otherwise, it’s live and let live, because one day, the rest will find out and receive the consequences of their actions. By whom or when, I wouldn’t know or care to speculate but it will come.

  5. LOVE this post and especially love your open honesty and your response: I’m good with God, I don’t want to join a team. Exactly. Your reflections on your experience of The Messiah hit home. That work always makes me thoughtful and teary and wondrous. Thanks for the reminder. I need to find my way to a performance in my community. (oh, and the dogs always make me late, too)

  6. I can hear Linus reciting Luke in the Charlie Brown Christmas. Hearing that gives me goosebumps every time. I like to think I am good with God, but raised Catholic, for some reason, always keeps you on your guard. I like to think I can shake it, but I just don’t know. Maybe that’s what people mean when they talk about ‘the fear of God.’ I don’t know, Martha….

    • I don’t know about that “fear of God” thing. I guess it’s tied to hell and the idea we’re God’s intractable children. It was a good way to keep the church rich and the people meek. I’ve seen hell and you don’t even have to be a bad person to go there. You just have to be like my brother and unable to resist temptation and after a while you BECOME the thing you should have walked away from. Or you fall into deep, dark depression and can’t find God or light or anything that belongs to you anywhere. I don’t know if there is hell for evil people but they are certainly hell for others. For me God is my mountains, my valley, the kindness of my friends, a smile returned by a stranger, Dusty’s head on my knee, you wanting to read the hiking book, the opportunities I’ve had to love people — I don’t know. It’s nothing extraordinary, no big judge with a book or anything. I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s no fear there.

      • What you say makes sense to me. I started questioning why we had to go to His house to worship There is an entire world out there that says God, and that is where my joy and my faith lie. That is my comfort and in my heart, I want to believe that is good and that is God.

        • Yeah, I never understood that either. I get that maybe a long time ago, like in the Middle Ages, nature was really hard on people and a cathedral was a miraculous thing for them as it was filled with objects and paintings that must have been like Heaven, but now? I honestly love nature so much that I tell it so, in words. As far as I can tell, it just listens. 🙂

  7. I believe that Jesus lived – the personification of ‘goodness’, ‘living in the light’, human potential or however you choose to see it. And also that ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio/ than are dreamt of in your philosophy’ -call it ‘god’, ‘the universe’ or whatever. But organised religion? To my mind, any worth it might have had has been lost in a mire of bigotry and intolerance.
    Handel’s ‘Messiah’ has been part of my life for as long as I remember. There is inspiration there.

  8. We sang “The Messiah” in high school, too. I was an alto, which is like being the cheese part of a ham & cheese on rye … that is to say you “add to the flavor” of the music, but you never sing any part of the melody. Every time I hear the Messiah, I drone along (alto music really sounds like droning).

    I don’t know how Christianity can be a dominant religion on this planet yet have such a massive group of adherents who don’t get any part of it.

    • I don’t think many Christians know anything about their religion. I don’t think they read the Bible except what their cult leader tells them to and then they listen to the interpretations of the cult leader. I have spent the last 20 years studying Christianity and I was raised a Christian, and it’s clear to me that any dominant religion is open the abuses of power. It’s been warped in this way and that since the beginning, but the story as a symbolic telling of human struggle is true and very beautiful, but I don’t think it has anything to do with “Christianity” as we encounter it in the ugliest forms, if that makes sense. To me it’s a story of humanity trying again to get things right. I think it’s pretty profound.

      Most of the Christians I’ve encountered in my life don’t even know the close ties between Islam and Christianity. they can’t fathom the possibility that “Allah” is “God” in another language. Blows me away. Even so, around me are truly Christian Christians, but you don’t have to be Christian for that. I’m not a Christian. I’m a panentheist, maybe a kind of Hindu, but I don’t want to put a label on me at all or a name on God because I honestly don’t know. To me that is the essence of religious mysticism, the willingness to live with the mystery and to enjoy the discoveries of science. I’m really happy that where I live I’m accepted for the person I am. I haven’t once been preached to or anything like that, even though, “What church do you go to?” is one of the earliest questions I encounter when meeting someone new.

      • Greetings! I love your post on Messiah and your succinct summary of why it touches a wider audience: “the story as a symbolic telling of human struggle is true and very beautiful….” FYI, I’m a retired minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA) who hasn’t been a biblical literalist since I fell in the neighbor’s fish pond to test whether a person of faith could walk on water. My mother rescued me five year old faith. “Gordon Campbell Stewart,” she said, as I appeared in the kitchen covered with mud and leaves, “what in the world happened to you?” When I told her that our vacation Bible School teacher had told us about Peter walking on the water because he had faith and sinking like a stone when he lost it, my mother rose to the occasion. “Yes, dear, but Jesus didn’t tell you to walk on the water.”

        Like the Luke story “Messiah” brings to life, sacred texts of whatever tradition are meant to be read more often than not “as symbolic tellings of human struggle” in the the midst of our experience of the Divine which we experience as “Mysterium tremendum et fascinans” (Rudolf Otto).

        Thank you for a lovely morning of reflection on the deeper beauty.

        • Thank you for reading! Yeah, I have way too many thoughts on this stuff 🙂 Back when I was teaching international students, I made a rule, “Don’t talk about religion,” because there were Saudis, Italians, Swedes, etc. and the point was English not arguing the essential nature of God. One term I had a class that had a hard time with it (Saudis will talk about God all the time) and on the last day, we said our goodbyes and we all left. I was in a hurry to get to the ATM machine on campus. One of my Saudi students followed me, “Teaher! Teacher! Wait!” I stopped. He said, “I have to know how things are between you and God.” He was worried about my soul. I felt so loved at that moment. I said, “God and I are fine. I like Him and He likes me.” The student was visibly relieved. I didn’t have to be anything. I just had to like God. I still love that memory. ❤

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