“The Lamb” by William Blake

John Tavener’s arrangement of “The Lamb,” a poem written by William Blake in the late 18th century, touched me deeply this Christmas season. See lyrics below. This is the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge singing Tavener’s arrangement in 2014.

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed,
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee.
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!

William Blake was an English Romantic poet and painter who lived from 1757 until 1827. This poem was first published in Songs of Innocence in 1789.

[First posted in May 2010. Thanks to Paul S. for sharing a link to a 2008 recording of King’s Choir. ]

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols — December 24, 2019

a5d46-kingscollegechapelSince 1918, a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols has been a special Christmas Eve service held in King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England. Now in it’s 101st year, it is broadcast to millions of people around the world. The service is always opened with “Once in Royal David’s City” followed by many other traditional carols, interspersed by Bible readings.

Construction of King’s College Chapel began in A.D. 1446 under King Henry VI, and was opened in A.D. 1515 under the reign of Henry VIII.

You can read more about the service here and listen live here (8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. MST, December 24, 2019).

Dashing Down the Aisles

Santa pushing a shopping cart.To the tune of “Jingle Bells.”

Dashing down the aisles,
with a three-wheeled shopping cart.
I always wait too long.
It isn’t very smart.

Cash registers ring,
Making wallets light.
Oh what a thrill it is to be
shopping late tonight.

Oh, I feel bad, my family’s mad,
I think I’ve lost my mind.
Too late to shop on Amazon
I’m always way behind. Hey!

Full of  doubt, all stressed out
The time has slipped away.
What a drag it is to shop
the brick-and-mortar way.

Michael James Fitzgerald

“There Is Faint Music” by Dan Forrest — University of Utah Singers

I love this performance of Dan Forrest’s “There Is Faint Music” by the University of Utah Singers conducted by Dr. Brady Allred.

There is faint music in the night
and pale wings fanned by silver flight.
A frosty hill with tender glow
of countless stars that shine on snow.

A shelter from the winter storm,
a straw-lined manger safe and warm,
and Mary singing lullabies
to hush her Baby’s sleepy sighs.

Her eyes are fixed upon His face,
unheeded here is time and space.
Her heart is filled with blinding joy
for God’s own Son, her baby boy.

Of countless stars that shine on snow
for God’s own Son, her baby boy.

[First posted in December 2015.]

“In the Bleak Midwinter” Performed by James Taylor

I love James Taylor’s arrangement of “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Courtesy of Spotify.

 

In the bleak midwinter,
icy wind made moan.
Earth stood hard as iron,
water like a stone.
Snow on snow had fallen,
snow on snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter,
long and long ago.

Angels and archangels,
may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim
rising  in the air.
Oh but only Mary,
in her maiden bliss
worshiped the Beloved
with a mother’s kiss.

Heaven cannot hold Him
nor can earth sustain.
Heaven and earth shall fall away
when He comes to reign.

What then can I give him,
empty as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man,
I would know my part.
What then can I give Him
I must give my heart.

[First posted in December 2015.]

Free Audio Recording of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol

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Here’s a free, dramatic reading of one of my favorite Christmas books, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. (I wrote about A Christmas Carol in a previous post.) The award-winning Carol is narrated wonderfully by Bruce Newbold, with Bryce Chamberlain, the father in the original 1964 version of Man’s Search for Happiness, playing a convincing Scrooge. I listened to the whole thing in one day (it’s 3 1/2 hours long). It’s downloadable by the way. An undeniable classic.

[An earlier version of this post was first published in December 2017.]

The 7 Christmas Angels

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The New Testament tells us that there were at least seven appearances by angels leading up to or surrounding the birth of Christ. The word angel comes from the Greek angelos which means “messenger.”

The angel Gabriel (“God is my strength”—I like that name) is identified in two separate appearances. Gabriel is actually Noah as identified in modern revelation and is also an Elias, or forerunner.

Each appearance seems to have a special purpose. I thought it would be fun to explore the purpose of each visit.

