A Sabbath Christmas

In honor of Christmas, enjoy one of my favorite songs my mom and her sisters used to sing. (Obviously, this isn’t a recording of them, but Bing Crosby sang it pretty well, too.)

Many people attend church only for Christmas. In contrast, many of us Mormons attend church every week—or even more often, if you count midweek service projects, socials, educational activities, and church ball.  (Personally. I wouldn’t count church ball as church attendance, but technically, it is located at church.)

In fact, we Mormons are probably less likely to attend church on Christmas than any other day of the year. So, what to do when Christmas happens to fall on Sunday, like this year?

CarolingAcknowledging that we Mormons just aren’t accustomed to spending Christmas at church, my local stake is abbreviating church on Christmas day to a one-hour service. Additionally, several members of my ward choir are going to visit a local nursing home on Christmas day to sing a few carols for a half hour before the church meeting begins.

This plan brings back warm memories for me. When I was a child, my talented mom and her four equally talented sisters had a little performing group that kept all of us busy during the Christmas season.  I loved tagging along with them, both because I enjoyed the performances and because I liked the Christmas festivals where they performed.

But one of my most vivid memories of those days was a performance at a much less festive location.  My mom and her sisters arranged to sing at my grandfather’s nursing home one December.  The thing is, he wasn’t there.  He had died about a month earlier.

I wasn’t thrilled about attending this performance.  It brought back memories of the last time I was there.  Just before his death, my Granddad seemed to have shrunk.  He looked skinny and weak and miserable.  I am not sure he recognized me, but he seemed concerned about how sad I was, so with obvious difficulty, he reached out his emaciated arm to hold my hand and comfort me.

When my mom and my aunts sang at that nursing home, I realized that they were also reaching out to those that needed comfort.  Now that I was there, I recalled how often the staff at the home had mentioned to us how nice it was that my Granddad had such a steady stream of visitors—commenting that many of their other residents were not so fortunate. My relatives were lucky to inherit my Granddad’s musical talents, but that day, I was more grateful that they shared his compassion.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

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6 Responses

  1. EM says:

    I love it when Christmas falls on Sunday; to me it makes the day more meaningful. We enjoyed a beautiful Christmas Sacrament Meeting that was filled with songs, solos and four talks that were so inspiring. It’s just too bad that the meeting was poorly attended. We really don’t do much else on this day except spend time with family and friends.

  2. alex w. says:

    My ward just had sacrament meeting today, but I didn’t attend. My husband and I went to a Christmas vigil mass at the Catholic church around the corner from where we live last night instead. It was interesting because I have never, ever been to mass before, but the music was really beautiful and I enjoyed the message, even though I didn’t “get” any of the traditional mass rituals and never quite knew when to expect when to stand up or sit down.

  3. Miri says:

    I love the idea of mass on Christmas morning! I’ve wanted to do that for a while… Maybe next year! I also remember loving Christmas at church when it’s just the one hour and filled with music. We didn’t go this year, but mostly because it conflicted with niece’s naptime and other things. I’m not entirely decided one way or the other, though, whether I prefer going to a church service or spending the day at home.

  4. namakemono says:

    Our ward here in Japan also did Sacrament meeting only – and many people think we should do the same next weekend for New Year, which is culturally more important here, but its a 3 hour block. Does anywhere change the schedule for New Year too/instead?

  5. Caroline says:

    April, thanks for your lovely reflections on your Christmas at the nursing home. That kind of service and compassion is what I love best about Mormons.

  6. lanwenyi says:

    My ward had a missionary homecoming sacrament meeting on Christmas Day. There was exactly 1 mention of it being Christmas. I had debated going to either the Catholic or Baptist churches that are closer to me, but had decided to just attend my ward’s sacrament meeting on Christmas. I think I’ll make a different choice next time.

    My (non-member) husband went with us and was highly disappointed. He was looking forward to a message about what Christmas is really about to us. He was not raised Christian, but it seemed to him that our service didn’t seem Christian at all. (Didn’t help that we had the same issue on Easter, where we had a bishopric change meeting and no mentions of Easter.)

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