I had planned to post a series of Christmas memories this week, and I may still get to that. But I need to blog about our sacrament meeting yesterday.
Our bishopric had chosen to do a First Presidency Fireside-style meeting – each member of the bishopric spoke, surrounded by special music by the choir, a men's group, Primary children and some instrumental numbers, as well as congregational singing.
I sang in our two choir numbers and in the men's number. The choir, which has normally sung Hymnplicity arrangements of hymns this year, sang pieces that were different – first Christmas Allelulia, and then the John Rutter arrangement of the Wexford Carol. The Wexford Carol, in particular, was pretty cool to sing. I enjoy John Rutter, though he's challenging for me to sing. I was introduced to him by a ward choir director years ago who attended a choral workshop with him in England quite some time ago. Her excitement about his work was infectious.
The men's group – nine men all together – sang an a capella version of Rise Up Shepherds which went very nicely. There's something about the blending of men's voices that is very cool.
Our Primary chorister is awesome. She was not at all rushed as she arranged the Junior Primary kids and passed out little tiny bells on tongue depressors for them to use during their version of Christmas Bells, and then the Senior Primary sang Come Little Children with some parts and a violin accompaniment.
We had a young man play Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring on his string bass, and the sister who played violin with the Primary also played a violin solo arrangement of Still, Still, Still. I could listen to this violinist all day.
Even the organ was more daring for the day with more brass in the closing hymn and the addition of the 32' bass in the final chorus of Joy To the World.
My observation of these musical sacrament meeting programs is that the spoken word sometimes gets trumped by the music, but that was not the case yesterday. Our bishop's first counselor spoke about the importance of Handel's Messiah in his family as he was growing up, and he quoted from Elder Condie's article in December's Ensign. He then spoke of the Savior's birth and the blessing it was.
The second counselor spoke about the shepherds, and particularly about the fitting irony that they went from being shepherds to seeking their shepherd.
And our good bishop, who is a dear friend, encouraged us to do three things this season:
1. Slow down
2. Turn off distractions
3. Seek and feel the spirit of the season
I was impressed by the care with which the bishopric's messages were prepared and presented. Our bishop is not naturally an outstanding public speaker, something he readily admits. But it never ceases to amaze me the spirit he conveys when he teaches as bishop. He and his counselors had clearly devoted a great deal of effort to their preparation just as the musicians who performed had done. And the result was terrific.
It was a wonderful meeting. And a great beginning to this Christmas week.