Estimated Length of This New Presentation of the Old Classic: About 1 hour, consisting basically of 7 choral songs, 2 tenor solos, 1 soprano solo, and 7 fairly brief narrator speeches that will take roughly 45 minutes to deliver. Count on about 5-10 minutes extra for a closing pastoral message. Enthusiasm is the main requirement for the chorus, but the soloists need to be superlative.
Intended Performance Setting: A church with a raised area large enough to accommodate at least a dozen mostly young (or young-at-heart) singers in Millennial Messiah t-shirts (black with white letters), and with backstage areas for retrieving and returning simple props, and one t-shirt change. The roving singers will need to be wired for sound, but the music will mainly or exclusively come from the sound technicians. A large cross and projection screen will be needed for images to enhance the audience’s understanding.
Young Millennial Narrator, Speech 1: Welcome to Millennial Messiah—Handel 2.0. George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, or Handel 1.0, made its debut almost 275 years ago, in 1742, but NOT for Christmas: it was an Easter presentation. Handel was nervous it might not be well received because, unlike his previous musical works, it does NOT have a strong plot anchored by dramatic confrontations between leading characters. With help from a friend with a pastor as a secretary, Handel began work with a series of biblical texts arranged in 3 parts: FIRST, the prophesied birth of Jesus the Messiah or Christ—Messiah is a Hebrew word and Christ is its Greek equivalent. SECOND, the Messiah’s sacrifice for mankind, and THIRD, the Messiah’s glorious resurrection and ultimate triumph. Handel virtually locked himself in a room with a slot for food, and worked from morning to night in a white fever of inspiration for 3 to 4 weeks straight. His intense work became an immediate success when it was performed, and soon became a Christmas favorite because of the Messiah’s opening emphasis on Christ’s birth. Handel’s genius has been praised by musical greats like Mozart and Beethoven, but what makes it of eternal value is that genius applied to SACRED SCRIPTURE—the Messiah’s ONLY lyrics. Listen to those holy words now in summary form with a fresh millennial presentation. We start with one of the Messiah’s most recognized choruses, “For Unto Us a Child Is Born,” from the prophetic Book of Isaiah, chapter 9.
1. “For Unto Us a Child Is Born” Chorus (3 minutes, 56 seconds—3’ 56” on 1966 Philips CD by London Symphony; #10/52 total Messiah song units) Scripture 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, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Note: #1 Opening Symphony (4’08”) and #11 Pastoral Symphony (3’02”) will serve well as background music to establish mood before the Millennial Messiah performance begins.
Narrator (the same person or another), Speech 2: It’s funny how a comma can change things. Going backwards, the exalted titles The Prince of Peace, The Everlasting Father, The Mighty God, are logically followed by Wonderful Counselor, but who can imagine the song we just sang being sung “Wonderful Counselor”? (Use a funny voice singing it out.) Oh well, at least our Christmas tree gets it right: observe the Names of God ornaments on our Christmas tree. Call out what you see—don’t be shy! Yes, that’s right: Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Wonderful Counselor WITHOUT a comma! Now, of course, Handel had the artistic license to play with commas a bit—and I think we all can be very glad he did—but let’s move forward hundreds of years from the prophet Isaiah’s writings to the Gospel of Matthew for another chorus from Handel.
2. “His Yoke Is Easy” Chorus (2’ 08”; #19) Scripture Text: “His yoke is easy and His burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-29).
Narrator Speech 3: Yes, Christ truly makes burdens light, but only because He Himself bore a heavy weight, which John the Baptist describes in the Gospel of John.
3. “Behold the Lamb of God” Chorus (3’ 07”; #20) Scripture Text: “Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world.”
Narrator Speech 4: Now that we’re talking about the Lamb, we will sing about sheep—lost sheep like all of us, for we human beings are prone to wander from God and get into lots of trouble. You’ll see us singers wandering around in the audience as a reminder of that truth from Isaiah 53. Handel’s music starts off lightheartedly, perhaps to remind us that our wanderings often seem deceptively innocent at first, but things soon get very serious. (While the narrator is talking, the singers put on sheep’s ears or tails, which they were discretely clutching all along. The projector screen displays a pastoral scene.)
4. “All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray” Chorus (4’ 00”?; #24) Scripture Text: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). All singers return to the stage for the final dramatic phrase of that verse with their sheep ears or tail off and back in hand.
