Have you seen the Christmas music video about the largest Nativity? It’s officially called “Over A Thousand People Came Together to Break a Record And Bring This Moving Christmas Hymn to Life.” If you haven’t, you will. Because I want you to click on it later in this post!
The following account was mostly written last year–2014–shortly after the nativity video came out. This gives a different point of view than the other behind the scenes videos and accounts….
My last journal words for the month of November:
I signed up to be part of the largest nativity ever (hopefully). I followed links on Facebook ward page that led to the event.
The very beginning of the next day’s entry:
My fingers are beginning to unthaw.
A New Friend
I thought I dressed warm enough for the day of filming. I mean I had two layers of socks and jeans under my white skirt. I just had a thin shirt underneath the white sweater I had worn backwards to hide the buttons.
Check-in was at two. I was nervous I wasn’t going to get a good parking spot so I went early to one of the designated parking areas—the parking lot of the temple. I drove there before one o’clock to make sure I didn’t run into any traffic. I didn’t.
There were cars parked there but very few which belonged to the grounds workers. I kept thinking, Just give it more time, and you’ll have families to follow.
I hoped and prayed for angels.
Sometime after a prayer, a car pulled up a few spaces over. The driver was wearing white and had her hair curled. I hoped for the best. After a while, I just had to get out of the car. I had to get to Rock Canyon Park. I had to know if the other person dressed in white was going to the same place. I couldn’t be shy.
I walked over and said, “Um, excuse me…”
The driver opened the door. She was wearing an angel costume! What a relief. We set out to Rock Canyon Park.
As my new friend, Haley, and I walked across some road work, I found out she was from a few towns over and decided today to be a part of the nativity. “I knew about it weeks ago but decided I was going to do it today. I went to Wal-Mart this morning to put together my costume. I took off work.”
We found the park, and a lot of cars were parked curbside. There was some confusion on where to sign in and where to wait.
We were told we could wait on the grass by one of the white tents. I saw a few people come out with the “bell costume.” Basically a white bell shape screen that could go over your head. I couldn’t be a bell angel. I had signed up too late.
The Little White Tent We Saw In the Distance
Most people were there with their families.
I wasn’t too worried about grass stains, but Haley and I thought it would be best if we sat in some of the chairs further down the field. We wondered what the red balloon was and why some people were taking pictures with a guy who had a camera. “I think he’s a famous YouTuber,” said Haley. We saw the archway where we knew the main cast of the nativity would pose. We saw the hill we would be standing on.
The guys who handed us our orange wristbands said something about singing with Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
We had our eyes on the little tent. We were given a list of prominent people who would be participating. Haley had to explain more on who some of their identities. It was cool sitting in the chairs because we also saw people coming out of a distant little tent near the parking lot.
A woman came out wearing a silvery white robe and some kids came out. People kept going in and out. Haley and I speculated who they could be.
People related to the Piano Guys? Was Studio C going to provide entertainment while we waited? When was David Archuleta going to appear?
“Oh! Oh! Is that Peter Hollens?” Some people dressed as shepherds and Wise Men were appearing.
“Um, who?” I felt a little out of the loop. Haley was obviously a die-hard fan of the singer.
We talked about the other celebs that were on the list. Some were more familiar.
Though I wasn’t sure who the some people were except Alex Boye. We spotted him as a Wise Man dressed in orange the instant he walked out of the tent.
Calling All Angels
More and more people were coming. A family in front of us were talking about getting together their costumes together that day.
Then came directions. “Angels with a purple wristband, please report to…” “Angels who have an orange wristband with words written on it, go…”
I turned to Haley. “Is that us?”
“No, we don’t have writing on ours.”
Then I heard, “All angels, go…”
It was time to take the group shot.
We got in line with the rest of the angels to go up to another slope. But as we went through the portable orange fence, we were each given a green and white wristband.
