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Does anyone seriously enjoy the two-and-a-half-hour monstrosity of Christmas cheer that is Handel’s Messiah? Apparently so, because choruses keep performing it, and people who don’t know what else to do with their relatives keep buying tickets year after year. How many generations of children have been held hostage by its interminable, repetitive themes, archaic King James Bible lyrics, and caterwauling supplications? Not enough, it seems. In “Searching for the Real Messiah,” musicologist Yvonne Caruthers gives a historical overview of the piece and all its pernicious manifestations. The NSO cellist draws on her career as both a performer and lecturer to explain how, despite the fact that it was first performed in the spring, Handel’s oratorio came to be as much an inescapable holiday staple as fruity Jell-O from a mold. And in case you’re still on the fence, here’s the clincher: There will be no actual performance of Messiah.

Caruthers lectures at 2 p.m. at the Kennedy Center Israeli Lounge, 2700 F St. NW. $15.  (800) 444-1324.