the messiah above syria

The irony was going to be sufficiently delicious for me.

Earlier this morning I was on a flight from London to Dubai on an Arab airlines (Emirates). I decided to listen to Handel's Messiah, that supreme piece of Christian music, on its entertainment system.

But God had other ideas. He wanted me to have an encounter with him...

I am in a window seat. I never have a window seat. I am too tall. It is pitch black outside. But by the time the flight path takes us over Syria and then Iraq, a line of dull orange appears on the horizon. My mind drifts to the peoples below us. My heart softens again for these troubled nations. The lyrics resonate with the moment.
For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon Thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to Thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising...
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.
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.
"Oh Lord, may it be so. For those who despair down below, make it true." God has my attention. The heart is soft, the eyes misty.
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 counsels together against the Lord and His anointed...
We are flying east and so the arrival of the dawn is accelerated.

I kid you not. At the very moment that the sun took a full global shape above the horizon, adding such brightness to the sky, Handel's Messiah broke into the Hallelujah Chorus:
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 for ever and ever. King of Kings, Lord of Lords.
'Oh, Lord - bring it on'. It overwhelmed me. My mind travels to Syria, to Iraq, to Egypt - and to all the peoples of the Middle East. The Arab Spring is decidedly wintry for so many. 'May the Messiah who fills my imagination and worship way up here, once again move through these lands, these peoples way down there - and bring the peace and reconciliation that only He can bring.'

The sun is bright now. And Handel moves onto such reassuring truths - most notably the certain hope. It is designed to breathe such stillness, and yet such endurance, into our lives. And it does - at 36,000 feet. May it do so for those at ground level as well...
I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. For now is Christ risen from the dead ...  
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen.
nice chatting


A little postscript.
I think my heart was tender towards this encounter with God for a couple of reasons.
(a) The two biggest influences in my life - my father and John Stott - died just 13 days apart from each other in 2011. That is remarkable enough. But with both of them, their last breaths were taken in the company of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.
(b) I am in Dubai on my way home from the annual Langham meetings where I have been entrusted - only a matter of hours ago - with the leadership of the Langham Preaching programme globally. Such a privilege, but I am feeling the weight too - and so I am grateful for this encounter with God.

With the directors of Langham Literature (Pieter Kwant) 
and Langham Scholars (Riad Kassis) programmes


Heather said…
Thank you for this. After reading your post, the words of the Messiah fed into my prayers for Syria, too.
Anonymous said…
WOW! This is so profound! Paul, thank you very much for your love and prayers.
The other Paul was on a horse and had a similar encounter on the road to Damascus.
Hopefully in the near future we can go together to Damascus and have a meal next to the Street called Straight.
Blessings to you and Barby!
not a wild hera said…
Very encouraged to read this, Paul. Thinking of you (and actually dreaming about you and Barby two nights ago!) a lot as you make all these transitions in the company of The Messiah.

Thank you, friends - glad you appreciated it. It was one of those moments to remember - and thankful to be able to post it for the encouragement of others.

And, my anonymous friend (I know who your are) - whether it be by horse or plane, this Paul is also up for a visit to the Street called Straight with you.

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