Monday, December 19, 2011

The Messiah

It is nearly Christmas.

We were on our way to a party, and we needed to pick up goat cheese.  The idea of the party was that everyone would bring pizza toppings, and we were bringing the ingredients to make a goat cheese, fig, and caramelized onion pizza (which is, incidentally, amazing).  So with the kids in the back seat and snow falling heavily, we drove to the grocery store.  I parked, while Jan ran in to buy the goat cheese.

I was listening to CBC Radio 2.  They were broadcasting a concert from Copenhagen, the idea of which was to celebrate and promote world peace by incorporating Arabic and Jewish music into traditional Christmas music.  They had an amazingly beautiful version of a number of pieces from Handel's Messiah, re-orchestrated with Arabic drums.

There's something about the beginning of the Messiah.  The text is from Isaiah 40.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Speak ye 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.

I will admit that even when I was studying the Bible in university at CMU, I  got choked-up in when we were studying Isaiah, and we got to chapter 40.  I'm not sure I can fully explain why.  The beauty of Handel's music only adds to the emotion, and in this performance the tenor (who was excellent) kept breaking away from Handel into Arabic music, which added a plaintive mystery and beauty to the already beautiful recitative and aria.

So I told G, "This music, that we're listening to, is very beautiful."

She listened quietly for a moment, then asked me "Is the man who is singing sad?"

"No, he's not sad.  He's singing to God's people that they don't have to be sad anymore.  He's saying: 'It's okay, you don't have to cry'"

"Why is he saying 'it's okay'?"

"Because ... God's people don't always do what God tells them to do.  And when God's people do bad things, sometimes God punishes them.  But here God is saying that their punishment is over.  God is saying that they don't need to be sad, that they don't need to be punished.  God is saying 'I forgive you'".

She thought about that for a moment.

"Like how when I do something bad you forgive me?"

I was feeling emotional already, and at this point I could barely keep it together enough to say, "Yes.  Exactly like that."

It is an amazing thing to watch a child learn, to watch a baby learn to sit, and crawl, and stand, and talk; to watch a toddler learn to express her ideas, and show off her memory, and exercise her imagination; to watch a child discover the world, and God too.  And it's humbling to think that I am responsible (partly) for teaching her.  Human fathers fail to be a fitting mirror for our heavenly father.  But what I want to do is be the kind of father who can be an image to my daughters of God's love.  And I know I will fail, but I want to try.  To hear my daughter describe me that way, even for a moment,--to hear her think: "What is my daddy like?  What does he do?  He forgives me." is almost unbearably moving.  It is exactly the kind of father I always hoped to be.  It also makes me think of God so differently to think that God's love for me is like my love for my daughters.  It was an insight, on an emotional level, to realize that God forgives Israel--that God forgives me--just like I forgive G: easily and endlessly.

I said, "I love you, G", and we listened to the concert, until Jan came back with the goat cheese.


  1. Some people are meant to be parents. You and Jan are two of them.
    It's been amazing watching your family and your lives grow, even if it's been in a virtual way.