This month has been great so far, though. There was Amy's work Christmas party, a few different get togethers with friends, but the Christmasy events have been really fun too. Just in case you had any doubts about it, the Silvas are very cultured people.Early this month we swung by Temple Square to check out the lights, and last week we caught The Nutcracker performed by the Ballet West dance company.
I hadn't seen it since I was really young, but I think the music is really great and although I probably wouldn't go and see ballet on a normal basis, it's fun to see something so classic performed that's so appropriate for the season. It's pretty amazing what they can do, and I can definitely appreciate that. The performance that we saw seemed like a pretty traditional version of it, which is neat to think that this is the same kind of dance that has been done for over a hundred years.
Last night Amy and I went up to Salt Lake to a local stake center to see a performance of Handel's Messiah. I had never seen that live before, and what I really liked about it was that it was a professional level performance just put on by some people in the community. The concertmaster is a lady that is actually in the Salt Lake Symphony, and it featured 70 voices in the choir, and 40 instruments in the orchestra, including a harpsichord! I thought was really cool. Not sure if I have ever heard one live before.
The story behind The Messiah is one that is really amazing. Handel, at 56 years old, in near poverty, and with no significant pieces to his name was commissioned to write a Christmas piece, and in 24 days he wrote the whole thing. Speaking of his masterpiece he said that if it only entertains, then he has failed; it should inspire men to be better people. It was pretty cool.
One of my favorite things, however, was watching a Charlie Brown Christmas yesterday. I read this article a few weeks ago and it gives a lot of great background to the special:
The executives did not want to have Linus reciting the story of the birth of Christ from the Gospel of Luke. The network orthodoxy of the time assumed that viewers would not want to sit through passages of the King James Bible.
There was a standoff of sorts, but Schulz did not back down, and because of the tight production schedule and CBS’s prior promotion, the network executives aired the special as Schulz intended it. But they were certain they had a flop on their hands.
“They were freaking out about something so overtly religious in a Christmas special,” explained Melendez.
“They basically wrote it off, like, hey, this is just isn’t going to be interesting to anyone, and it’s just going to be like a big tax write-off.”
Melendez himself was somewhat hesitant about the reading from Luke. “I was leery of the religion that came into it, and I was right away opposed to it. But Sparky just assumed what he had to say was important to somebody.”
Which is why Charles Schulz was Charles Schulz. He knew that the Luke reading by Linus was the heart and soul of the story.
As Charlie Brown sinks into a state of despair trying to find the true meaning of Christmas, Linus quietly saves the day. He walks to the center of the stage where the Peanuts characters have gathered, and under a narrow spotlight, quotes the second chapter of the Gospel According to Luke, verses 8 through 14:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you 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 this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.“ . . . And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,” Linus concluded.
The scene lasted 51 seconds. When Linus finished up, Charlie Brown realized he did not have to let commercialism ruin his Christmas. With a sense of inspiration and purpose, he picked up his fragile tree and walked out of the auditorium, intending to take it home to decorate and show all who cared to see how it would work in the school play.
When CBS executives saw the final product, they were horrified. They believed the special would be a complete flop. CBS programmers were equally pessimistic, informing the production team, “We will, of course, air it next week, but I’m afraid we won’t be ordering any more.”
The half-hour special aired on Thursday, December 9, 1965, preempting The Munsters and following Gilligan’s Island. To the surprise of the executives, 50 percent of the televisions in the United States tuned in to the first broadcast. The cartoon was a critical and commercial hit; it won an Emmy and a Peabody award.
Anyway, we don't have much left on our Christmas event plates besides time with family and presents and such, but all of that is probably the best stuff anyway.
The Charlie Brown special is really great because even all those years ago people felt like Christmas was being overrun by all of the commercialism, and lucky for us, there was a man like Charles Schulz to help us collectively regain our bearings and realize what the season is really about.
So go watch your It's a Wonderful Lifes, Christmas Carols, or Charlie Brown Christmas specials. And don't forget to crack open your scriptures to those wonderful words penned by Luke and the other prophets and apostles. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.