Sunday, December 22, 2013

Seven Days of Christmas: Day 3

Day Three: Fleece and a Film

Last year we made fleece blankets while watching "It's a Wonderful Life" with the intent of dropping them off at Primary Children's hospital. When Elizabeth had gone to that hospital with a concussion on Easter of 2012 they gave her a fleece blanket as soon as she arrived. This act of love overwhelmed me. My daughter was not able to remember her name, couldn't say more than a few letters of the alphabet, knew she knew me, but wasn't sure who I was. All because she'd collided with a cousin on the swings at grandma's thirty minutes before.  I was a mess. And that blanket was a comfort like no warmth on a cold day could bring.  I still cry remembering the feeling that some woman loved enough to take the time to make something that could bring so much reassurance and peace during a particularly difficult time. Lizzy sleeps with it every night and I will never forget. 

Yet, the trip to Primary's with all the kids in tow never came until I finally decided to save them for this year. Here we are, finally dropping off our blankets carefully tucked away in the window seat for a year! *sigh*

Next, we met Adam at home to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" together. The kids decided to use the boxes from violin shipments for theater seats :-). The rest of us snuggled on the coach.  They weren't sure about this black and white movie (even though they'd seen it last year), but after a little convincing and ten minutes in, they were hooked. Adam needed to get up early to work in the temple so I suggested we finish the rest the next day, but they insisted they wanted to finish it and would put their selves to bed. 

Twenty minutes later as Adam and I were drifting off to sleep, Norah knocked on our door crying, "This movie is too sad!  I can't watch, I can't watch!"  I assured her she'd like the ending and that it was only pretend that he'd lost all his family, but that she could snuggle with me if she didn't want to finish watching. She decided she wanted to give it a try. 

Forty or so minutes later when we were asleep, another little knock came on the door followed by Norah coming to me and giving me a kiss on the cheek with a sweet "I love you mommy, goodnight." Then Ellie came next, giving me a hug, crying, and saying how sorry she was that she had made a fuss saying she didn't want to watch the old black and white film.  Sweet Daysies. 

Thinking of the story of that film brings to mind the story of Handel a friend wrote and shared during a Community Christmas Concert I participated in just after Thanksgiving. I'll quote part of it here as a final "liken" thought:

Taking his fine craft to England, Handel soon became the talk of London and found himself writing and performing for English royalty, including Queen Anne and King George I. He came to love England so much that, a few years later, he became a British citizen and lived there the rest of his life.

Over time, Handel’s style of Italian opera fell increasingly out of style. Despite re-inventing himself as a successful composer of oratorios, the Italian opera company he co-managed went bankrupt, and Handel faced the very real possibility of debtor’s prison. At what may have been the lowest point in his career, he suffered a stroke that left his right arm useless and things It was about this time that he received a commission in Dublin, Ireland asking that he compose a work for a benefit performance there. It was a letter from Charles Jennens, a friend and lyricist with whom he had previously collaborated. Jennens had written words for an oratorio on the life of Christ and wanted Handel to write the music. He took Jennen’s writings into his hands and said he immediately felt a rush of emotion overcome his entire body. The words had deeply touched him.

In an age when illiteracy was widespread and written copies of the Bible were expensive and rare, Handel saw this as an opportunity to teach the scriptures by setting them to music. With this work he could take God’s message to the streets, specifically with the intent that they’d be heard in secular theaters.

 As he read Jennens’ words from the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, “For unto us a child is born…” the notes seemed to leap … from ink well … to pen … to page. This was true Handel composed Messiah during the summer of 1741, at the age of 56. The autograph score had 259 pages, and at the end of his manuscript he wrote the letters “S-D-G,” …  Soli Deo Gloria … “to God alone the glory.” He wanted people everywhere to glorify God whenever they listened to, or performed Messiah. For the 24 days it took him to write, he refused to even come out from his chamber. His servant would bring him food, but he could scarcely eat. This was a man driven. He felt overcome by the Holy Spirit as he read the words of the New Testament and [Soprano Recitative] “There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone ‘round “And the angel said unto them: ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.’ And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of heavenly host, praising God,

Handel’s servant entered the room just as he had finished writing the music for Messiah’s crown jewel, Hallelujah Chorus. From over his shoulder, the servant could see that the manuscript was blotted with Handel’s tears. When the servant asked what was wrong and how he might help, Handel replied, “I did think I saw heaven open, and saw the very face of God.” At one performance of Messiah at which King George was in attendance, when the notes of Hallelujah Chorus began to ring out, the King abruptly stood up as a way of indicating that he recognized Christ was the “King of Kings.” Of course, following royal protocol, the entire audience stood in response with him. This tradition continues today more than 250 years later.

George Frideric Handel conducted roughly 36 performances of Messiah, the first at Easter – not Christmas – in 1742, then every year after until his death in 1759. And every performance provided vital sources of income for those in need. With the money he made from Messiah, Handel fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and fostered the orphan. One writer of Handel’s era concluded that Messiah “has probably done more to convince thousands of mankind that there is a God about us than all the theological works ever written.”

In our day, Elder Spencer J. Condie has said, 'Each of us, like George Frideric Handel, is engaged in a creative spiritual enterprise in this life. Both the physical fostering of mortal life and the righteous living of our days on earth are spiritual achievements. May we be sensitive to inspiration from on high, that we may be inspired in such a way that the fruits of our labors are inspiring to others. And as we seek to rescue others, may we not be bound by time-tested templates and self-imposed perceptions that restrict our spiritual creativity and lock out revelation. 

And at the end of our divinely ordained days, may we be able to acknowledge, with Handel, that ‘God has visited us’ in our labors.'