On Sunday, (Dec. 4) George Frederic Handel’s magnificent oratorio “Messiah” will be performed by more than 120 orchestral and choir voices from the area faith and music community.
The free performance is hosted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at its chapel at 12002 Peacock Hill Avenue, Gig Harbor, and beginning at 6:30 p.m. The event is a gift to the community in celebration of the life of the Savior.
One of the joys of Sunday worship is to give voice to our faith through hymns — hymns of joy, hymns of praise, hymns of adoration, hymns of comfort, hymns of prayer and thanksgiving. Our current LDS hymnal contains 341 hymns, many of which I have sung since childhood.
It is Sunday as I write. Today in church we sang four hymns accompanied by the organ during our worship service. While not among my very favorites, let me share some of the inspiring messages from today’s hymns.
Under cloudy skies, we opened, singing these words penned over 150 years ago:
The Lord is my light; tho clouds may arise,
Faith, stronger than sight, looks up thru the skies
Where Jesus forever in glory doth reign.
Then how can I ever in darkness remain?
The Lord is my light; he is my joy and my song,
By day and by night he leads, he leads me along.
After an invocation, and in preparation to partake of the emblems of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, as we do each Sunday in some 3,000 congregations, we sang a “sacrament hymn:”
In humility, our Savior,
Grant thy Spirit here, we pray,
As we bless the bread and water
In thy name this holy day.
Let me not forget, O Savior,
Thou didst bleed and die for me
When thy heart was stilled and broken
On the cross at Calvary.
“Some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns,” wrote the LDS First Presidency in the preface to the hymnal. “Hymns move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end.”
As a “rest hymn,” between speakers sharing messages about faith in the Lord, this Sunday we sang lyrics attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux of the 12th century, but which express the love we still feel today.
Jesus, our only joy be thou,
As thou our prize wilt be;
Jesus, be thou our glory now,
And thru eternity.
The poet who penned our closing hymn today was born after I was.
Savior, may I learn to love thee,
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another,
Finding strength beyond my own.
Lord, I would follow thee.
It is like this every Sunday, when a person listening with a reverent heart can find joy, consolation, uplift and comfort in the messages of the hymns, often seemingly personalized to their individual needs.
I look forward to the hymns of the Christmas season, when we join the angels in singing tidings of great joy. The masterful oratorio “Messiah” by Handel, largely from scriptural selections provided by Charles Jennens, reminds us that the reason we celebrate Christmas is because of the message of Easter. “For unto us a child is born, . . . Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).