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December 22, 2010

Column #1,530

Hallelujah in the Food Court

By Mike McManus

            "Silent Night" and other Christian songs will not be sung in schools of South Orange, NJ and perhaps others across the country--after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a school ban on Christmas music.

On October 4, the high court declined to hear a case, ending a six-year legal battle that started when parent Michael Stratechuk sued the schools over a policy that barred Christian songs at public concerts.

In November the First Parish Church of Manchester, Mass. was told it could not have a live Nativity scene — complete with a manger and people playing the parts of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus —  on the Town Common across the street from the church on Christmas Eve.

                By contrast, at noon on November 13, people were eating in a food court at a Philadelphia mall.  Suddenly, an organ could be heard introducing Handel’s Hallelujah chorus from “The Messiah.”  Then a pretty woman with a red Christmas scarf stood up and pretending to speak on her cell phone, burst forth in a powerful soprano, “Hallelujah!”

                A young tenor with a hooded sweatshirt stood up on a chair and sang, “Hallelujah!”

                A group of “shoppers” rose, some standing on chairs, and sang the chorus, “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Hallelujah” 

                A mother with her daughter shyly stood up to take a picture with her cell phone.

                The great words of Scripture reverberated, “He shall reign forever and ever.”

                Over their heads we could read the names of the food shops: Famous Wok, Subway, Gateway, as we hear the words, “King of Kings, Lord of Lords. Hallelujah!”

This was clearly a planned event.  The Philadelphia Opera Company was in disguise in civilian clothes.  It was partly financed by the Knight Foundation, with income from such newspapers as the Philadelphia Inquirer, who paid for multiple cameras to capture the event.

                It is a video which has gone viral, an international phenomenon, with 25 million hits to date.  CNN and ABC have done stories.  And now there are copycat versions popping up on the Internet. Thousands are sending the Food Court Messiah to their friends and relatives to celebrate what are now being called “Random Acts of Culture.”

                On Google, type in Silent monks singing Hallelujah, and you will see a very funny version.  Teenagers, wearing the garb of hooded monks, are holding signs, which they flip up, as you hear sung in the background, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  That version has been seen by 5 million on YouTube!  

                Why is this important?

                We live in an increasingly anti-Christian culture of elitists who dismiss people of faith.  Stores are afraid to wish shoppers “Merry Christmas.”  Instead we get “Happy Holidays,” like we were speaking of the Fourth of July.

                More important, Christmas carols can’t be sung in public schools or on a commons across from a church.  However The Messiah can be sung in a food court, and be profoundly encouraging.

                “It made me hopeful and happy to the point of tears,” said one online commenter.

                “This is probably the greatest video ever shown on YouTube,” declared another.

                The event has been enormously helpful to the Opera Company.  David Devan, the company’s director, told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “This kind of success is igniting philanthropy.  Every major gift call I go on, the first thing out of everyone’s mouths is how great our YouTube stuff is.”

                By contrast, many churches do not know how to explain “The Messiah” to their own people.  At the Washington Cathedral, the singing and music are glorious.

                But the program guide given to everyone, with every lyric, does not even bother to tell the listeners what the sources are of these very familiar words.  Every word is from Scripture.

                Why wouldn’t the National Cathedral tell us that much is from the Old Testament?

                “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” comes from Isaiah Chapter 9. He predicted the birth of Jesus 700 years before the event!

                “Why do the nations so furiously rage together…against the Lord and his Anointed?” is from Psalm 2:1-2, possibly written by David 1,000 years before Jesus was born.

                However, when Scripture is sung in malls people join in, as if they were members of the Philadelphia Opera. Tens of millions watch the event, which is evidence that there is a thirst for God that should hearten every Christian this Christmas.

                Music written by Handel in 1741 has been heard by 25 million people in a month.

The wonders of Christmas are a hit on YouTube!  Who would have thunk it?

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