Summary: This is a sermon for the Second Sunday in Advent based on Matthew 11:28-30 and the appropriate aria and chorus from the same passage in Handle’s MESSIAH.
Jesus Brings Us Love
I think I’ve shared all this with you in the past, but it bears repeating today. I love all types of music. My favorite hymn is Charles Wesley’s “And Can It Be”; my favorite gospel song is Fanny Crosby’s “To God Be the Glory”; my favorite praise and worship chorus is “You are My All in All.” My favorite Christmas Carol is “Joy to the World,” and my favorite period of classical music is Baroque with Handel and Bach being my favorite composers.
Since the sixth grade my favorite composition by Handel has been “The Hallelujah Chorus” from THE MESSIAH. I was in the Marion Junior High Band by the second semester of my fifth grade year, but technically junior high was seventh and eighth grades. The Marion Junior High Band and Chorus combined to give their Christmas Concert. However, in December of 1959, still being only in the sixth grade, although I was in the Junior High Band I could not yet be in the Junior High Chorus.
The final presentation of the evening was the Chorus singing “The Hallelujah Chorus” along with the
Program notation, “As is customary, we would like to ask the audience to please stand during the singing of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus.’” I stood with the rest of the band members who were not in the chorus along with the rest of the audience, and I can still feel the goose bumps on my back and shoulder upon first hearing Handel’s great composition.
The custom of standing during “The Hallelujah” dates back to the first London performance of THE MESSIAH in 1743. King George II was present. When “The Hallelujah Chorus” which exalts Jesus Christ as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” began, the monarch of Great Britain was so moved that he rose to his feet to honor the “King of the Universe” and remained standing until its conclusion. This tradition has continued for 261 years.
Five years later as a junior in high school our High School Chorus presented the entire MESSIAH as our Christmas Concert. I was privileged to serve as an accompanist, sing in the chorus, and play the “Pastoral Symphony” on the organ as part of our 1964 Christmas presentation.
Beethoven once said, “Handel is the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel down at his tomb!” [--http://www.ao.net/~jmo/john/music/handel.html.]. I love Beethoven too, but I am inclined to agree with him. The texts for THE MESSIAH were chosen for Handel from the Old and New Testaments by Charles Jennens, an eighteenth century editor of Shakespeare’s plays. Jennens divided Handel’s masterpiece into three parts, similar in format to a Three Act opera. Part One depicts “God’s Promise of Salvation.” Part Two proclaims “Christ’s Redemptive Sacrifice”, and Part Three joyfully anticipates the “Return of Christ, the Bodily resurrection of the Dead in Christ, and the Final Redemption of the human race from Adam’s Fall.”
Part One closes with a soprano solo ”Come Unto Him, All Ye That Labour” and the Chorus “His Yoke Is Easy and His Burthen Is Light,” both taken from our texts this morning from Matthew 11:28-30. Our text and message for the First Sunday in Advent proclaimed “Jesus Brings Peace.” Today’s text for this Second Sunday in Advent declares, “Jesus Brings Us Love.”
What burdens do you carry this morning? What does Scripture designate as burdens? Jesus came to carry your burdens and mine. Hear His kind, loving invitation to you. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Literally the invitation “Come” can be rendered, “Come here; come now.” This is a kind, gentle invitation of Jesus to anyone who is “weary and burdened” to come to him now. It is an urgent invitation that calls for immediate obedience and response without a moment of hesitation, delay, or postponement until “some more convenient day.” Are you weary and burdened with care today? Jesus lovingly invites you to “Come here to Him right now, and He will give you rest.”
St. Augustine said, “I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful, but I never read in either of them: ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.’” [--http://www.cyber-nation.com/victory/quotations/authors/quotes_augustine_st.html]. Burdens can entail many things. Literally a burden is a “heavy load or weight.” In Scripture sin is described as a burden. It is the greatest burden of all that Jesus takes away. He promises us in Jeremiah 31:34:
“No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”