Narrator Speech 5: Look at that cross (pointing to the cross on the church wall), really look at it and imagine Jesus the Messiah upon it, paying for the iniquity of us all before our holy God and almighty Creator. Now listen to these verses from Lamentations and Isaiah 53. (Option: instead of saying “imagine,” the narrator can say “see Jesus”—with a projected image of Christ on the cross. The chorus stays still and focuses on the cross, then on the tenor. The tenor moves about onstage and gestures as he sees fit, perhaps moving down to the area before the first pew, and then going up again.)
5. “Behold and See” Tenor Solo (1’ 22”; #28) Scripture Text: “Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto [His] sorrow” (Lamentations 1:12). The songs progress seamlessly from one to the other.
6. “He Was Cut Off” and “But Thou Didst Not Leave” Tenor Solo (2’ 50”; #29-30) Scripture Text: “He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of Thy people was He stricken. But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell, nor didst Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption” (Isaiah 53:8).
7. “How Beautiful Are the Feet” Soprano Solo (2’ 28”;
#36) Scripture Text: “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings—glad tidings of good things” (Romans 10:15; Isaiah 52:7). This is to be timed so the silent chorus is back onstage by the time the soprano finishes, Bibles returned, and balloons held with labels hidden.
Narrator Speech 7: Sadly, many people will hate this Good News because they prefer their own ways to God’s. That is what these black balloons represent. See what they say: (one by one each chorus member holds up his or her balloon so the audience can see its label, and the Narrator reads each vice as it is revealed): Pride, Anger, Selfishness, Disobedience, Disrespect, Tyranny, Terrorism, Lust, Worldliness, Stubbornness, Blasphemy, etc. (that last one can have #*!! symbols on it as well and the chorus can act out a little, as appropriate—Selfishness, for example, can take a cell-phone selfie picture). The narrator concludes with this: Psalm 2 begins, “Why do the nations so furiously rage together? Why do the people imagine a vain thing?” Listen now to how boastfully rebellious people rage against God and His Messiah.
8. “Let Us Break Their Bonds Asunder” Chorus (1’ 39”; #39) Scripture Text: “Let us break Their bonds asunder, and cast away Their yokes from us!” (Psalm 2:3). The screen displays a series of carefully chosen sad images, and the singers move out and spread themselves evenly in the side and center aisles. When done they all stand still, holding their balloons out to the best height and position for the people near them to read what the balloons say. The tenor then emerges from backstage wearing a white Millennial Messiah t-shirt with black letters, holding a visible sharp object above his head like a sword. (Perhaps something that looks like a giant thumbtack so it doesn’t look too scary for any members of the audience.)
9. “He That Dwelleth in Heaven” and “Thou Shalt Break Them” Tenor Solo (2’ 23”; #40-41) Scripture Text: “He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision….. Thou shalt break them—Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:4, 7). As the tenor sings dramatically and pops the balloons one by one, each chorus member flees as if in terror to the backstage areas for men and women to change into matching white Millennial Messiah t-shirts for the final two songs. By the time the tenor finishes, he is at center stage and speaks authoritatively to the chorus (all hidden by now backstage), “Angels and the Redeemed, come out!” They file out, some with halos over their heads. Beautiful celestial scenes appear on the screen until the end of the performance. Include the lyrics of the next song if you want the audience to stand and sing along, and consider displaying the Bible verses for all 11 songs as they are sung.
10. “Hallelujah” Chorus (3’ 51”; #42) Scripture Text: “Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever. King of kings and Lord of lords, and He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!" (Revelation 19:6; 11:15). (If the audience stands, the tenor can direct them to sit for the last song.)
11. “Worthy Is the Lamb” Chorus (3'42'+; #52) Scripture Text: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing! Blessing, and honor, glory, and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 5:12-13—cut the Amen part short, not going the full length of Handel’s music).
End with a brief pastoral message encouraging the audience to embrace the Gospel for the Good News it truly is, and to obey all that Jesus the Messiah taught to live worthy lives before God who is worthy.
(Written by Allacin Morimizu © October 9, 2017. All rights reserved. This is the latest update. You may use this script for free as long as you leave a message here that you are intending to do so, stating where and when. Please share a few photos here after the performance.☺)