My senior year of high school, our choir sang Handel’s “Messiah” – the portions of it, that is, that are typically performed at Christmas time. Practice tapes for solos were handed out the spring before, and I spent the summer practicing.
In order to give people like me a chance at soloing, the choir director split the soprano solo into three parts: the “Come Unto Him” soprano-alto duet, the “Rejoice” aria, and the four soprano recitatives. I was given the recitatives. I was thrilled to get a solo after wishing for one for so long. I didn’t realize that this solo would change my perception of the Christmas story forever.
The four short recitatives take their lyrics straight from the nativity story, as told in the gospel of Luke (King James version):
There were shepherds abiding in the fields,
Keeping watch over their flocks by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them,
And the glory of the Lord shown round about them:
And they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them,
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy,
Which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David
A Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
I realized the importance of these words only after singing them over and over. I realized that the first people told of Christ’s birth were shepherds – simple people. The angel brings “glad tidings, of great joy” to “all people”. The message of Christmas, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will to men” (see the chorus that follows these four recitatives), is one for all people. As a Christian, I believe I can do my part to bring glory to God by working to bring peace to the earth (perhaps by starting in my own home) and having goodwill to all men (including those who hurt my feelings or irritate me). I hope that, this Christmas season, we can do our best to look beyond differences to find peace and to see the good in all people.