Recently, reader David Nance contacted me to share his remarkable story of how listening to The Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Messiah recording with his children changed his family’s life. I invited David to share his story with you as today’s special Guest Post. Enjoy! – MoSop
I hate to play favorites when it comes to gifts, but when my mother-in-law gave me Handel’s Messiah by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, I knew a new bar had been set. Having been myself part of a university chorus that presented the great oratorio the semester my wife and I met, I have a lot of special associations.
What I didn’t anticipate, though, was how much the music would affect my family–especially my four young kids.
They quickly developed a fascination around this new music. It was so different from what they were used to. And they were particularly interested to uncover the reason this funny, “really long song”, kept making me cry.
So, over the course of several weeks, my wife and I began listening to Messiah often at home and in the car, where we could discuss the lyrics and quote or read them the scriptures behind the music to this amazingly receptive little audience.
There was some vocabulary to learn, of course–and some of the very valuable lessons we all learned grew out of that alone. Take the word ‘despised,’ for example, from the Alto Air at the beginning of the Messiah’s second act:
He was despised and rejected of men,
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief[.]
Upon learning this word, my 6-year-old immediately said, “I despise that our neighbors don’t go to church!” which led to a very good discussion about how, even when we can’t approve of everything others do, we can follow the Savior’s example to love, pray for, and try to find appropriate ways to interact with friends and neighbors–especially when they are different from us or make less-than-perfect choices.
During another of our conversations, this same daughter said, “If you’re doing the right thing, Heavenly Father…”
…“will guide you!” interjected my 4-year-old.
On another occasion, we listened to the soloist sing the words of Isaiah,
“The people that walked in darkness
have seen a great light:
and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death,
upon them hath the light shined,”
At one point I asked my daughter, “Who is the light?”
“Jesus!” she squealed without looking up from her coloring project. Then after a pause, she slammed down her crayon and declared, “I hate that yucky death darkness!” and then promptly scampered off to imitate a ballerina’s pirouette to the more buoyant strains of “For unto us a child is born.”
There have also been some deeply profound moments, particularly as we talked about the Savior’s mission–for example, discussing with my son the words that lead up to the Hallelujah chorus:
Why do the nations so furiously rage together:
why do the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth rise up,
and the rulers take counsel together
against the Lord and His anointed.
Let us break their bonds asunder,
and cast away their yokes from us…
After I explained that there have always been people who have rejected the Savior and tried to hold back his work, he paused a moment in thought, then said:
“Nothing can happen if it’s not the Lord’s will. It could be the same with us: if we’re still good, if somebody killed us, they killed us–if that happens, which is very unlikely–but they can’t stop us.”
I was moved. His words struck a chord in my heart. This, I realized, is the message of Christmas: that because our Heavenly Father sent Jesus Christ to pay a ransom for us, we can play our small parts in the eternal scheme of things and trust that it will work out–it will count for something. More importantly, we can repent and trust that, because of Him, we will make it home again. Really, because of Jesus Christ, no one can stop us.
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 for ever and ever.
As the triumphant strains of Hallelujah wound toward their close, my son broke in upon my reflections with the declaration:
“They killed him, but they couldn’t stop his marvelous work. It is beyond marvelous.”
And as my 20-month-old daughter’s little voice babbles something that sounds suspiciously like the Messiah’s final ‘Amen,’ I find I have to agree. I can’t help but marvel at the power of these prophecies and witnesses of divine grace that have come down to us through the ages, have been given new life through Handel’s inspired masterpiece, and now been brought by Tabernacle Choir into my life and the life of my children.
It is a prayer for the ages–and for my young family, it is truly being answered with a blessing upon our heads. – David Nance
David Nance lives in upstate NY with his wife and 5 children. His ghostwritten work has been featured on Forbes and the Huffington Post. He has recently taken up writing on topics related to family, and the institutions that support it, which are offered in his newsletter.
Find Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Messiah, here.