Comforter, 27 November 2022

Handel’s Messiah
Isaiah 40:1-5

Series Big Idea: Handel’s Messiah may be the greatest work of music ever created, bringing praise and glory to the Creator.
Big Idea: The Messiah is our comforter.
Welcome to the season of
Advent! Some say this is the most wonderful time of the year. For others, it’s a challenging season for any number of reasons. Though we usually use the word “Christmas” to describe the next several weeks, the word “Advent” is becoming increasingly popular, perhaps because of the proliferation of advent calendars.
Advent is all about arrival. For hundreds of years, prophets spoke of a coming Messiah, the promised deliverer of the Jews. This season celebrates His arrival about two thousand years ago.
It’s beyond cliché to say Jesus is the reason for the season, but it’s true. Amazon, Target, and the mall can’t wait to get your money. Your calendar may be filling up with parties, concerts, and seasonal events. But in the consumption of time and money, I want to challenge you to keep your focus not on exchanging presents, but rather experience His presence, the presence of Jesus, God in the flesh, becoming one of us. I still can’t grasp the incarnation, the shocking truth that the Messiah visited this planet, moved into the neighborhood, and understands every temptation and struggle we face.
Did you know…
There are over 100 Old Testament prophecies uniquely fulfilled by the Messiah.
There are many reasons I believe in Jesus, but one involves biblical prophecy. No person could possibly fulfill these prophecies unless they were legitimate. We’re going to look at a few of them through what might be the greatest music of all time, a collection of songs known as Handel’s Messiah.
When I saw The Messiah performed at the University of Michigan many years ago, I was struck by how much scripture was contained in the lyrics. It’s basically all scripture! Mr. Handel wrote his extraordinary music under the inspiration of numerous passages of the Bible assembled by a man named Charles Jennens.
Check out this VIDEO that explains the background.
Handel’s Messiah has three parts, the first of which covers the themes of Christmastime, the arrival of Jesus to our planet. The second and third parts deal with Holy Week, the death and resurrection of Jesus which we’ll revisit when Easter approaches.
The Messiah begins with three songs from Isaiah 40:1-5. I want to share samples of them with you today. But first, a bit of context.
Isaiah is a prophet who wrote the book that bears his name around 700 BC. The people of Israel were struggling under the expansion of the Assyrian empire. Like much of the Jewish Bible—the Old Testament—themes of God’s salvation and judgment abound. God goes to extraordinary lengths to show his love for humanity, we turn away from Him, and things go south! Pastor Soper notes the cycle like this:

Israel forgets God >>>
Israel forsakes God >>>
Israel worships other gods >>>
God sends judgment upon Israel >>>
Israel cries out to God >>>
God raises up a deliverer >>>
God saves Israel >>>
Israel pledges to serve God >>>
Israel forgets God >>>

Why don’t we learn?!
As Isaiah’s writing, God’s people are in bad shape.
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1, NIV)
Whenever you see something repeated in scripture, take notice. Ancient scrolls and languages did not have bold, italics, or different colors to get our attention. They had to literally spell it out! God tells His people they will be comforted in the midst of their bondage. Deliverance is coming, and it came most profoundly about 700 years later in the first coming of the Messiah.
VIDEO: Comfort Ye, Newark-Granville Symphony
I want to thank the Newark-Granville Symphony for the video clips today.
I realize some of you may not be fans of classical music…yet! I must confess I rarely listen to my symphonic recordings of The Messiah. In 1990, a group of Christian singers and musicians came together for an updated version of The Messiah, simply called Handel’s Young Messiah.
Here’s Matthew Ward’s rendition of “Comfort Ye.”
Strangely, three years later, The New Young Messiah was released with a different group of artists.    
Here’s Wayne Watson.
My favorite recording of this music is 1992’s
Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration. Quincy Jones brought together an all-star cast of African-American artists ranging from Take 6 and Dianne Reeves to Patti Austin, Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau and the Richard Smallwood Singers.
Here’s Vanessa Bell Armstrong & Daryl Coley
Jesus brings comfort to our lives, whatever the circumstances. He is present through the Holy Spirit in every believer. Do you need comfort today? Call out to Jesus.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:2, NIV)   
Jerusalem had been held captive for seventy years. The trial was the result of their sin, but that is coming to an end. Now Isaiah speaks of John the Baptist, a New Testament figure who will come on the seen about 700 years later.
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3, NIV)   
This is a vivid description of John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus. The book of Mark is explicit.
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
            “I will send my messenger ahead of you,
                        who will prepare your way”
3          “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
            ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
                        make straight paths for him.’ ”
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:1-4, NIV)
Verse 4…
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. (Isaiah 40:4, NIV)   
Raising and lowering was a metaphor for preparing a road for a dignitary. We might call this today, “Rolling out the red carpet.” Get ready for the Messiah, people! Isaiah said it then about the first arrival. We can proclaim it today as the return of Christ is near.

Handel's Young Messiah video
This is one of my favorite songs on the Soulful Celebration album.
Audio: Every Valley, Soulful Celebration
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:5, NIV)   
The bottom line of First Alliance’s mission statement is God’s glory. I want that to be the bottom line of my life. In the midst of suffering, Isaiah declared God’s glory would be revealed. These days, it seems like nobody is paying attention to the LORD God Almighty, but just you wait!
Video: And the Glory of the LORD, Sandi Patti
So What?
Today, we wait for the return, the second arrival of Jesus.
He’s coming soon. He promised! Are you ready? Do you know him? He’s the reason we’re here!
Actually, God is with us…now! The Holy Spirit is here until Jesus returns. Sure, you can’t touch the Holy Spirit, but that doesn’t diminish the power or reality of the One who is at work making us more like Christ, preparing us for the Messiah’s promised return, filling us with gifts and fruit, and bringing comfort to us in our dark days.
My prayer is that this season we would center ourselves on Jesus the Messiah. Rather than giving into fear, we can experience the Prince of Peace, the God of comfort.
I want to encourage all of you to experience Handel’s Messiah, too. You can attend a Toledo Choral Society performance next weekend (flyers are at the Information Center), stream the songs, watch video performances, visit websites about the musical masterpiece, or just show up next Sunday as we continue the series.
The music is beautiful. The lyrics…well, they’re taken directly from scripture, so they’re beautiful. The Advent story is beautiful…and even has a present reality as we await the return of the King.
We’re going to close with the song
Beautiful Things because God is an artist. We are made in His image and can create songs, meals, paintings, organizations, and so many other things, but you are a masterpiece! As we focus on Handel’s masterpiece, you are God’s masterpiece! Don’t forget that this season. You are more valuable than anything found online or in a store! You matter to God…and you matter to us.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library