Haley and I got in the middle. Everyone had to scoot in. We could see some of the people below. The main cast of the nativity. I knew they were down there because of the Wise Men’s bright wardrobe. Some officials and cameras were there too.
Angels were taking cell phone pictures and talking about YouTube videos. It was exciting, but I felt sorry for the bell angels who were trying to protect their 3D costumes.
“We broke the record, right?” I asked.
Haley nodded. “I’m sure we did.”
But how would it go on record?
That was answered when we heard there was an official guy to witness the event. I heard the first part about Britain and over 800 angels. “And today…” He started to speak slower and the angels got louder. Cheers caused me to assume we broke it.
I’m not sure how we managed to get down the hill, but we did and managed to take some pictures with some cast members. One asked, “Aren’t you cold?” I wasn’t till he asked.
Haley and I left toward the other hill after she got an individual shot with Peter Hollens.
It was getting colder.
We were ushered to the hill. A guy with a megaphone announced the arranger of the the version of “Angel We Have Had Heard on High” He started teaching us the additional verse we would sing along with the recording.
He’d say lines, we would repeat. “Now say it to your neighbor!”
Everyone seemed to be catching on except me. I was mesmerized by the track. The Piano Guys, Mormon Tabernacle Choir. David Archuleta. That’s a winning combo.
But I still didn’t know the words. I didn’t know the words were available online before that. I tried to recite what I knew to Haley but couldn’t remember.
“We have the words!”
A mother and her daughter, Emily, had the lyrics printed out. It was getting darker but we could make out the words well enough. If there was the rare chance the cameramen got us on tape, I feared I wouldn’t know the words. Plus, memorizing the words gave us something to think about besides the chillier temperature. Perhaps that was the plan the directors had in mind.
When the angels got a break to go to the tents to get warm, most of them gladly rushed to the tents. I could hardly move. So, Haley, Emily, and I practiced. In fact, the first Deseret News article about the event captured the moment with the three of us practicing on the empty hill in one of the many photographs. (Ours was fuzzy.)
We soon thought it best to get to go to a tent since the break was going to be longer than I initially thought. I had adjusted my skirt a certain way where I could have access to my jean pockets. I had the mini fake candle production gave us in one and my phone in the other but still was nervous my phone was going to slip out.
The tent was a little warmer. Our spirits lifted by the sight of donuts, muffins, cocoa, and apple cider. The apple cider was room temperature but the maple donut was delicious. Haley and I rushed to finish our food when we heard the angels needed to go back.
Oh. They needed the bell angels.
We went by a mother and her daughters who were by a heater. We took turns to be by the warmer spots. We went over the lyrics. I panicked each time a guy in a vest announced it was time for the angels to go back to the hill. Once again, it was the bell angels.
But a lady came up to me and Haley and asked if we went to the VIP tent.
“It’s warmer. Lots of people are taking pictures with Alex Boye.”
Haley and I ran to the little white tent. There was a photographer taking pictures of people against a lighted backdrop with words: ShareTheGift and Radiant.
There was a table with handouts that said “Share the Gift. I will share the gift by…” Alex Boye and another cast member were taking pictures with people. I noticed their picture was done. “I want to take a picture with a Wise Man,” I said.
I held up my Share the Gift paper for the photographer and then rushed to Alex Boye who was filling out how he was going to share the gift. He said, “I will share the gift by sharing…wisdom. Get it?”
Haley and I took individual phone pix with him. He was even more fun than he was in his videos.
Someone announced, “They need all angels now!” We got out of the tent and the hill was covered with angels again. I think they started to play the music, and we ran to what we assumed was our spot before.
An Angel’s Eye View
We took out our candles. I made the mistake of taking out my cell phone. David Archuleta’s voice rang out and that meant the cameras were rolling. I couldn’t find my pockets fast enough so trusted the phone would be safe enough resting on the wrinkles near the pocket.
