It’s that time of year again. The season to be jolly. The season to celebrate the birth of Christ. The season to eat sugar cookies and fudge.
The season of the ward Christmas program.
The annual ward Christmas sacrament meeting is a one and ten, sometimes at the same time. Some inspire with the stirring carols of Christmas or a new take on the Christmas story. Some are painful, like the third year in a row the bishop’s 11-year-old daughter squeaks out Silent Night on her violin. Sometimes the programs make us feel more a part of Christendom, with a poignant message about Christ. Other times we hear a mind-numbing talk on tithing, and the only mention of Christmas is when the congregation sings O Little Town of Bethlehem in a tempo that would put a four-year-old to sleep on Christmas Eve.
I’ve had experiences with all those kinds of Christmas programs. I’ve felt the joy of sitting in a warm chapel filled with bright red poinsettias, watching the snow fall outside while we sing O Come All Ye Faithful. And I’ve felt the misery of listening to dismal music and boring talks and wondering why our celebration is so humdrum.
The Christmas program that stands out most for me is when I was a teen-ager. A young woman was singing O Holy Night. She was about 20 and her life had not been easy. A couple in our ward – both social workers – had taken her in and made her one of their own. The young woman, a beautiful soprano, started to cry while she was performing. At first, she tried to sing through her tears, but after a few phrases, she just stood on the stand and wept, while the pianist valiantly continued to play. Her foster mother sat on the front row, white-knuckled and nervous as the drama unfolded. After a few uncomfortable moments, she started to sing. Her lusty soprano rang out, “Truly he taught us to love one another …” She stayed in her seat and sang. By the end of the song the two sang together. The memory stays with me to this day … and helps blunt the tithing talks and scratchy violin solos and struggling ward choirs.
How do you feel about the annual ward Christmas program? Love it or hate it? Or, do you skip it altogether and go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve? Tell your stories and thoughts, highlights and low lights. Then go join your ward choir. I guarantee they need you for the Christmas program.