We’ve heard it before: how the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season can be distracting to the real “reason for the season”—Christ.
It is far too easy to get caught up in presents, movies, traveling, and eating. Sometimes we forget to honor the reason for the celebration in the first place. If these struggles feel relevant to you, you are not alone—even the pioneers needed a reminder to put the “Christ” back into “Christmas”.
A pioneer story
In his article, “‘All Hail to Christmas’: Mormon Pioneer Holiday Celebrations,” scholar Richard Ian Kimball tells the story of a few pioneers who lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas. He writes, “Just days after Brigham Young’s large 1850 holiday party was carried off in decorous fashion, Apostle Parley P. Pratt took aim at less respectable Christmas activities. On New Years Day 1851, Pratt delivered a sermon at the Fourteenth Ward schoolhouse. Pratt hoped that “the same proceedings would not be permitted in that house as were practiced in some parts of the valley.”
Kimball goes on to say, “For instance, Pratt pointed out, “some of his young people rode out to the north country at Christmas, spent the Sabbath and was informed they had been to a party ate and drank, fiddled and danced. Did they sing and pray at their party? No! Did they ask a blessing at the table? No! Pratt told his folks he did not wish them to attend any more dances among a people who had no time to sing, pray, ask a blessing, or go to a meeting.”
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The importance of finding balance
When I first read this, Pratt’s response seemed a little harsh. After all, if these party-goers’ worst crime was a little fiddling and dancing, it seemed pretty permissible to me. But the issue wasn’t that these Pioneers were dancing or eating—the problem was that they were choosing these activities instead of singing, praying, or attending church meetings.
I don’t think celebrating around Christmastime is a negative thing. It should bring us joy to see the ones we love, socialize, play games, decorate a tree, and buy gifts. However, we shouldn’t get so wrapped up in the superficial that we forget to worship and nourish our spirits through church meetings, prayer, and scripture reading.
Allowing Christ to “enter in”
In the last verse of Hymn 208, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” it reads: