A Child Is Born

Charles Jennens helped make his friend rather famous. That wasn’t his intent, as he had far loftier goals for what he wanted them to produce together.

As a devout Christian, Jennens was concerned about cultural trends. The questions raised by opinion-makers challenging traditional values were causing church goers and even church leaders to doubt the authority of the Bible and the truth claims made by and about Jesus Christ.

So Jennens approached his German friend, an entertainer, with an idea. He wanted to use the medium of popular music to present lyrics based on the King James Bible, to tell the story of Jesus in an uplifting and powerful way in secular settings.  He reasoned that an authentic Christian voice was needed to counter the cultural mood of the day.  So with Jennens selecting the words and his friend composing the music (in just 24 days), they produced a work that accomplished their purpose, and ensured that history would never forget them.

The year was 1741. The friend was George Handel.  The work they produced was an English-language, three-part oratorio called Messiah.  Now you know the rest of the story.

Handel originally intended the Messiah for Easter, as he introduced the new oratorio near that holiday in 1742 in Dublin.  However today it is more associated with Christmas because Part 1 emphasizes fulfilled prophecy of the Messiah’s first Advent.  A Chorus in Part 1 presents this profound text:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6).

The more famous Hallelujah Chorus concludes Part 2 amidst a selection of texts about the crucifixion, resurrection, second advent, and the day of judgment. Enlightenment philosophers in the 18th century challenged these truths and the deity of Christ as do skeptics today, mythologizing the idea of a Creator born into His creation.  Yet without Bethlehem, there is no Calvary; if no Calvary the empty tomb is empty of meaning.  “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest…to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17).  So, either there is a Christmas miracle or Christianity is incoherent.

“A Child is born” tells of the first coming. As surely as Jesus fulfilled ancient prophecy in that way, He will come again as promised.  But the second Advent will be a great trumpet and gathering, infinitely more glorious than the grandest presentation of Handel’s (and Jennens’) Messiah.


bloodmoonA lunar eclipse when the moon is nearest the earth takes on shades of red. Such a “blood moon” happened last month and we’re still here to tell about it, if you’re reading this! Anyway, I’m not sure what to make of some of the speculative interpretations of Biblical prophecy linked to this phenomenon, but I wouldn’t want to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Prophetic writings in the Bible are instructive.

The Hebrew prophet Joel wrote, and it’s repeated in Revelations, that the moon becomes like blood before the Day of the Lord comes. If this refers to a lunar tetrad, the world has experienced eight since New Testament times. Peter preached that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost. I tend to think these celestial sightings are more like Noah’s rainbow, a reminder of a promise of more fulfillment to come. “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years” (2 Pet. 3:8) implies that God is biding his time, but not in silence.

With the perspective of history, we can witness the veracity of Biblical prophecies. Isaiah wrote (700 BC) that the Messiah would be from Galilee, and would be God Himself. He added that the Messiah would be a suffering servant, smitten and pierced for our sin. Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, claimed that the eternal ruler in Israel would be from Bethlehem. Daniel prophesied (530 BC) that the Messiah would be “cut off” and then the sanctuary would be destroyed. David (1000 BC) predicted that the Messiah would not stay dead.

These and over 300 detailed, ancient, Hebrew prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Born in Bethlehem and raised in Galilee, He was smitten, pierced, and killed. His resurrection from the dead proves his claim to be God. A few years later in 70 AD, history records the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

Given that astounding accuracy, it is tantalizing to use the Bible to interpret current events. For example, Ezekiel (580 BC) describes an apocalyptic scene where God delivers Israel from an attack from surrounding lands which some correlate to today’s growing alliance between Russia, Iran, and Iraq. We could occupy ourselves trying to connect the dots here, but I find more peace in looking at prophecy through the lens Jesus provided us. He listed plenty of end times signs to observe, many happening even now. But He was not dropping clues so we could sleuth the day or hour, but to urge us to prepare as though His return is imminent (Mat. 24:44).

Maybe recent, unproven claims about ‘blood moons’ and Russia seem outlandish, but beware the temptation to mock the end times prophecies themselves. If fulfillment of the first advent prophecies was 1000 years in the making, well, I’ll let you look up the reason it might be taking so long for the second (2 Pet. 3:9). It might have something to do with you!