To be honest, this is a season that I have worried about off and on during the year. From a personal standpoint, I knew it would be a hard time to be away from all our family - and friends - and the time and traditions that we love to share. Our hearts are wrapped around those special moments that happen when we are all gathered together and the Christmas spirit is present.
Low and behold, the Christmas spirit can be anywhere you take the time to create it. And it is definitely here on the London Temple grounds. Christmas is a time of giving and receiving. Getting out of ourselves and serving those around us has been the key. Along with our regular responsibilities, we have been working hard to put together a performance schedule for the month of December. It's the first year anyone has tried something like this here, and it isn't as grand as the schedules at the large visitors' centers in the states, but we are so excited to see how it all comes together! We have several church groups and families who will be performing, interspersed with Tabernacle Choir Christmas performances from years past (on DVD in our theatre). Don went around to 8 or 10 churches of other denominations in the area and asked if any had a choir that might like to perform here. Five groups said they were interested, but none came through. We'll try again next year and hope to create a new tradition.
In addition, our dear friend, Grant Neale (see "Beep Beep" and "Great Things Are Happening at the LTVC") has been working even harder to get a new stable/creche approved and built for the nativity figures that have previously stood alone and lonely on a lawn near the Lodge. He also helped us arrange for a Christmas Lighting Ceremony last Sunday night - planning the event with us, finding soloists, suggesting refreshments, creating advertising, printing the program, correcting our American English (it's the "festive" season, not the "holiday" season, for openers) and so much more. Finally, we bought icicle lights to go around the outside of the Visitors' Centre and draw people in.
Now it's all coming together and people are coming to see the new Nativity scene and the lights and attend the events and performances we've scheduled! We understand that we have the only outdoor Nativity scene in a couple of counties. It sits right outside the Visitors' Centre, just between the VC and the temple. We can look at it all day long through our large glass windows; and Salt Lake has installed new Christmas music in our centre that we can play both inside and outside. Music adds so much to the spirit of Christmas and our feelings of love for our Savior.
Here are a few snapshots taken around here during the last week. First, though, let me apologize for the quality of the photos. I love my little point and shoot, but it doesn't do Christmas lights and night activities any justice - so use your imagination as you view our pictures!
|The temple engineers put up a row of Christmas trees and lights outside the Lodge: |
our first indication that Christmas was on the way.
|We were able to purchase a beautiful new tree for the Visitors' Centre.|
|We asked Emma Neale to oversee the tree trimming. She's amazing!|
She helped us choose the color scheme and all of the ornaments and decorations,
then showed us how to make it look gorgeous.
|Some of our sister missionaries helped Emma with the tree: |
Sister Yapi, Emma, Sister Reneer, and Sister Cabrera
|The finished project!|
(Wish my tree at home looked this good,
and all the lights worked :)
|Wayne Farnell, one of the temple engineers, built this stable|
for our Nativity figures on his own time.
It was exciting to watch it take shape for several weeks.
|Wayne the Builder|
|The morning that the figures were place in the creche we all came out to watch.|
|Temple engineers putting the pieces into place.|
|Some of the engineering and grounds crew responsible for the Nativity scene,|
with Brother David Atkin, temple recorder, and Don on the right.
|On Sunday night, December 2nd, a crowd of about 300 gathered |
outside the Visitors' Centre, in the shadow of the temple.
|The lights were switched on!|
|Then the program began...|
|President Raymond Lowry, London Temple President, presented a short message.|
|A choir of temple workers, directed by Sister Collis, sang two numbers.|
|Jeanette Holt and her daughter, Gemma, from the Staines Stake, both sang solos.|
|After the program we served traditional mince pies and shortbread.|
A lot of people came inside to warm up from the frosty cold.
A group gathered in our theatre and sang Christmas carols.
|This is what our Nativity scene looked like Monday, the next day.|
|Then Tuesday we woke up to this!|
|It only lasted a few hours and melted quickly,|
but the first snow really did make it seem like Christmas!
HERE'S OUR CHRISTMAS ADVENT CALENDAR FOR THE FESTIVE SEASON:
2 - SUNDAY Christmas Light Ceremony featuring Jeanette Holt, soloist, and the London Temple Missionary Choir
7 - FRIDAY Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir (DVD) and Norwegian vocalist Sissel
8 - SATURAY Hyde Park Britannia YSA Ward Choir and Instrumentals
9 - SUNDAY "WHY I BELIEVE” FIRESIDE with Elder Patrick Boutoille, Area Seventy & Sister Benedicte Boutoille
10 - MONDAY 2012 First Presidency Christmas Devotional online broadcast
14 - FRIDAY Rejoice and Be Merry with the Tabernacle Choir (DVD) featuring The King’s Singers
15 - SATURDAY Manna Road Gospel Choir from Wandsworth
16 - SUNDAY Staines Stake Choir with soloist Jeanette Holt
17 - MONDAY Christmas Carol Sing-Along - Come join in!
18 - TUESDAY A Musical Evening featuring the Smith Family from East Grinstead
21 - FRIDAY Most Wonderful Time of the Year with the Tabernacle Choir (DVD) featuring vocalist Natalie Cole
22 - SATURDAY A West Park Christmas featuring the Bridgstock Family and friends from East Grinstead
23 - SUNDAY ENGLAND LONDON SOUTH MISSION FIRESIDE with President Julian Jones and British actress/singer Savannah Stevenson
24 - MONDAY *CHRISTMAS EVE
o (Films) Mr. Krueger’s Christmas, The Story of the Other Wise Man, Nora’s Christmas Gift, The Nativity
25 - TUESDAY *CHRISTMAS DAY
o 12 noon - Once Upon A Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir (DVD) featuring Jane Seymour
o 2 p.m. - Joy To The World with The Tabernacle Choir (DVD)
o 4 p.m. - 2011 First Presidency Christmas Devotional
26 - WEDNESDAY *BOXING DAY
o 12 noon - 2010 First Presidency Christmas Devotional
o 2 p.m. - Christmas Mormon Messages and Stories
o 4 p.m. - 2009 First Presidency Christmas Devotional
27 - THURSDAY Glad Tidings with the Tabernacle Choir (DVD) with actor Michael York and singer David Archuleta
28 - FRIDAY Ring Christmas Bells with the Tabernacle Choir (DVD) featuring Brian Stokes Mitchell
29 - SATURDAY Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir (DVD) featuring Audra McDonald and Peter Graves
31 - MONDAY *NEW YEAR’S EVE
o 6 p.m. - Golden Days: A Celebration of Life (President Thomas S. Monson’s 75th birthday celebration)
1st of JANUARY - *NEW YEAR’S DAY
o 12 noon - 6 p.m. - The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos