Isaiah 40:1-4 (King James Version)
1. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2. Speak you comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
3. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.
We have an older Bible at home in which Isaiah Chapter 40 bears the subtitle Promulgation of the Gospel. The verses above are drawn from that Bible, and reflect the language of the King James Version. That same language was employed by George Frederic Handel when composing his most famous work, Messiah.
The Advent story comprises the first of Messiah’s three parts. Following the familiar orchestral introduction, a tenor assuming the role of Evangelist sings, “Comfort ye.” When the Evangelist concludes his solos, he has imparted all four of our quoted verses. I confess that I have myself been known to sing these words around the house….and in the car….and in a few other places. They have for me become a personal promulgation of the Advent season.
Handel ultimately weaves much of Isaiah Chapter 40 throughout the Advent portion of his beloved oratorio. Messiah was first performed before a Dublin audience in 1742. It has been performed on countless occasions every year since. On Sunday, December 9, at 7:30 p.m., Messiah will again be performed at River Road Church by the Chancel Choir with orchestra and harpsichord. The Sanctuary will have just been decorated for the holidays, why not gather up friends and family, and make this feast for the eyes and ears your own Advent promulgation? Please be with us when our Evangelist steps forward to sing, “Comfort ye.”