The Trumpet Shall Sound: Daring to Live in Awe of Mystery

trumpet shall sound

In 1983, my dad took me to hear Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall in New York City. It quickly became a holiday tradition, and he and I have attended a performance of the Handel’s masterpiece almost every year since. Many years, my mom came along as well, and when I met my husband, he also began to join us for the annual tradition.

This year we weren’t sure we’d get there. My mom was very ill as the holidays approached, so we put off buying tickets.

A few weeks after Mom went home to God, we decided we’d go ahead and attend the performance. I’m glad we did.

The Magic of Messiah

Handel composed the music for Messiah in an astonishing 24 days. If you’ve heard it, you know what an awesome feat that was! I’ve never doubted, as many who love this music will agree, that the composition was divinely inspired.

A tuned-in listener can’t help but feel comforted, hopeful, and full of faith when hearing this music. That same listener might also feel challenged in a way. It is, after all, the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, beginning with the prophets foretelling the birth of a Savior.

You’re probably familiar with at least a few of the choruses or arias (solos). Most people have heard the Hallelujah Chorus, for instance.

There is one aria that has always held me captive, but this year it did so with a special emphasis. That solo is “The Trumpet Shall Sound.”

Toward the end of the performance, the we hear passages from the Acts of the Apostles about the resurrection of the dead. The lyrics are taken from 1 Corinthians 15. The bass soloist sings a recitative:

Behold, I tell you a mystery.

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye

At the last trumpet.

And then, the magnificent aria. If you haven’t heard “The Trumpet Shall Sound”—or even if you have—take a few minutes to listen to it here.

Then come back, and I’ll tell you my story.

Did I Really See That So Clearly?

Remember I said this year, I was captivated with a special emphasis? You can guess, of course, that it had something to do with my mom’s passing. And there’s just a little more to the story.

As a multi-focal contact lens wearer of a certain age, I’m rarely able to make out details like performer’s faces or the details of instruments when I attend a concert. Things were no different on this occasion…until the trumpet sounded.

When the bass began to sing, I suddenly realized I could see him very clearly. I thought, Wow. Why can I see that so clearly?

And then I thought about what I had just thought.

Perhaps you think I’m grasping for meaning in a time of grief. Maybe I am, but that is what I experienced.

Living in Awe of Mystery

Let’s face it, the story of the resurrection—not just the resurrection of Jesus but the idea that we too shall be changed—is awe-inspiring for many. Many others doubt it or flat-out reject it. But no matter where you stand on the validity of this story, can you find a way to live in awe and mystery? Do you believe only what you can explain, or do you accept that there is something more?

Without belief and trust in what we cannot understand, we are small, pathetic creatures indeed. But when we dare to take leaps of faith and connect with mystery—with the idea that there is a greater truth and a purpose for our existence—we embody the meaning of the Christmas season: The awesome became accessible to us if we choose to accept it.

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