  1. A message fulfilling a long hoped for wish. Gabriel visited Zacharias in Herod’s temple in Jerusalem to announce the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:11–20). Gabriel actually was a forerunner who announced the birth of yet another forerunner, John. I think it’s interesting that Gabriel appeared just outside of the holy of holies in the temple, the place where the high priest annually appeared on the day of atonement in behalf of all Israel. The day is known as Yom Kippur. Gabriel’s announcement was not well received by Zacharias—he doubted. It must have been a pretty serious doubt because he was struck dumb—the “penalty of doubt” according to James E. Talmage—until the day his son was circumcised (see number 4).
  2. A message for the ages. Gabriel visited Mary in Nazareth to announce the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:26–38). Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph and was likely still a teenage girl. Imagine her thought processes as she was told she was going to become pregnant, miraculously, before her marriage, with the Son of God. I ask myself why God timed this pregnancy before the actual marriage when no suspicions would arise. The path to obedience and faithfulness can be a steep climb and requires a lot of patience and faith from us, sometimes even persecution.
  3. A message of assurance. An angel visited Joseph in Nazareth in a dream, assuring him that his soon-to-be wife Mary was bearing a holy child (Matthew 1:20–25). Matthew doesn’t name this angel, but it is reasonable to believe that it was Gabriel, the same angel who appeared to his fiancé Mary. Joseph was having a hard time believing Mary’s pregnancy story—like a lot of us men, we can be a little slow in catching on. But after the angel came, he was emboldened and married her soon after. I love how both Mary and Joseph were eager to take their on these divine commitments seriously.
  4. A prophetic message and ordinance. An angel visited John when only eight days old to ordain him to the priesthood (D&C 84:27–28; see also Luke 1:39, 65). This was likely the same day that John was circumcised, the day that Zacharias’s voice was restored. I love the way Zacharias affirms, “His name is John” when some questioned why the baby boy wasn’t named for his father. That non-verbal affirmation was an affirmation of faith after which the penalty of his doubt was lifted and his prophetic Benedictus was uttered. While he was still young, John lived in the desert (see Luke 1:80), perhaps to avoid persecution or even death, for though disputed by scholars, the Protoevangelium of James states that Zacharias was murdered for protecting the whereabouts of John.
  5. A glad message of great joy. Angels visited shepherds near Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:9–14). I love how the angels appeared—first just one angel and then a multitude—to “the most humble in the social order of that time,” according to Dallin H. Oaks, which to me is evidence that “the weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones” (D&C 1:19) and that “the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised” will come forth to “thresh the nations by the power of [his] Spirit” (D&C 35:13).
  6. A message of warning and protection. An angel visited Joseph in Bethlehem to warn him to flee Herod’s barbarous soldiers and escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13). After Jesus was born, the little family must have stayed on in Bethlehem for several years, for according to the wise men, the star heralding Christ’s birth had appeared two years before they arrived in Palestine to seek out and worship the child. The angel warned Joseph to depart quickly to protect Jesus from Herod’s murderous jealousy (man, that guy had issues). I am sure the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, helped to finance their travels.
  7. A message to come home. An angel visited Joseph in Egypt, commanding him to return to the land of Israel (Matthew 2:19–20) which eventually led them back to their native Nazareth. I have often thought about how long they were in Egypt, who they met there, and what they learned. I also think about the little family returning to Nazareth after what might have been a long absence, and maybe with more than one child (Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters [see Matthew 13:55–56]). Perhaps they heard, “Where on earth have you guys been?” How much of their story could they tell? How much did they dare tell?

Finally, it’s inspiring to me that the command to “fear not” is repeated four times by  angels during these visits (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:13, 30; Luke 2:10.) I am not sure of the meanings in the original sources, but in the translated versions, that is a command, given repeatedly, in an imperative voice, by divine messengers.

We have a loyal helper, an inspired guide, an invincible protector, a Savior. His name is Jesus Christ—a name you can trust. This is the ultimate message of the angels: We need never be afraid again.

[This post was first published in December 2016.]