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Advent Devotional Is a Message for the Christmas Season

Like so many, husband, father and financial advisor, Hillery Schanck, has always loved his family’s Christmas traditions. Then one year, he felt like something was missing.

“It was probably in 2016, that after Christmas was over, I really had this immediate empty feeling. And I was trying to process what was that about. And I think I imagined the traditions themselves as being bad things. I think I just needed some time and some space to process the coming of the Messiah at the same time. So for me, I started researching the way people practice Advent,” Hillery says, “And I came across this reference somewhere on the web that said you should try using Handel’s Messiah as an Advent practice. And honestly I didn’t even know what that meant.”

George Frideric Handel composed Messiah in 1741. But it was his friend, Charles Jennens who wrote the libretto or lyrics, taken directly from Scripture. The work as 53 movements and tells the story of the prophecy, life, death, resurrection and Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

“When I began to listen to Handel’s Messiah, I realized that the music had been so geniusly created to animate the words of Scripture. There is nothing accidental. He actually pulled the feeling that’s intended out of that Scripture, and he put it to music.” Hillery states.

But finding an Advent devotional based on the classic work proved elusive. So, coming from a fresh perspective, Hillery decided to do something he had never done—write one himself.

Hillery says, “And so I researched—I wanted to know about Handel, I wanted to know about Charles Jennens, so that I could have the full spirit of that come to fruition in the book.”

In February of 2018, The Soul Feels Its Worth was born. The daily devotion breaks the 53 movements of Handel’s Messiah into 25 days and combines it with daily Scripture readings, prayer and personal reflection.

 

“I wrote the book with the idea that the average person, who may not even really like classical music, or know anything about Messiah, would say, ‘This has really been inspiring to me, this is something that is meaningful, and it’s actually making something of my Christmas season more connected.’” Hillery says.

To get published, Hillery turned to his friend, John Koehler of Koehler Books. But creating a way for the reader to access only the selected music for each day in the devotion, wouldn’t be easy.

Hillery says, “If you’re using an online platform, it’s very hard to actually figure out what your listening to and how to match it up. And I wanted to have it so that when you went to day seven all you needed to hear was day seven’s music.”

It was then, Hillery’s publisher introduced him to Maestro Daniel Boothe, Director of The Virginia Beach’s Symphonicity.

Daniel says, “When Hillery came to me and shared his vision for this project, I realized that he innately understood that power of communication. He wanted his words also to be a vessel of communication beyond his own writing.”

Daniel also believes Handel and Jennen’s work on Messiah was more than a mere collaboration.

“I think they were inspired to bring these elements together. And clearly, for Handel to write it in the three weeks that he did, it was a real flash of shall we say divine inspiration,” says Daniel.

And as for traditions, for nearly forty years, Symphonicity has offered a free performance of Handel’s Messiah during Christmas.

Daniel states, “So, for Symphonicity, this was a perfect fit—an opportunity for us to provide that musical soundtrack for communication and for inspiration.”

Symphonicity’s Board of Directors not only agreed to do the project, they decided to underwrite the entire cost of recording Handel’s Messiah at Virginia Beach’s Sandler Center.

“For me that was a great sign that the Lord was doing something with this,” says Hillery.

Daniel says, “Everyone rallied behind it, and it all came together more beautifully than I could have ever imagined.”

Daniel continues, “And I don’t believe that’s just a result of the people and the resources that were involved. But I really believe it was because of the inspiration that came from the words and from the music that Hillery and Handel have put together.”

Hillery says, “Just watching all these gifts of all these people come together in this moment for the same thing, to amplify the Lord and to experience the music and to participate in the music at the same time…that to me was remarkable.”

“My ultimate hope would be that it reaches anyone and everyone that needs to have it in their life, I hope it finds a way to them,” says Daniel.

And that’s not just a message for the Christmas season.

“It’s a great tool, and that was my intention, to create a tool at Christmastime to help people slow down. But, honestly, it should be listened to throughout the entire year…because it’s not Christmas music. It’s the story of Jesus, which is important all year long,” Hillery says.

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