This is THE interpretation, dear people. John Eliot Gardiner simply cannot be beat when it comes to Baroque interpretation. Same for the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists.
And the opening strains of this oratorio (that timpani bit at the very beginning) simply announce "Christmas!" to me like nothing else. I will play my CD of this while I trim my tree on Friday. It's a tradition I absolutely love!