I was fortunate that both of my sets of grandparents lived in the same small town, a few hours away from my childhood home. Every Christmas included a visit with both sides of the family in a grand two- or three-day holiday. The celebrations with each family couldn’t be more different. Christmas with my mother’s family was loud with laughter and stories. There was always an endless game of road hockey, and some of the best cooking you ever would have. I enjoyed our Christmas visits with my dad’s family just as much but the traditions were very different. My grandfather would hold court in his living room around a warm fire, where all were invited to solve the world’s problems with appropriately conservative answers. We children would escape to the basement to shoot pool until we grew old enough to have opinions we could support. To this day, though, what I remember most was that my grandfather always had classical music playing. Royal Canadian Brass. The Boston Pops. Handel’s “Messiah.” When my grandfather passed away last year I was given a nut-bowl I had turned him in the seventh grade in woodshop, and a collection of CDs he used to play at Christmas.
Arguably the most popular part of George Friedric Handel’s “Messiah” is the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Handel set the music in 1741 and his friend Charles Jennens provided the lines of verse. Interestingly, the three most famous lines of the “Hallelujah Chorus” come from Revelation, and two are found in today’s passage:
Alleluia! The Lord our God, the Almighty, has become king [reigneth]! (19:6)
On his robe, and on his thigh, is written a name: King of kings, and Lord of lords. (19:16)
Now the kingdom of the world has passed to our Lord and his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever. (11:15)
Amidst the oracles of doom and judgement, the grotesque beast and powerful celestial beings, it is immensely fitting that the fall of Rome ends with the flourish of praise to Christ the Victor we find running throughout this passage.
I enjoyed solving the problems of the world in my grandfather’s living room sipping apple cider and listening to Handel. I am infinitely more thankful that there is a white rider with a blood-drenched robe who truly can right the world again. No beast or false prophet can stand against him. And that is worth a lifetime’s chorus of “Hallelujahs.”