Thursday, September 24, 2015

Book Review: "Every Valley: Advent with the Scriptures of Handel's Messiah" (Handel and Albert L. Blackwell)

Who hasn't heard the lovely musical strains of Handel's Messiah (or a movement thereof) piped overhead in stores during the holiday season? At times haunting and celebratory, and always evocative, blessedly familiar yet refreshingly new, the Baroque composition, which Jonathan Kandell of Smithsonian Magazine calls "a musical rite of the holiday season," is undoubtedly one of the most popular oratorios of all time.

Now, prepare for the Christmas season and celebrate the whole way through with the nonfiction forty-day devotional Every Valley: Advent with the Scriptures of Handel's Messiah by Albert L. Blackwell (with due credit, of course, given to Handel himself).

Advent is a Roman Catholic tradition in which the four Sundays before Christmas Day, along with the days between, are treated as reminders of what led up to the birth of Christ (from the Old Testament in the Bible) and, even further, reminders of the death and resurrection of Christ (Easter) and of His second coming (recounted in the New Testament Book of Revelation).

This engaging work walks the reader through forty days' worth of Scripture and devotional readings, each expertly culled from the Scriptures that Handel chose as his inspirations for his spectacular oratorio. Blackwell includes references to the different movements of the oratorio with each devotional, so that the reader can (if he or she chooses) take time to listen to the designated movement before, during, or after reading the related Scripture.

Blackwell's writings expound with exegetical clarity and accuracy upon the verses cited, drawing from other well-known Christian commentators like John Calvin; seasonally appropriate hymns; and other Scriptures, especially where Handel used prophetic words by Isaiah, Haggai, and others in the Old Testament to foretell the coming of Christ. Themes explored throughout include the Christian life and disciplines, the doctrine of grace, redemption, forgiveness, sanctification, light against darkness, and many, many more.

You needn't be Catholic to participate in Advent. Simply commit to recognizing that the Christmas season isn't about Santa Claus, snowmen, and commercialism, and take time to remember the real reason for the season (to use a phrase that has admittedly become quite cliche in the modern world).

An excellent way to keep your faith engaged and growing during Advent is to pick up a devotional like Every Valley, which work in particular I cannot recommend highly enough. You'll find your faith stretched, your relationship with God more intimate than ever.

As for me, I will certainly participate in the forty-day plan set forth in Every Valley, and I'd like to invite you along. Join me for the journey to prepare for Christmas a little differently, this year.

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Author: George Frederic Handel and Albert L. Blackwell
Title: Every Valley: Advent with the Scriptures of Handel's Messiah
ISBN: 978-0-66425-998-3
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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