Hallelujah Chorus

December 10th, 2013
flickr | by brownpau

We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. —Romans 8:28

Imagine having lost fame. It happens all the time. Each year, actors, singers, athletes, and even business people who once were on top of the world slip into obscurity. After years of having everyone knowing their names and treating them as if they were royalty, they find themselves having very little value. In our modern world, there is a term for this. It is called “when your fifteen minutes of fame are up.” But the phenomenon of the "one-hit wonder" didn’t begin in the information age. Fame and fortune have always been fleeting.

German-born George Handel worked his way up from obscurity to being the toast of London. The talented composer specialized in oratorios. These dramatic musical presentations of biblical stories became the most popular music of the early 1700s, with royalty and commoners alike waiting breathlessly to hear each one Handel produced. But musical tastes change, and songwriters who don’t change with them usually are dismissed as quickly as they were discovered. Less than a decade after having been on the Buckingham Palace guest list, Handel was a debtridden pauper living alone and afraid in a tiny shack on the wrong side of town. He prayed nightly his creditors would not find him and toss him in debtors’ prison.

In August 1742, a letter arrived written by a man many deemed crazy. Yet as Charles Jennens was one of the few friends Handel had left in the world, he carefully opened the envelope and read Jennens’s suggestion for a new oratorio. Over the course of the next three weeks, the composer wrote a musical that he was sure would never find an audience. He’d just finished it when another friend asked Handel to help with a charity concert raising money for a hospital serving the poorest of the poor. Handel took his new music with him and presented it at that concert for the very first time. Handel’s Messiah initially raised a huge sum of money for the charity and then revived the popularity of the oratorio style of music and the composer who wrote them better than anyone. Handel was once again on top of the world.

There is a great lesson in the story behind this incredible piece of music. That lesson goes beyond the fragility of worldly fame. It involves God using people whom others have written off as having no value. Handel was one of these. Supposedly his day was past. Then there was Charles Jennens, a man everyone thought was, at the least, eccentric and, at the most, insane. God was able to use Jennens to rescue Handel. And then Handel was able to employ the idea Jennens gave him to create a musical piece that generated gifts for a charity that served people just like him. Since that time, Messiah has raised more money for “the least of these” than any other music ever written.

No person is so insignificant that he or she can’t be used by God. No person is too old, sick, or frail to make an impact. And just as the Lord remembered Handel, He will remember you in your greatest time of need. Don’t give up on the people the world dismisses, and don’t give up on the Lord.

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