Christmas Music: Mary and Joseph

I just wanted to share a few thoughts on Mary and Joseph. They are such an important part of the Christmas story, and even they are starting to get the politically correct treatment lately from spiritual skeptics and naysayers. But, they were good, righteous people who willingly accepted the will of the Lord and bore and raised Jesus Christ. They were chosen to be the earthly parents of our Savior — what a humbling assignment to have.

The first song, I’m sharing with you today is called Mary’s Lullaby, by Wanda West Palmer. Sister Palmer was actually in my ward growing up. She and my mom used to write award winning road shows. She was a fun person, and always invited you to sit at her piano and sing when you came over to her house. The words to the song were adapted from a poem by Bertha A. Kleinman called a “A Yuletide Lullaby”. Sister Kleinman also wrote the words for the Primary song, “I Have Two Little Hands”. Sister Kleinman gave the poem to Sister Palmer because she thought it would be nice if it were set to music. Sister Palmer carried the paper with the poem around in her purse for two years, trying to come up with a tune, to no avail. One day she figured it out, just put the refrain to music, and Mary’s Lullaby was written. If you’ve ever been to the Mesa Easter Pageant, this is the song Mary sings right after she gives birth to Baby Jesus. Here is your assignment for today, go and read Luke 1. This is the chapter where we hear the most from and about Mary — who she was, and how willingly she accepted her job at the mother of the Lord.

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Christmas Music: The Bells of Christmas

I love Christmas bells — they are the sound of Christmas to me. One of my earliest Christmas memories was hearing the song “Silver Bells”. I felt so grown up when I’d memorized the words from a song book we had a home, and could sing along when the song came on the radio. There are so many songs about Christmas Bells, it was hard to choose which songs to choose to write about. Here are my top three.

Christmas Bells Are Ringing — from the Children’s Songbook. Every recording of this I found was not very musical, so I apologize for that, but I still love this song. My mom was the Primary song leader for most of my time in Primary, she always made song time so fun. One year, she had my dad make these bells/chimes out of plumbers pipe for all of the kids — which were my siblings, and our cousins that lived across the street. And one year the First Ward Primary learned to play the pipe bells. We used them when we sang this song as a round. I remember learning and singing this song as being a very joyful time.

All Bells in Paradise by John Rutter. If there is one person that I associate with good choral music it’s John Rutter. Singing his Christmas songs especially hold very dear and sweet memories and experiences for me. This is one of his newer songs The words really bring in the Spirit and message of Christ’s birth. I’ve just included verse one, but look the song up for the rest of the words, it’s worth a few clicks on google.

Verse 1: Deep in the cold of winter,
Darkness and silence were everywhere;
Softly and clearly, there came through the stillness
a wonderful sound to hear:
All bells in paradise I heard them ring,
Sounding in majesty the news that they bring;
All bells in paradise I heard them ring,
Welcoming our Saviour, born on earth a heavenly King.
All bells in paradise I heard them ring:
‘Glory to God on high’ the angel voices sing.

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Christmas Music: In The Dark Streets Shineth: a 1941 Christmas Story

One of my favorite books of all time is “In the Dark Streets Shineth: A 1941 Christmas Story” by David McCullough. It’s a short book and mostly pictures, but it tells the story of Christmas 1941, right after the US had been attacked at Pearl Harbor. It was a very dark time in our nation’s history. This book also tells the story of how the Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” came to be and how that song, written in the 1850s, had a part in the Christmas of 1941. I think I also want to nominate David McCullough to narrariate the Ken Burns 9 part documentary on my life (haha).

Some of my other favorites by David McCullough are: 1776, John Adams, Harry Truman, The Great Bridge, and The Wright Brothers. Go HERE to see all of his books.

You always feel smarter after reading a David McCullough book. But seriously, I really hope you enjoy this short clip of Mr. McCullough telling this story.

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

Christmas Music: Songs from Handel’s Messiah

Happy Sabbath! The perfect Christmas music for today is Handel’s Messiah. These are just a few of the selections from the First Movement, which talks about the prophecies of Christ’s birth and the miracle of His birth. I have many happy memories of singing the Messiah at Christmas and Easter times — in our stake choir growing up, and in college. A few years ago we had a Messiah sing-a-long here in my very small Northern New Mexico town. The choir and orchestra were made up of people from all over the community. I was blown away by the level of talent in our little town. For me singing the Messiah — whether it’s in a choir, or just singing along to youtube videos — never fails to uplift my spirit and helps to sink into my soul the love our Heavenly Father has for us, and how the birth of our Savior is a true miracle.

Here is a good article about Handel and a short history of the Messiah. “The Glorious History of Handel’s Messiah”.

If you click over to this Wikipedia page, you will find all of the songs from the Messiah with their accompanying scriptures.

Click here, for the full Messiah directed by Sir Colin Davis on the BBC. And I have to mention how much I love the BBC, they announce concerts like it was a sporting event. We seriously need to do this in the United State.

O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion

Isaiah 7: 14, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Matthew 1: 23, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his cname Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

Isaiah 40: 9, “O Zion, that ringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

Isaiah 60: 1, “Arise, shine; for thy blight is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.”

Click HERE for a totally amazing rendition in German.

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Christmas Music: Songs from Ireland

Yesterdays’ post of songs from Spain, Catalonia, and Mexico gave me an idea to highlight beloved Christmas songs that come from different countries. Today we have two carols from Ireland. This year, while clicking backwards on my profile, I discovered that my family has Irish ancestors — ancestors that escaped the potato famine of the 1840s no less. I have some reading and study to do for 2019 to learn more about Ireland.

Don Oiche Ud I mBeithil by the Chieftains featuring Burgess Meredith. Yes, that Burgess Meredith, the Penguin from the 1960s Batman TV show, and of course The Chieftains are a great traditional Irish folk music band. But I love this song because of the narration in English, and then the song following in Gaelic. It tells the story of Christmas with beautiful simplicity.

I sing of a night in Bethlehem
A night as bright as dawn
I sing of that night in Bethlehem
The night the Word was born
The skies are glowing gaily
The earth in white is dressed
See Jesus in the cradle
Drink deep in His mother’s breast
And there on a lonely hillside
The shepherds bow down in fear
When the heavens open brightly
And God’s message rings out so clear
Glory now to the Father
In all the heavens high
And peace to His friends on earth below
Is all the angels cry

The Wexford Carol by Alison Krauss feat. Yo-yo Ma on the cello. This song originated in the 12th Century in County Wexford from the town of Enniscorthy. Traditionally it’s sung by men, but in the last few years, women have begun to sing and record it. I love the invitation that the first phrase extends, “Good people all, this Christmas time, consider well, and bear in mind what our good God, for us hath done, in sending His beloved Son.” Consider the good God has done for us, in sending Jesus Christ.