Your Daily Advent Devotional
December 24, 2013


For Unto Us a Child is Born

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, Counsellor,
The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.

Recalling the creation of his masterpiece Messiah, George Frideric Handel said, "I saw the heavens opened...and God sitting on the throne...whether I was in my body or out of my body when I wrote it I know not. God knows."

His oratorio, from which "For unto Us a Child Is Born" and "I Know My Redeemer Liveth" come, was written at a phenomenal pace, probably in the country home of Charles Jennings, the author of the libretto. From start to finish, Handel's composition of the music for Messiah took just twenty-four days in the summer of 1741. Jennings's words drew heavily from the Bible, telling the story of Jesus Christ from His anticipation to His glorification. "For unto Us a Child Is Born" comes from Isaiah 9:6 with additions by Jennings.

The collaboration with Jennings came at a low point in Handel's career, but such was the inspiration found in the words that the composer (so legend has it) could be heard weeping as he worked.

Despite opposition to the Lord's words being performed in London theaters, Messiah was quickly reckoned to be the greatest composition ever. Early performances were held in aid of debtors' prisons and orphanages, enabling the delighted press to write that the Messiah had "fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and fostered the orphan."

Handel's music was held in such high esteem that Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart all admired him. Beethoven described him as musically "the master of us all" and advised students to "go to him to learn how to achieve great effects, by such simple means."

Master of this technique though he was, Handel surely would have considered himself a novice next to God. After all, the birth of a child has to be the simplest of all means, but what "great effects" that had!

And the child grew, and waxed
strong in spirit, filled with wisdom:
and the grace of God was upon him.
Luke 2:40


Excerpted from:

Excerpted from Silent Night: The Stories Behind 40 Beloved Carols © 2013, by Barbour Publishing, Inc., used by special permission granted solely for the use of


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