I was asked to write a recap of our Christmas performance of Handel’s Messiah. That’s hard, because as a minister’s wife and a good Baptist, the first place I want to go is the numbers. I want to write about how many people attended, quantify lives changed, etc. But as I contemplated that angle for this story, it fell flat. Sometimes the things we do in church are about reaching the masses…and sometimes they’re about something bigger.
Messiah was about worship. It was a reminder that worship isn’t a style of music, nor is it the way we “do church” now. Worship is about making Jesus, our Messiah, the center of what we do.
Our choir and worship team is half a year into a study on Zach Neese’s book, How to Worship a King. In it we’re reading and discussing what it means to give God a place of honor, reverence, love and passion in our hearts, our homes and our church. We’ve talked about how we really make God first, how we set aside time to adore Him, that it takes a sacrifice, that it takes work. That’s what Messiah was, especially for our choir and orchestra. It was a sacrifice of praise as we spent months letting the words and notes sink into our minds and hearts and transform our souls as we worshipped God through practice. Anna Stallcup, a choir member, wrote about what it was like to walk this journey:
“For months I clumsily made my way through these difficult songs with all of the vocal grace of a bull in a china shop…I gritted my teeth and practiced. And practiced. And practiced…As the performance dates loomed closer, people asked me if we were ready, or if this was going to be successful, etc., and all I could say was that the truth was that it didn’t matter to me. Regardless of whether I felt we were “ready,” Messiah had already been a success, because it had changed me. I had labored and toiled, trained (and sometimes strained) my voice, and been far removed from my comfort zone. And this, THIS is a sacrifice of praise for me. Not all of my worship is sacrificial. But this is. And it is special. I feel blessed to be able to actually worship as we sing to the One by Whose stripes we are healed.”
Messiah was about worship. It was a reminder that worship isn’t a style of music, nor is it the way we “do church” now. Worship is about making Jesus, our Messiah, the center of what we do. Handel got that – he inscribed the piece with the words “soli deo gloria” – “to God alone be the glory.” We pray that spirit, that attitude, is what people got from our performance. It’s not about the music, or the numbers, or the talents of the people who performed. It’s about Jesus.
Soli deo gloria!