Light and Hope (Handel’s Messiah)

By Jamie Harms

One year into our marriage, my husband and I packed up our tiny apartment and moved. We headed east to Baltimore on an adventure for him to attend grad school. We had never spent much time in Baltimore and knew no one, so when we arrived on a hot sticky August day with cicadas chirping in the trees all around us, we knew we were far from home. We spent lots of time just driving around to become familiar with our new surroundings, taking in sights of different flowers and trees, old architecture, sounds and accents, and fun historical landmarks. 

As I looked for opportunities to make friends in my new city, I heard about the need for a practice accompanist for the semi-professional choir called The Handel Choir of Baltimore, which was known for singing Handel’s Messiah each Christmas. Choir could be a fun way to meet new people, so I ended up playing parts for the tenors and singing in the choir for the next three years, making friends, and delighting in the music. For those of you not familiar with Handel’s Messiah, it is an amazing piece of music called an oratorio, which is essentially a story told with music. All of the text sung in the Messiah comes straight from Scripture. It is divided into three parts with specific songs for soloists and others for a choir. They include the prophecy of Christ’s coming and His birth, His ministry as the Lamb of God (which concludes with the famous Hallelujah Chorus), and His resurrection and second coming.

The Messiah has become part of our family tradition as we listen and sing along to the words that remind us who Jesus is, that His birth was foretold and celebrated by the angels and shepherds, that His yoke is easy and burden is light as He breaks our chains, that through His sacrifice He lifts up our heads, and that our Redeemer lives. This brings us to the point of Hallelujah! I would encourage you to take a few hours out of your busy season to listen to at least part of the Messiah with others. Turn it on while you are making cookies or driving to a Christmas gathering far away as a way to celebrate that our God has come incarnate as a baby on Christmas.

I have included a listening guide below. If you listen to the Messiah using the link given below, the notes line up correctly. I have also listed the corresponding Scripture to each song in case you want to read along.

Handel’s Messiah performed as part of the Academy of Ancient Music by Voces8 and Apollo5 conducted by Barnaby Smith


00:00:10 – Symphony

00:03:30Comfort Ye My People (Blake Morgan, tenor) — Isaiah 40:1-3

00:06:54Ev’ry Valley Shall Be Exalted (Euan Williamson, tenor) — Isaiah 40:4

00:10:33And The Glory Of The Lord Isaiah 40:5

00:13:24Thus Saith The Lord (Christopher Moore, bass) — Haggai 2:6-7

00:14:47But Who May Abide The Day Of His Coming (Katie Jeffries-Harris, alto) — Malachi 3:2

00:19:10 – And He Shall Purify — Malachi 3:3

00:21:38Behold, A Virgin Shall Conceive (Katie Jeffries-Harris, alto) — Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23

00:22:15O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion (Katie Jeffries-Harris, alto) — Isaiah 40:9

00:27:33For Unto Us A Child Is Born Isaiah 9:6

00:31:52 –  Pastoral Symphony

00:33:00There Were Shepherds Abiding In The Field (Eleonore Cockerham, soprano) — Luke 2:8

00:33:58And Suddenly There Was With An Angel (Eleonore Cockerham, soprano) — Luke 2:13

00:36:09Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter Of Zion (Penelope Appleyard, soprano) — Zechariah 9:9-10

00:40:50Then Shall The Eyes Of The Blind (Katie Jeffries-Harris, alto) — Isaiah 35:5-6

00:41:26He Shall Feed His Flock (K. Jeffries-Harris, alto & E. Cockerham, soprano) — Isaiah 40:11, Matthew 11:28-29

00:46:56His Yoke Is EasyMatthew 11:30


00:49:31Surely He Hath Borne Our GriefsIsaiah 53:4-5

00:51:12And With His Stripes We Are HealedIsaiah 53:5

00:53:07And We Like Sheep Have Gone AstrayIsaiah 53: 6

00:56:58All They That See Him, Laugh Him To Scorn (Euan Williamson, tenor) — Psalms 22:7

00:57:38He Trusted In GodPsalms 22:8

01:00:10 – Why Do The Nations So Furiously Rage Together? (Frederick Long, bass) — Psalms 2:1-2

01:02:43Let Us Break Their Bonds Asunder Psalms 2:3

01:04:38He That Dwelleth In Heaven (Oliver Martin-Smith, tenor) — Psalms 2:4

01:04:52Thou Shalt Break Them (Oliver Martin-Smith, tenor) — Psalms 2:9

01:07:07HallelujahRevelations 19:6, 11:15, 19:16


01:11:06I Know That My Redeemer Liveth (Andrea Haines, soprano) — Job 19:25-26, I Corinthians 15:20

01:17:55Since By Man Came DeathI Corinthians 15:21

01:20:23 Behold, I Tell You A Mystery (Frederick Long, bass) — I Corinthians 15:51-52

01:21:08 The Trumpet Shall Sound (Frederick Long, bass) — I Corinthians 15:52-53

01:25:24Worthy Is The Lamb That Was SlainRevelations 5:12-13


Credit: Academy of Ancient Music, VOCES8 and Apollo5, VOCES8 Foundation Choir, Conductor Barnaby Smith, Leader Bojan Čičić

For those of you with littles, who will find the Messiah too long to sit and listen to, another really fun option where Scripture is sung is G.T. and the Halo Express. This group takes two kids back in time to the first Christmas, where all the songs are works from Luke 2 and other Christmas passages. If you listen to it the whole season, you will come away with a lot of Scripture hidden in your hearts!