I recently left a note here about the “liturgy” that our ward routinely does in honor of Remembrance Sunday and which I look forward to every year. We also enjoy a uniquely Mormon liturgy on Fourth Advent to celebrate Christmas properly as one — as a “ward family”. Hopefully the word “liturgy” isn’t misleading here: make no mistake, the meetings still had the rough and tumble of low church Mormon practices (i.e. this wasn’t a ritualized sung Eucharist or anything, just a slightly different readings-based format to Sacrament Meeting channeling the inspiration received by the Bishop in contemplating the Christmas message for the ward).
Advent is actually the beginning of the liturgical year for many creedal Christians and occurs the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The Fourth Advent is therefore the Sunday before Christmas, this year December 20. As my own 8 year old daughter performed her first public violin recital (of Silent Night — a duet with my wife) as part of our ward’s Christmas Sacrament Meeting, I am duly proud of the Christmas program below:
Conducting: Bishop K.T.
Opening Hymn: 201, Joy to the World
Invocation: By Invitation
Stake/Ward Business: Bishop K.T.
Sacrament Hymn: 187, God Loved Us So He Sent His Son
Reading: Luke 2:1-5
Hymn: 208, O Little Town of Bethlehem
Reading: Luke 2:6-7
Musical Item: Primary Children: Away in a Manger
Reading: Luke 2:8-14
Hymn: 203, Angels We Have Heard on High
Reading: Luke 2:15-17
Hymn: 213, The First Noel
Reading: Luke 2:18-20
Musical Item: Sister Missionary J and Brother C.A.: Violin and Piano Duet — Away in a Manger Medley
Hymn: 212, Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains
Reading: Helaman 14:3-5
Hymn: 207, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
Reading: 3 Nephi 1:13, 15, 19 & 21
Musical Item: Sister A.F. and M.F.: Violin Duet — Silent Night: 1st Verse, A.F. and M.F.; 2nd – 3rd Verses, Congregation with Violin and Piano Accompaniment
Speaker: Bishop K.T.
Closing Hymn: 202, O Come All Ye Faithful
Benediction: By Invitation
We missed Ronan and his family, who were supposed to be visiting us last weekend but ditched us! But we enjoyed the presence of the Holy Spirit in the meeting and the Christmas atmosphere instead.
In Sunday School, we discussed the Infancy Narratives to supplement our Christmas celebration. I’m not sure what the Relief Society did but in Elder’s Quorum I was up for teaching so we looked at Luke 1:26-38 in light of Moroni 7:22-25 and 7:31. It was a great discussion that went in the direction of D&C 84:26-27 / D&C 13:1 given that we have a fair number of Aaronic Priesthood holders in the Quorum who are recent converts or just returning to the Church. On the latter note, I couldn’t resist going to Malachi 3:3, as tangential as that sounds, since I am a sucker for Malachi. Although perhaps it was appropriate after all considering that Malach means angel in biblical Hebrew (scroll down). In other words, the beginnings of the Christmas story — the angel’s appearance to Mary — served as a catalyst for an ejoyable and broad discussion about priesthood and fundamental Gospel principles (e.g. the material in Moroni 7, which every Mormon should study carefully, in my view).
After Church, as has been the case all the years we’ve been in this ward, we had a Christmas “munch and mingle” for a little bit of socializing and snacks before everyone headed their separate ways to celebrate Christmas in their families this week.
The “liturgical” approach to the special Sacrament Meeting celebrating Christmas was once again a very useful way to get more people involved in the proceedings (as I had mentioned when describing the Remembrance Sunday Sacrament Meeting). Virtually all of the readings were done by new converts who are just finding their footing in speaking to the congregation — a lot less pressure than giving a full talk. The hymns interspersed throughout the program allowed all of us ward members to participate in the Christmas program; all of us certainly enjoyed the talents of those who were brave enough to provide us with special musical numbers. As I mentioned when I wrote about the “liturgical” approach our ward takes to Remembrance Sunday, I think having this kind of Sacrament Meeting a few times a year is beneficial because it can be something new and refreshing and allows much more of the ward to participate.