Our branch Christmas Program

We recently left our big old Church congregation in Ramstein to join up with the much much smaller Baumholder branch here in Germany.

When we walked in that first Sunday a few months back and sat down I was painfully aware of the silence. No prelude, no organ, no nothing. Realizing that no one was jumping up to play the ominous piano sitting in the corner, I heaved myself out of the chair and made the short walk to the bench to pinch hit. I’ve been playing for sacrament and primary meetings ever since.

Since mormons do not have paid clergy we rely solely on members to fill the bucket list of to do’s. It goes without saying that before I knew what hit me they asked if I would serve as Branch Music Chairman/Resident Note Know It All. Who knew all those piano lessons would finally pay off? It only took 20 years.

Last month I realized that this meant I would have to plan the Sunday Christmas Program. I’ve never been in a ward that didn’t have some version of a functioning choir, by December 1st most wards are shoulder deep in Christmas music and narrative preparations.

What was I going to do? I haven’t been in the ward long enough to know where our musical strengths are and with my stake calling I’ve been gone two out of the last five Sundays. I would have to simplify. Instead of trying to arrange a montage of scattered duets and instrumentals I felt like it might be best to simply have the little congregation act as our ward choir. Everyone loves to sing Christmas songs, it sounded like my most viable option.

Using stories and poems from present and past December Ensigns interspersed with some New Testament narration I patched together a relatively simple Christmas program with three narrators (2 adults 1 kid) that would keep the congregation singing and hopefully invite a nice Christmas spirit to the meeting. And in response to my terrible piano skills I asked our Stake Music Chairman (an absolutely brilliant pianist with an equally brilliant flautist for a daughter) to come up and accompany us and perhaps add a special musical number. He’s got magic in his fingers and we needed a little magic.

When I stood to lead our little group in the opening and sacrament hymns this morning I felt my heart drop a little. It was an odd mingling of voices and everyone had their noses buried in their hymnals. Isn’t it interesting how often we stare at words most of us know by heart? If only we would look up when we sing, I’m certain the Heavens are interested in every voice and every note.

The program started and we got through “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” with more lift than I expected. But when I stood to lead “Away in a Manger” and brought the congregation in, I almost lost my ability to sing completely.

Our spindly group of mismatched voices transformed itself into a choir that quite literally took my breath away. It was as if every empty seat was filled with an angel voice and the Spirit rang through as we sang that lovely old hymn–my favorite Christmas hymn–in rich harmony.

I can’t explain it but I wish you could have been there. I wish you could have listened as the narrators told stories about Shepherds and the Christmas Cane, as we listened to words from Elder Holland recalling his first Christmas away from home. And in between each lovely bit of prose my sweet choir sang songs of praise and worship to our Savior.

It was awesome and it was humbling. The Lord loves talent but I think he loves the heart that’s willing to sing untrained praises even more. How grateful I am to attend meetings with such a stalwart group of Christian men and women who love God and love Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas, dear friends!


  1. I love that! Frohe Weihnachten Annie!

  2. So glad they have the ‘Angel Filter’ even in Germany. It’s a beautiful thing. Merry Christmas, my dear friend.

  3. Had a very similar experience here in Costa Rica. Now I want my girls to start taking piano, never though I would say that!

  4. That is just awesome! Thanks for making me cry! I love when it works out like that.

  5. This brought tears to my eyes! And you know, you carry a little bit of musical magic yourself 😉 What a great idea to involve the congregation so much, I’m totally going to write something up for next year and share it with our music chairman and see if she wants to do it. Or, of course, you could just send me what you’ve got…