So asked my oldest daughter, Megan (now 10) yesterday morning, as Melissa and I were discussing our Christmas Eve plans.
Three years ago, during the first Christmas season of T&S’s existence, I wrote about our family’s “high church” Christmas eve tradition–namely, our decision to attend worship services on the evening of December 24th. (Go back and read through the original post, as well as the fine comments from Matt, Kristine, and others.) My explanation then still stands: Melissa and I take our family out to a church–perhaps Catholic, perhaps Methodist, perhaps Lutheran, wherever we feel moved to attend–because we have a desire to worship with our fellow believers on the eve of Christmas, because we want to feel in some formal sense that we are honoring a holy day as well as a holiday. Since ours is not a liturgical church, but rather is basically “free Protestant” in style, and Mormons do not as a rule create opportunities or spaces for worship outside of our duly scheduled sacrament meetings every Sunday, whatever the day of the year, that means we have to look elsewhere. And that is what prompted Megan’s question.
She was sitting at the breakfast table, which her sisters had just vacated; Melissa was beside her looking through church announcements in the daily paper. I was doing the dishes, and I asked her why she had thought to ask that. Well, she replied, in her quiet and inquisitive, very bookish way, “we’re the only true church, and going to another church is like forgetting that.”
I don’t remember exactly what Melissa and I said in response (I wish I had a better memory!). But this, in essense, was our response:
“Megan, every Christian church teaches some truth. They have the Bible and the Christmas story, the same as we do. We just have some truth they don’t have. Heavenly Father is happy when His children share the truth they have; He is pleased whenever people sincerely gather together in His name, however or whenever they do it. We’re Mormon, and we gather together to partake of the sacrament that has been blessed in the Mormon way–the way Jesus taught us to–every week. That’s the most important part of our worshipping. But there are other parts of worshipping Jesus that Mormons don’t do, and not because we think it’s wrong but only because it’s different from how the Mormon church developed. On Christmas Eve, we go to other churches to worship, because they do something that we like and think is good that our church doesn’t do. If our church provided Christmas Eve services, we’d go to them. But since it doesn’t, we go elsewhere. We don’t take their sacrament–because we are not members of their church–but we can sing and pray with them, and learn from what they have to say. Heavenly Father loves all His children, and so He could never be mad about that.”
Megan thought about this for a while. She seemed satisfied. And then, she asked about Jews and Muslims (she has attended prayers at a mosque with a Muslim friend of hers before). A slightly different topic, requiring a slightly different answer–but this Christmas season, I think we’ve helped point her questions in the right direction.
Merry Christmas, everyone!