There was a lot of stopping and starting for aerial shots, close-ups. Haley and I got close to one (but didn’t make it in the video) The camel and donkey looked like they were having a hard time—especially with the loud sounds! A shepherd (who I’m now pretty sure was Jeremy from Studio C) had to chase the donkey a couple times, but they were all gentle with the animals. I was impressed by that—and the bell angels.
The bell angels were in some sort of order and had to turn their light switch on at a certain time. (The bell angels are the lights you see moving that form the nativity profile at the end of the video.) The switch lit up the bottom of their costumes blue. “Let’s do it again,” said the booming voice. Wow. How did they manage to turn on a switch? And multiple times! My fingers were becoming more frozen. The bell angels kept at it. They came on at a certain time and had to time when their blue lights went off.
When the ground people (this time I mean the bell angels and the nativity cast) were getting directions, I was trying to get my phone back in my pocket. I was able to open up my pocket with enough space for my phone. My phone got near the pocket but my hands couldn’t cope together. My fingers were wrapped around the phone but wouldn’t budge. I tried not to give up but so it was painful and I just put it on some denim wrinkles again.
I’ll have to say the night was tough. My thoughts then: “But this is going to be a good story. We’re going to be so glad.”
The arranger of the video and other megaphoned voices were also encouraging. “You guys are doing great!” People with children were allowed to leave. If you could stay, it would be nice. Haley and I kept saying we were going to stay the whole time. And we did. We went to the trouble of finding white clothes and coming here, so we would take the trouble to stay till it was done.
My feet were hurting, and my boots were getting uncomfortable. It felt a little better when we walked down the hill ever so slowly. The main cast were clearing out. But some stayed. Between shots, an announcer said, “Alex Boye has agreed to stay a half hour after and take pictures with any of you guys who want to.” The directors kept on saying encouraging comments like “You’re doing awesome!”
The best motivation, though, was when one director said, “Think how this video will bring people closer to Christ.”
It was a little past ten when we were dismissed. Some of the directing crew told us we all did a good job and to look for the video on December 12th on YouTube. We got to keep our candle but I used my phone walking back to the parking lot. Haley and I actually found our way back pretty easily, but what if I hadn’t had anyone to walk back with? It was late.
We had expected the lot to be fuller but it wasn’t—which meant it was easier to drive out. It was yet another tender mercy for me. I had quite a few angels looking out for me.
I got home, and maybe two hours later checked if we got in the news. We did! I texted Haley about our blurry shot, and she confirmed it was us.
I will never forget the experience. I was definitely brought closer to Christ that freezing night. As I shivered, I had considered what I would have done the night of His birth. Maybe this was a way of showing I would have rushed to see the baby in the stable. I’d like to think I actually participated when the host of angels appeared to the shepherds.
P.S. When I went to the store the next day, I saw my candle. It was still on! It was a reminder to share the gift. Share how much the Savior means to me. Do what he would do and let my light shine.
I was still waking up when I checked my email this last Friday. I perked up when I got an alert saying the video was up!
I clicked on the link. Huh. Just a little over 300 views.
That didn’t last long. What I thought was more impressive than the video was how it was coming up on Facebook. I even got emails from family asking if I saw the video yet.
As I’m writing this—less than four days later—the numbers are going up. I think we’re almost at 900,000 now. (Update on December 13, 2015-over 9 million nearing 10!)
But the thing that matters most is the feeling. As I watch it, I get excited about the additional verse and the music buildup and then the outside nativity appears. As I watch and recall standing in the cold, I do get a warm feeling. Something tells me This actually happened. People traveled far to see the child who would save them. Thousands and thousands more—or maybe trillions more—were probably singing the night of Christ’s birth. I hope I was among them.
Images and Videos:
Featured Image is video still from music video, “”Over A Thousand People Came Together to Break a Record And Bring This Moving Christmas Hymn to Life” Video is inserted at the end of this post.
All other images taken by Sarah Patten.