I turn up the volume on the stereo until Handel's Messiah fills the house like thunder! There's little to compare with the rush of the voices in praise, the exhilarating fullness of the themes. I love Messiah, and the Christmas season gives me ample excuse to joy in it.
I've often wondered what it is in this oratorio that causes me to respond with such rapture. One can't really reduce the meaning of a work such as this to a simple statement; but if I were to try, I think its message, to me, might be summed up in the assurance of God's presence, power, and love. This is exemplified in its Biblical text, ''Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.'' 1
n1 Revelations 19:6.
One Christmas season when my children were very young, they marveled at my interest in hearing this musical work. I overheard my daughter apologize to her friend, ''I'm sorry, but it's Mama's favorite song.'' But soon, the children's voices were echoing ''alleluias'' in song during their play throughout the day. My son finally asked, ''Mama, what does 'alleluia' mean, anyway?''
''What a wonderful word, with such soulful connotations,'' I thought. But my experience had taught me that you don't wax too poetic with four- and six-year-olds without losing them. ''Hooray for God!'' I told him. ''That's what 'alleluia' means.''
True praise springs from joy, joy flowing from one's understanding of God's boundless goodness and unceasing care. Employing the word Life as a synonym for God, Mary Baker Eddy n2 writes: ''The spiritual sense of Life and its grand pursuits is of itself a bliss, health-giving and joy-inspiring. This sense of Life illumes our pathway with the radiance of divine Love; heals man spontaneously, morally and physically, - exhaling the aroma of Jesus' own words, 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' '' n3
n2 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
n3 Miscellaneous Writings, pp. 19-20.
When we're feeling joyless, we're unaware of God as infinite Life, divine Love. We may feel unloved, unresponded to, uncared for. But the lack this state of mind actually reveals is a lack of understanding of divine Love, of our almighty Father-Mother God, and of our true status as His loved children. Through prayer, through communion with infinite Love, we can begin to feel His care and see it. We can slice through the delusion that we're burdened mortals, separate from Love.
Regardless of the person, place, or thing we think might provide us with greater happiness, we ultimately need to find the joy that comes from knowing our unassailable relationship with God. This relationship is always manifesting itself in new ways and can never be severed.
Through my children I was reminded of this. I had become too caught up in the ''trimmings'' of the season and was becoming all-abustle mentally! I had determined to make a gingerbread house as a decorative centerpiece. Each step seemed to take twice as much time as I had expected or allowed.
Two little faces watched silently as my original enthusiasm turned to undisguised annoyance when the frosting turned out to be the wrong consistency, causing the roof of the gingerbread house, and then the walls, to cave in.
''Forget it!'' I crabbed. ''Forget the whole thing!''
''Mama,'' a voice chimed in politely. ''You forgot alleluia.''
Yes, I had, but I was immeasurably glad to have been reminded of it. And many times since, when I have ''forgotten alleluia,'' the memory of that experience has come to the healing rescue.
One day shortly after, I was feeling tired, and pressed by a difficult family situation. I had a severe headache. But I realized I could respond to the angels' timeless message of ''alleluia.'' I did. And within a few moments I was free.
''My peace I give unto you,'' Christ Jesus promised. ''Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.'' n4 Peace and joy are natural, God-given. And since God is the source of joy, nothing can truly shut it off or remove it from our lives.
n4 John 14:27.
DAILY BIBLE VERSE Thine is the Kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. I Chronicles 29:11