Charles Jennens is a little known name for most people, but you would be hard pressed to find many in the English-speaking world who have not been exposed to his work. Jennens was the librettist, the writer of the text of an oratorio, who composed the text to G.F. Handel’s Messiah. Upon reading the lyrics, Handel reportedly composed this majestic classic in just 24 days! There are reports that his servants could hear sobs coming from his room as he wept over the manuscript. He later testified that when he was writing, he was overwhelmed by the presence and power of God.
Part I of the performance begins with a musical reflection on Isaiah 40:1-3,
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.”
The music takes us through a series of prophecies which point the way to God’s plan to redeem humankind. The plan would be accomplished by a new kind of king who would establish a new kind of kingdom that would totally transform reality. Of course, Isaiah 40:3 would be fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus’ public ministry. It is also fulfilled every time we prepare the hearts of people for the celebration of His coming.
This year for our Christmas worship, we will focus on “The Birthday of a King.” The sermon series is designed to get us thinking about how we celebrate Christmas as part of God’s plan to establish His kingdom. Christmas is a wonderful time to celebrate love and relationships. It is a heart-warming time of enjoying food and fellowship. It is a magical time of wonder for children and delight for people of all ages. But, more than these things, it is a time when we remember that in that little feeding trough in a stable in that otherwise insignificant town of Bethlehem, the King of the universe clothed Himself in humanity.
As we will see, Christmas is a time to celebrate how the kingdom of God invaded the world in a shocking and utterly unexpected way; for God’s kingdom would not be established by military might. It would not come about through political maneuvering. It came through the humble world of an insignificant carpenter’s son from Nazareth who lived in obscure poverty. Its manifestation began in a stable and ended on a Roman execution stake. But, Jesus did change the world. As Isaiah wrote and Handel sang, Jesus is the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace…and the government shall be upon his shoulders.”
As believers, we are part of the kingdom Jesus began to establish on earth. This Christmas, let’s focus on the truth that “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and He shall reign forever and ever!” Invite someone you know to celebrate with us. Invite your neighbor.
Invite your family. Invite your friends. This celebration is the best birthday party anyone could imagine. It is the celebration of a royal birthday. December the 19th will be a special service when we culminate this series in an appeal to people who need the truth and the light of Christ in their lives. Let’s make this the most amazing Christmas celebration ever by introducing someone to the King of Kings!