December Monthly Musical Moment

Justin Langham   -  
Joy Through Weariness
At last, the season of Advent is upon us! For many, this is a time of joy, love, and laughter with friends and family. There are lots of events, parties, concerts, you name it, and everyone feels a rush of holiday spirit in the air. It can be an incredibly exciting time, but also a time of stress, loneliness, and weariness in many forms. The series Pastor Jerome is leading us through this Advent is all about finding ways to rejoice, despite our weary world, and I think music can provide a wonderful example of that.
Every year, Handel’s classic masterpiece Messiah receives perhaps the most attention among musical offerings. It occupies a space in our collective society that is unmatched…well, maybe besides Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Although Messiah is first and foremost an Easter story, the first part of the work is a beautiful telling of the Christmas story, from the foretelling of Christ’s birth from numerous Old Testament texts to the enunciation to the shepherds as told in Luke’s gospel. Whether you listen to the first part or the entire work, there are many choruses, solos, and instrumental numbers in Messiah that add to the drama of the story, but there are moments in the music itself in which Handel shows us the redemptive and communicative power of music, starting from the very first notes.
For example, the dramatic orchestral overture at the beginning of the work, written in the key of E minor, leads immediately into the next movement “Comfort ye, my people,” which is written in E major. This is sometimes referred to as a parallel tonal shift, meaning basically that the mood of the piece changes, but the key center E remains the same. In this simple, yet brilliant and intentional musical moment, Handel illustrates a redemption from the weariness of the overture and leads to the first prophecy of salvation, delivered by the tenor soloist whose first vocal line “Comfort ye” is entirely independent of the strings.
This past weekend, the combined choirs from Christ Church Sugarland and our own choir at First UMC Missouri City presented the Christmas portion of Messiah, along with orchestra and soloists. The connections created within the orchestra, soloists, and choir, as well as with the audience were palpable throughout the evening, and if you were not able to attend in person, you can listen to it on the church’s  YouTube channel. I think you’ll be very proud of your choir as I am!
In this season of weariness, we can find joy in many ways, and No matter my own circumstances, I know that I can always find joy in the human and spiritual connection that music brings.
I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and I will see you in 2024!