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December 12, 2021 - #4813 Music & the Spoken Word

The Music & the Spoken Word broadcast airs live via TV, radio, and internet stream on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. mountain time. For information on other airtimes, visit “Airing Schedules” at

This live performance of Music & the Spoken Word is produced with The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square practicing COVID protocols. 


Conductors: Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy
Organist: Richard Elliott
Narrator: Lloyd Newell

“On This Day Earth Shall Ring” (Personent Hodie)
Music and Lyrics: Medieval carol
Arrangement: Mack Wilberg

“O Little Town of Bethlehem”
Music: Lewis H. Redner
Lyrics: Phillips Brooks
Arrangement: Leroy Robertson

“Shepherd’s Dance” organ solo
Music: Richard Elliott

“Masters in This Hall”
Music: French Carol
Lyrics: William Morris
Arrangement: Mack Wilberg

“In the Bleak Midwinter”1
Music: Gustav Holst
Lyrics: Christina G. Rossetti
Arrangement: Mack Wilberg

“O Come, All Ye Faithful”
Music: John F. Wade
Lyrics: Frederick Oakeley
Arrangement: Leroy Robertson

  1. On the CD The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

The Spoken Word

The Spirit of Christmas

Written by Heidi Swinton

Every year at Christmastime, small children put on makeshift costumes and gather household props to act out the Nativity story while someone reads from Luke chapter 2. Never mind that the real Joseph didn’t wear a fuzzy bathrobe or that the sheep looks suspiciously like the family dog. Adoring parents and grandparents overlook the fact that the donkey missed his cue and the angel forgot her lines. These homespun productions are cherished because they’re a tender tribute to the beloved Bible story in which Mary “brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”1

Perhaps it’s appropriate that such a humble scene should be recreated in such a humble way by innocent but sincere children. Surely that first Christmas night didn’t go exactly as planned for Mary and Joseph, and yet it was still holy—sacred in its simplicity.

The tradition of reenacting the Nativity began in 1223 in Italy. St. Francis of Assisi, recently returned from the Holy Land, invited villagers to a cave where he had set up a simple manger filled with hay and two live animals. Surrounded by these visual reminders of that sacred night, St. Francis preached about the birth of Jesus.2

In the centuries that followed, the idea of recreating the Nativity spread throughout Europe and then the world. Today the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, and Wise Men are depicted in a host of artistic styles and cultural traditions, from Austria to Argentina and from Kenya to Cambodia—a testament to the universal significance of that singular point in history, the birth of Jesus Christ. Sometimes it is depicted with small figurines, sometimes with life-size statues or live animals, and, of course, sometimes with children wearing paper beards.

Much more than a Christmas decoration or a fun activity, depictions of the Nativity remind us why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. They aren’t just portraying a historic event; they represent the true spirit of Christmas. “To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas,” a religious leader has reminded us, “we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the Spirit of Christ.”3

  1. Luke 2:7.
  2. See L. V. Anderson, “Who Staged the First Nativity Scene?,” Slate, Dec. 12, 2013,
  3. Thomas S. Monson, The Real Joy of Christmas” (First Presidency’s Christmas devotional, Dec. 8, 2013),