The commercials are for wildly different products: Oscar Meyer Carving Board sliced turkey and Safe Auto car insurance. So, why, except when I’m hungry for a sandwich or want to save some money on insurance, would these commercials even stick in my brain?
Both commercials use the same music: the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. That soundtrack choice begs a crucial question:
On the one hand, the producers may have made this on purely pragmatic grounds. Many other commercials use snippets of rock and pop music from the 60’s-80’s to appeal to Boomers or with a hip-hop feel to draw in the Millennials, the coveted 18-30 demographic. The use of a classical piece of music is so jarringly different that it immediately catches the ear and the attention.
But I don’t think that’s why they chose this particular piece of music.
Some may be immediately offended and point to this as one more example of how the the elite media class trivializes faith by associating something profoundly spiritual and Biblical with two things that are, in the big scheme of things, meaningless.
I really don’t think this was planned as a subversive attack on faith, using turkey as the weapon.
Consider: both commercials are built around the idea of communicating joy. It causes joy to be able to have fresh carved turkey sandwich anytime without having to wait for Thanksgiving to cook and carve the whole bird. It causes joy to get back your income tax refund and be able to use it to significantly reduce your auto insurance premiums.
But why use the Hallelujah Chorus? In our increasingly diverse and fragmented culture, where most everyone maintains a personalized playlist on I-Tunes or listens to Pandora radio, we have lost a common cultural vocabulary that cuts across all demographics. One of the few musical pieces of music that remains broadly recognized for a sense of unrestrained joy and gladness is the Hallelujah Chorus. Other candidates might be the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony or maybe the last bit of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, but the Hallelujah Chorus is at the top of the list.
I’m convinced the music was chosen for the emotional sense of joy it communicates, and certainly not for the content of the lyrics.
But that’s precisely where the tension rises a bit. Joy is not a free-floating emotion, wafting about us like so much dandelion dust. It’s more substantive than that. Joy always has a source. There’s a spring from which joy flows.
The cultural atmosphere in which we are immersed easily assigns joy to things or circumstances that make an individual feel happiness, satisfaction or triumph. So, joy can emerge from a tasty turkey sandwich or a lower auto insurance rate as easily it can a stylish shirt or a new pair of glasses or relief of constipation or dinner with friends at a great restaurant or getting rid of a headache or providing a fun childhood for the kids or supporting a winning team in the playoffs. Ultimately, the source of joy is in you.
But that is precisely not what the Hallelujah Chorus is saying. The very word Hallelujah itself means “praise God”. In one of the commercials, the next words of the song actually play in the background: “For the Lord God, Omnipotent, reigneth!” The spring of Joy is decidedly not in an individual’s momentary experience, but in the Person of Jesus Christ—royal, all-powerful and reigning sovereignly over all things and all people.
The spring of real Joy is outside any individual. Real joy emerges from the person, finished work and eternal reign of Jesus. All of the emotion in Handel’s song springs from that profound truth.
Why does this matter?
It matters because whatever you see as the source of your joy will be the defining center of your life. The spring of your joy will capture your attention and captivate your affections. The spring of your joy will nudge your ordinary daily choices and impact all your relationships. The spring of your joy has great power to shape the whole of your life’s journey. So, yes, it really matters that you identify the source of your highest joy.
What is the spring of your life’s joy? Have you ever considered that question?
Now, leading towards a source of joy can happen consciously or subconsciously. But if we get confused about the spring of true joy, if we mistakenly assign that power to something trivial or merely momentary, then we will get a trivial and merely momentary life. If I consider that joy is narrowly defined by my own sense of happiness, satisfaction or triumph, then in the end, I get a joy and a life that is merely as big as me and my imagination. In light of the universe and eternity, that is a tiny, tiny joy.
But Jesus, the one Handel wrote his song about, said, “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full….I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you….ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (Jn.15:11; 16:22, 24) On the night before his death, Jesus prayed, “Father….I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they (his disciples) may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” (Jn.17:13)
Do you see? The Lord God, who reigns as eternal and omnipotent sovereign over all things offers you His joy. How big must a joy be that is never frustrated, but constantly happy; never lacking, but infinitely satisfied; never defeated, but eternally triumphant? It is a joy that will never be matched by anything earth has to offer because the spring of it is in the kind and generous heart of the ever-reigning King Jesus.
Oh, please don’t be suckered by the world into small desires that result in small joys. Convenient turkey slices and low bills are just too small for your soul.
Look to King Jesus as your highest joy. When you trust Him to give and satisfy the desires of your heart, then “with joy you will draw water and drink deeply from the wells of salvation.” (Is.12:3) Drinking that water will then free your voice to sing a real, lasting and worthy “Hallelujah!…forever and ever!”
+ stop for four minutes and watch / listen to The Hallelujah Chorus
+ to learn more about joy in Jesus, read Quest for Joy