The dreaded Christmastime ward sacrament meeting

For the most part, I enjoy sacrament meeting. I like that it’s always been the final meeting in every ward I’ve been in.

It’s cool to sit close together with the family, even if our four-year-old is bending my shoe back trying to boost out of the pew and the eight-year-old is begging to go sit with Meghan, or Brittany, etc. I like the songs, the once-monthly testimonies and the wide variety, and quality, of the talks.

Maybe the comfort of sacrament meeting never really changing as long as I remember, satisfies this believing Latter-day Saint.

But, every December around Christmastime, sacrament turns into a bummer, at least for me. Almost every year, Jesus Christ seems to be a bit player. I don’t know who is to blame. Maybe bishoprics are instructed to have “Christmas Sunday” appear as just another Sabbath in the ward house, with a couple of religious carols thrown in the mix as a nod to the holiday.

And maybe there’s a good reason for that and I’m just not smart enough to understand it. But, nevertheless, as my longsuffering wife can attest to, I’m getting frustrated.

Every year I convince myself we’re going to have a real Christmas Sunday with talks on the Lord’s birth and the congregation singing Christmas carols along with the ward choir, and, well …

There are not-too-subtle conflicts. Although the word that we Mormons worship Joseph Smith is a myth, we do consider him a greater prophet than any of his colleagues in the Bible. And the prophet’s birthday is Dec. 23.

Although Joseph Smith, for all his recognition, is not the same as Jesus Christ, there have been occasions where “Praise to the Man” is sung more often than “Away in the Manger” on Christmastime Sunday.

But most of the time there’s just a maddeningly frustrating neutrality about Christmas, Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ.

Take the most recent sacrament meeting. The opening song was “The First Vision,” and then the bishop reminded us that during this season we should remember the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. That seemed an appropriate nod to the man and I was encouraged that there were two Christmas carols and three talks left on the program.

But the talks, which bookended a ward choir Christmas carol, were not about Christ’s birth, although they did capture His spirit.

They were well-prepared, informative and spiritual talks that would have been appropriate for any sacrament meeting, but why can’t we have had talks about the birth of Christ? Is there some edict against it?

The meeting ran long and the last talk, by a stake high councilman, was truncated into five non-baby Jesus minutes. Maybe that was supposed to be THE Christmas talk.

If so, I hope our ward does a better job of scheduling. Christ shouldn’t get the bump like a diet book author waiting his turn on a Letterman show that runs too long.

This column was published in the Dec. 25 edition of Currents, the Standard-Examiner’s digital-only section on politics and culture. For more information on Currents, call (801) 625-4400.

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8 Responses to The dreaded Christmastime ward sacrament meeting

  1. Midwinter says:

    Doug, take 45 minutes and watch this most excellent holiday episode of The Vicar of Dibley with the wife and have a good laugh.

    Merry Christmas.

  2. Preston McConkie says:

    Doug, your ward must be different than those I’ve attended. I seem to always have a sacrament with talks about the Lord’s birth and solid Christmas carols. In fact, wherever I’ve attended, all of December we sing carols. Sorry to hear things aren’t very Christmasy where you are.

  3. Asa says:

    Hey Doug. The wards I have been members of have always been very Christ centered during December. The only time I remember much emphasis being given to Joseph Smith’s birthday was a couple of years ago, and that was because it was the 200 year anniversary.
    This past sunday the Sacrament meeting in our ward was devoted fully to the Saviors birth by the Choir and narration of scripture.
    My thinking is our highest church leaders would want that also.

  4. GW says:

    Our stake saw this problem, primarily with Easter. As Easter changes dates each year, sometimes the bishop or counselor would plan meetings for the month of March or April without paying attention to what day Easter fell on. One ward in our stake had a counselor plan talks on preparedness and food storage, forgetting it was Easter Sunday. That’s just dumb! Even dumber, no one assigned a talk said anything about it.

    As a result, the stake president gave us direction that the bishops and branch presidents will speak on Christmas and Easter with the focus where it should be–on Jesus Christ.

    Last Sunday, my counselors and I spoke on Christmas themes and we had special music throughout the program. It was very uplifting. Wednesday, we had a primary party and they acted out the Nativity to an audience of parents and visitors. It was a wonderful holiday all in all. Hope yours turned out better this year.

    Merry Christmas to everyone!

  5. Hi Doug,
    Yes, I can understand the frustration that you would be feeling. Christmas is all about the Saviors birth. I love to hear stories and carol singing at this time of the year. It brings so much more meaning to the spirit of the season. We have a Ward dinner party and r/s dinner to celebrate Christmas, yet on these occassions, worldly things seem to have more focus than Christ, Christ offers us spiritual fulfillment rather than the temporal food for our bellies. I love Christmas Carol singing on Christmas Eve, a family activity that teaches our children spiritualitiy and a closer relationship with the Lord.
    For the past few years now I get a few people together in the evening and we go Christmas Carol singing in our street. We knock on each door and to see the delight on the faces of those (Not of our belief )
    people is a gift of doing good to the lonely, sad, unhappy and those that need to be reminded what Christmas is about. Our choir improves each year and the neighbours look forward to the occasion.
    Why we do not have Christmas Carol singing at church on Christmas Eve, as a family activity is beyond my understanding.
    We attend another church on Christmas Eve each year, simply to hear Christ being worshipped through the choir and the congregation singing and commemorating the birth of Our Savior.

    This song sung by “Daniel O’Donnell” explains the meaning of Christmas perfectly! It is called “C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S”.

    C. is for the Christ Child born upon this day.
    H. is for the Herald angels in the night.
    R. is for our “Redeemer”.
    I. is for Israel.
    S. is for the star that shines so bright.
    T. is for three wise men, they who traveled far.
    M. is for the manger where He lay.
    A. is for all He stands for.
    S. means sheperds came.
    And that’s why there’s a Christmas Day.

    Merry Christmas to everyone!

    Heidi Ferster.

  6. Carla Smith says:

    It must be a local tradition (or lack of enough choir members ) because our sacrament meeting in Alpine consisted of a beautiful choir program of Christmas songs and a short talk from a bishopric member on the birth of the Savior- my favorite meeting of the year!

  7. LarryB says:

    Sir, next year, I’d be honored to take you to Midnight Mass with me. The entire focus is upon the birth of christ and Father Eric (St James) always does a wonderful job of keeping our focus on christ versus the festivities associated with the holiday.

  8. amazed says:

    The Christmas eve service I attended in Huntsville was an absolute wonderful event surrounding completely the meaning of Christ… The pastor there was ever so eloquent in his comments as to the meaning of Christmas… Funny thing, Joseph Smith, or his birthday weren’t mentioned once… Doug, please fill free to stop in to down town Huntsville any given Sunday… We would love to have you.

    Happy New Year to you all…

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