Picture the chapel lighting up
at 11:15pm on Christmas Eve—
parking lot plowed, walks salted,
heaters warming the space
which every other night
lies sleeping.

Picture rank and file saints,
chilled on the dark ride in, now
greeted in both foyers by singers
caroling, offering candy canes
to the young and old alike—
five generations snacking
themselves awake.

Picture a chapel filling silently,
no organ prelude playing.
Only soft prayers,
members sitting,
kindling and reflecting love
through whispered greetings—
fellowship made fresh and more
fervent than Sunday morn.
Pardon the witching hour.

Just picture a patchwork quilt
of humans covering the pew
backs, with arms around
spouses, children, and friends
ministering

until 11:25pm, when
the bishop signals for the choir
processional to begin. “Hark!
The Herald Angels Sing.”
The choir striding in the aisles,
the ward joins them in song.
Then an opening prayer,
no business,

another hymn, “Angels We Have
Heard on High.” Presidents of Elders
Quorum and Relief Society in tandem,
reading Luke 2. While for the fussy,
stalwartly sleepy young, a cultural
hall awaits with pillows, bean bags,
and comforters.

Hear sweetly in the chapel
divinity’s nougat sound,
from a French horn solo,
in turn prelude to youth
acoustical guitarists. Here
and there a middle way
Mormon, fresh from Protestant
journeying, contains the urge
to clap.

Poking out above poinsettias,
primary grins pucker—singing
so cute the grownups ache.
Time glides like a sleigh over
fresh snow. A late evening
worship where none are made
to sacrifice,

only to savor Christmas Eve.
How quickly midnight comes
for shepherds watching, wise
men and women waking.
“In Humility Our Savior”
commences on piano and viola.
Priests and Laurels break bread
in some trays, break cookies
in others, all sanctified.
But before

these can be passed,
the bishop counsels,
“Brothers and Sisters, tonight
I invite each of you, whether
you are baptized or not, whether
you have been abstaining
from the sacrament or not,
to partake. As we celebrate
our Savior’s birth, tonight
if you are here,
you are worthy.”

The bishop looks at his watch:
12:01am. Christmas morning
unwraps its first present
as sacrament moves
around the room, passed
by young men and women.
Soon after, the water is blessed
along with rows of cups
bearing cider and eggnog
as rich as any wise man’s gift.
Please picture,

when all have partaken
and the trays returned,
the youth remain in the aisles.
Each produces a candle,
as the lights above turn off.
The organ begins to play
Silent Night. None needing
hymnals, the ward family sings
in a chapel made manger—
all calmed. Says the bishop,
“Before we head home,
please take

this chance to be the first
to wish each other Merry
Christmas.” So picture
in the pews, and the aisles,
five generations mingling,
handshakes and hugs,
smiles and moist eyes—
a reverent, mighty flurry.
Then the benediction.
By 12:30am the chapel
lies empty and silent,
holy still.


Poet’s Note:

This poem imagines a Mormon adaptation of the Catholic Midnight Mass. Comments are welcome. Especially consider sharing favorite elements of Christmas services you’ve attended. Merry Christmas readers!

By way of sheepish confession, had I not accepted my parents’ invitation to attend a wonderful combined two-ward sacrament meeting this morning, I would have forgotten to include references to both primary singing and poinsettias.

Poinsettia image by jill111 on Pixabay.