“Silent Night” In “A Christmas Carol”

The rest of the world seems to have ignored the existence of this great 1999 film version of the classic story. I really like the use of “Silent Night” to illustrate people’s troubles to Scrooge. (Coincidence: this is the 2nd video with Patrick Stewart I’ve posted this week.)

“Christ The Savior Is Born!”

My favorite film of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is the 1998 TV version with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge.  Besides being–in my view–the most faithful to the original, there are several little touches about it that I really like. 

Perhaps foremost among these is a brief but stirring inclusion of the song, “Silent Night,” during a series of glimpses showing the Ghost of Christmas Present at work.  After showing Scrooge the condition of the Cratchits, but before visiting his nephew, Fred, the ghost takes Scrooge on a tour of some of his other rounds of blessings, among the poor in general.  Tiny Tim begins the song, and the last of these short scenes is of a group of miners making their way along in the dark, whilst one of them belts out the end of the second verse of the song: “Christ the Savior is born!”

It’s amazing.  I’ve never heard it sung that way before or since, but it seems to me now the only natural way to do so.  After all (in my church’s hymn book, at least), that line ends with an exclamation mark.  We usually sing this song very quietly, but that line really does demand to be declared boldly, announced on the rooftops and by trumpets.  And the way it’s sung in this movie…imagine Pavarotti letting fly with some signature opera in a massive coliseum and you might get the picture. 

Las Vegas used to have an annual live nativity pageant, put on by the Las Vegas stake of the LDS Church, and what I remember of it now is the part near the end where the shepherds have visited the baby in the manger, and then the narrator reads Luke 2:17, “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”  Immediately after this, all the people playing shepherds run out to the bleachers where the audience sit and make a series of impassioned, improvised announcements, to the effect of, “Great news!  The Messiah has been born!” or “Jesus Christ was just born!  The Savior is here!”  The singing of “Silent Night” in that movie reminds me of the joyous enthusiasm of those young actors. 

Shouldn’t that be our attitude?  This holiday commemorates a major milestone in the eternal victory of good over evil, of mercy and salvation over death and sin.  Peaceful reverence certainly has its place, but I do like also seeing some boisterous bravado in our celebration of the Lord’s mortal birth. 

“Silent Night” is sung near the end of the clip below:

No One Can Establish Zion Alone

For me, the scariest verse in all of scripture has always been D&C 103:2: “And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there…”  It’s hard enough to be a shy introvert now without having to be surrounded by people throughout eternity, too!  But there’s an important lesson in that truth about the nature of real spirituality, and it’s one that I’ve long been trying to learn.

Other teachings in the Doctrine and Covenants affirm that being sealed in the temple is necessary to qualify for exaltation, the highest salvation with which anyone can be blessed.  For example, D&C 131:1-2 reads, “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage],” and the very next section contains this even more explicit promise: “And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant…they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things…” (D&C 132:19). 

The point is that nobody can be exalted alone.  This supreme gift can only be bestowed on those who have successfully grounded their lives in the service of others–a family.  (I hasten to add here that the Church has clearly taught that nobody will suffer any loss of blessings because of any opportunity that they just didn’t have here on Earth–see, for example, Dallin H. Oaks: “The Lord has promised that in the eternities no blessing will be denied his sons and daughters who keep the commandments, are true tho their covenants, and desire what is right.”)

Just as exaltation cannot be achieved by a lone individual, neither can Zion be established by such.  There is no such thing as a marriage of one; similarly, there is no such thing as a Zion of one.    Continue reading