I’ve never had qualms about listening to Christmas music outside of December, but it still surprises me that I’ve been listening to parts of Handel’s Messiah during my morning routines over the past couple of weeks. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the music of Messiah, and in recent years, I’ve let go of my attachment to King James language and learned that a lot of the passages quoted in Messiah represent Christian prooftexting of the Hebrew Bible (here’s a great post on the subject by Pete Enns—and here’s another). In theory, this ought to sour me on Messiah even more, but I’ve spent a big chunk of this morning listening to this performance of excerpts—and really enjoying it!
I’m sure a lot of this is personal connection to this specific performance. Neil deAtley (who sings bass here) played an important role in my joining Community of Christ, and there’s something awesome about him doing part of his performance in the Kirtland Temple. I don’t know Leandro (the tenor) as well, but I’ve seen him a lot as I’ve watched different worship services and other videos by the Toronto Beyond the Walls congregation—in fact, the only reason I even started listening to this Messiah performance is because I often bring up the Beyond the Walls Choir playlist on YouTube to listen to in the mornings. I don’t know the soprano or the alto performers, but I can recognize when the alto is singing in the Independence Temple.
I think there’s also something about Messiah that helps me value (a certain amount of) tradition for tradition’s sake. I’ve deconstructed a lot of my own traditional religious beliefs and traditional religious practices over the past few years, but even if I don’t literally believe that the Hebrew Bible passages quoted in Messiah are actual prophecies of Jesus Christ, I can recognize the value in reading (and singing) the passages that way—so long as it doesn’t veer into any kind of supersessionism. I also connect Messiah with Advent—Mormonism doesn’t really do the liturgical calendar, but now in Community of Christ, I’m trying to make it more of my religious practice because even though it’s still kind of foreign to me, I can already see the value in this set of traditions and practices that surround it. When November rolls around, I really want to make my third go-through of the liturgical calendar intentional and special, starting with Advent.
Anyway, as unexpected as this is, I’m enjoying listening to Messiah this morning and will probably listen even more when Advent begins.
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