Messiah has become a part of our musical culture to an extent that Handel, sharp entrepreneur though he was, could never have dreamed of when he completed the oratorio almost 250 years ago. There can be no doubt that Messiah is the work that has the widest popular appeal in the entire choral repertoire. Indeed, some of the oratorio's numbers, particularly the famed Hallelujah chorus, have become virtual clichés, instantly recognizable when they are heard in movies or commercials. The very popularity and familiarity of Messiah sometimes stands in the way of our appreciation of this masterwork. For the message of Messiah in fact runs deeper than the hallelujahs that resound at the close of Part II: more than perhaps any other work, Messiah represents a sermon in music, incorporating the entire religious creed of its librettist, Charles Jennens, and its composer, George Frederick Handel.