Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Christmas Eve in Tucson
What do you do when you're in Tucson for Christmas all on your own? No family nearby, no one came to visit, and you didn't go to visit anyone, either?
Our little family was in that situation this year, so we did our best to find out.
In the weeks before Christmas, I had been thinking about attending some kind of midnight mass service. Mormons are strange in that the one day they don't have church is on Christmas, even though basically every other Christian denomination does. If Christmas happens to fall on a Sunday, we get out of 2 of the 3 hours of church. In other words, we attend less church, not more.
So we were free to explore the range of neighborhood Christmas Eve services available. In the middle of my pondering, we received a mailing from the local Presbyterian church, advertising their Christmas Eve programs. Specifically, there was a 7pm "Carols, candle-lighting, and a lively drama" event. It sounded perfect (assuming "lively drama" meant "some kind of Nativity re-enactment"), so we went.
I don't know how many of you attend church, or if you do attend church, how often you visit the services of another denomination, but it's kind of a scary thing to do. We didn't know how to dress, or where to park, or which door to go in, or if small children would be smiled/frowned upon, etc. All those unwritten rules take time to learn and in our own congregation, it's something we don't even need to think about.
Once we figured it all out - well enough, anyway - we settled down in the beautiful chapel and shook hands with our Presbyterian pew-neighbors. The service was great at first. We sang songs, said a few prayers, and followed along in Luke 2 as some scriptures were read over the pulpit. Nothing too out of the ordinary.
Then one of the ministers got up and gave a substantial speech about offerings. It was a little out of the ordinary, at least for us Mormons, and certainly for a Christmas Eve service, but whatever. I was still really enjoying myself in a beautiful church on a wonderful Christmas Eve, glad to be focusing some time on the story of the Nativity.
Then came the "lively drama" mentioned on the invitation. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but it surely wasn't a rowdy production put on by the youth of the congregation mimicking the format of a late-night talk show. At that point, we kind of wanted to leave because that wasn't why we were there, but we didn't know if leaving early was allowed, or incredibly rude, or if the talk show was going to end in a minute and we should just stick it out, or what. We ended up staying for at least 15 minutes of the talk show and no end was in sight. So Jeremy slipped out with Magdalena and then I left with Miriam a few minutes later.
I was sad to have to leave early. As we walked out to the car, I realized that if we wanted a nice, traditional Christmas Eve service, we should have picked a stolid old Catholic church to go to. The Presbyterian church was wonderful, it's just that its focus was more "pop-y" and modern, meant more to entertain rather than to inspire worship.
But by then it was already past 8 o'clock, so we took our candles home and lit them there while reading the Christmas story out of Luke 2 by ourselves.
I'm still glad we went to some kind of Christmas Eve church service, even if it didn't quite meet my expectations. It's good to venture out into the unknown every once in a while and appreciate the way other churches do things.
(Are people back to reading blogs again? I feel like everyone is just taking a break, if not from commenting, at least from posting.)