The idea for The Gospel According to George came to me at a Messiah sing-along at Yale University several years ago. The beautiful hall was crowded with enthusiastic music lovers who brought their own scores or bought one at the door. The soloists were exquisite, the music powerful.
The Chinese graduate student sitting next to me had never heard the oratorio before; she only knew that it was famous. She didn’t sing, but as a Christian, she came along to find out what all the excitement was about. At the intermission she turned to me. “Do all these people believe what they are singing?” she asked in an awed voice. Sadly, I had to confess that most loved the music but had no idea what it was about. After that I couldn’t shake the idea of a book to take Messiah-lovers beyond the music to grasp the depth and breadth of the story Handel told.
Among the many things changed by Covid has been my involvement in a choral group that included many music teachers from surrounding communities. We rehearsed weekly in one of the high schools. Last spring as we prepared for our concert the school closed the building to outside personnel like us. Within a week school closed period. In the beginning we had hopes of rescheduling our concert for maybe June. Then September or October. My music still hangs in a bag on a hook ready to grab as I go out the door to rehearsal.
This song is not from last spring’s planned program. It is from an earlier concert, but the text by American abolitionist, James Russel Lowell (1819-1891), has stuck with me. In recent days its meaning seems all the more powerful.
Did you join us in prayer on Wednesday, February 21? Maybe you didn’t choose to fast or dedicate the day to prayer, but I hope you spent some time holding up this broken nation before the God of the Universe.
I watched the morning news with the pause button in hand, so that I could stop and pray about individual news stories. My instinct was to curl up with a bowl of cereal or stick in a piece of toast as I watched; I wasn’t yet hungry enough to remember I was fasting.
I even found myself thanking the Lord for a stand by President Trump. He is calling for strengthening background checks and a ban on accessories that turn legal guns into assault weapons. So common sense that it should be bi-partisan.
On our recent trip west, we were awed by the beauty of our national parks. We fell into bed exhausted each night with little time to catch the evening news. However, we were well aware of the political situation that dominates the airwaves these days. Katherine Lee Bates’s prayerful poem “America the Beautiful” ran continually through my mind, leading me to pause to pray for this country even as I admired the beauty of its scenery.
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!
Last December I was in New Haven, Connecticut, and attended a Messiah sing-along with the Yale concert choir and orchestra in their marvellous chapel. This fall I joined a local choral group to perform Handel’s Messiah with another regional choir and a small local orchestra. Even though I drove nearly an hour each way for rehearsals and an hour and a half for one of the concerts, it was worth it. We gave three performances, well supported by the small-town communities.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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