I’m going to be a little self-indulgent today and share some of my Christmas favorites with you.
Choral music: Nothing can beat the Luther College Nordic Choir at Christmas time, or anytime for that matter. This tiny college in Decorah, Iowa produces conservatory quality music with mostly non-music major students. When I was younger, it was a dream of mine to attend Luther, but I couldn’t afford the tuition. As it turned out, I met my DH at the public college I went to instead so everything works out for the best. However, I’d have loved to have made some music at Luther.
Christmas Opera: Amahl and the Night Visitors by Menotti. This little jewel of an opera has everything–comedy, drama, a little ballet, and a tear-jerker of an ending. I’ve played the role of the Mother a couple of times and never tire of hearing the beautifully haunting melodies in this exquisite work.
Christmas painting: I first encountered THE NATIVITY AT NIGHT in the National Gallery in London a few years ago. It’s by the Dutch artist, Geertgen tot Sint Jans and was painted in oils on an oak panel sometime between 1455 and 1495. It’s small–only 13 by 10 inches. You might easily walk past it in search of larger works by better known artists, but I confess I spent quite a while standing before this little gem.
It’s a dark painting. There’s a small fire in the distance where a shining angel is announcing the birth to terrified shepherds. Light emitted from the manger shows a serene Mary and, deep in the shadow behind her, Joseph stands guard. There’s a donkey and cow gazing down at the baby with interest. A quintet of little angels occupy the left side of the scene, all lit only by the light coming from the Baby. The artist took real gold and painted narrow beams radiating from the Child–his spin on Jesus as the Light of the world.
But strangely enough, the focus of this painting for me isn’t the shivering baby. It’s the little angel standing behind the manger, the one closest to the cow. All the other angels are in lock-step worship mode, somber expressions and folded hands. But her hands are lifted in surprise and though you can’t see it clearly here, she has a look of utter astonishment on her face.
Christmas Book: The Other Wiseman by Henry Van Dyke. I love this little story. It’s rich imagery and deep themes always touch my heart. And fortunately, it’s old enough to be in the public domain. You can read it FREE right here.
Artaban is a totally worthy hero. Anytime I fear my Christmas is losing its focus, I return to The Other Wiseman to remind myself of what’s really important.
What are some of your holiday favorites? Happy Christmas, my dears!