Sometimes I wonder if we have over commercialized Christmas, I see children just get loaded on with plastic toys that are broken by the end of the day. They get presents in the morning, then go to one set of grandparents and get some more, then off to the other grandparents house and collect again. It's a lot of presents, though I understand fully that it is a wonderful feeling for parents to cause such joy for their children, that most of this gift giving is for the sake of the givers more so than the children just getting new toys. And I will probably always carry on the tradition, I too have found that it is very enjoyable to give to those you love, or those in need. In fact, I wish I could teach myself to spend so freely on myself as I can do for others. (I'd eat a lot better) But...I wish I knew for sure that the meaning of Christmas is still penetrating the hearts and minds of young and old alike. I know though, that parents do such a good job teaching children about Christ in my family. It started with my parents. Though at the time I was more naive about Christmas and excited about presents than most, there was planted in me a deep respect and admiration for my Savior Jesus Christ and the true meaning behind the holiday that celebrates His birth. All of the children in my family would dress up as Joseph and Mary, the Wiseman, the Shephard, and all the characters from the nativity (a cabbage patch doll played the roll of baby Jesus when I got too big) and as one of the adults read the story from Luke, we would re-enact the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. To this date these are some of my most fond memories of Christmas and I credit those little nativity skits as a foundation upon which I have built my testimony of the Man that is my Savior. I try to spend Christmas time, and all of my life remembering who He is and what He has done for me.
Of course, I am not perfect, I get wrapped up (no pun intended) in the wordly conundrum that is this life. Recently, my poor niece was robbed when her car was broken into while in Salt Lake City. A few days later I got a message from her on my phone. Apparently a homeless man had found her purse, and in the purse was a receipt. This man called the establishment from whence the receipt came, they in turn called her to tell her the purse had been found. The message she left on my phone was to ask if I could go get the purse from this man. My first reaction when I listened to the message was, "Oh great, he is probably going to want me to give him money for finding the purse, he is probably the one that took it!". I was so put out that this mean, dirty man would stump so low. It immediately hit me then. How does Jesus feel towards those who are poor and needy, despite how they got there? "...I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them." (Isaiah 41:17). I immediately felt ashamed. Is that really the first thing that came to my mind when I heard about the situation? I am not proud. Thankfully, my mind soon began to wander in a more positive direction. I quickly filled my car with all the extra gloves, jackets, blankets, and food I could find in order to pay this generous man who had gone out of his way to return a little purse to my niece. I hoped to meet him, give him all I could and take him out to a nice meal somewhere. Ready to go in my car I called my niece back to learn where I could find the man. Unfortunately, she was still not able to contact him. If we never find him, I still hope to give away the excess items in my car.
There have been years that instead of giving each other gifts, my family has picked other families or children from the angel tree. For the same reasons I spoke about earlier, it felt good to get some great gifts for "boy, age 7", I am sure he was thrilled with the clothes and bicycle, but even more so, I can imagine the joy his parents felt when they were able to give their son a Christmas. But sometimes Christmas can have an unfortunate dark side, two words...Black Friday. Seriously? Is saving 5 dollars worth dehumanizing each other and getting maced? To date, the most cherished gifts I have received on Christmas, are things like the handmade blanket I'm currently wrapped up in, the framed photo of my family, and all of our home videos my parents put onto DVDs and gave to us. None of which required standing in line at 2am and fist fighting to acquire.
During my recent flight back to Utah there were some major delays. Delays caused by weather (did you know airports are completely useless without internet? I didn't either, but apparently it's true...how did they do it before?) Anyway, there was nothing any of the poor airline employees could do, but of course everyone around was grumbling, complaining, and arguing their cases to the poor airport employees. It made me a little sad. The Spirit of Christmas was definitely not in that terminal. I don't think I changed anything, but I decided to try. I started playing Silent Night on my ukulele. I wish I could say that within minutes we were all singing along with our hands around each other in a big Kumbaya type circle, sharing photos of loved ones, and laughing merrily from the stories we all told...but we didn't. In fact nothing happened at all. The kid with the mohawk across from me did look up from his video game for a second though. But for me, it was the first time this Christmas season, that I really stopped to think about what it is that we are celebrating. The rest of my trip, because I knew it's what Jesus would do, I told every employee thank you very much and with the bestest, friendliest grin I have, wished them each a very Merry Christmas. It was the first time I saw any of them smile.
I just got home from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra on Temple Square annual Christmas concert (thanks Traci!). It was spectacular! It is so wonderful to hear Christmas music performed so powerfully. Thanks to a trait I inherited from my mother, I was all teary eyed almost the entire concert. But there in that huge concert hall, across the street from the gloriously lit Temple Square, it hit me again how amazing it is that God gave us His son to come and reconcile us from our sins and to orchestrate the plan that will allow us to live eternally with those we whom we love. I know without a doubt in my heart or in my mind that Jesus Christ is the son of God, that He is my savior and redeemer, and that it is through Him, because of Him that I have reason for hope, happiness, and love in this life and a chance to continue that through to a life eternal. How glorious a man was He to come here to this earth to bleed, suffer and die for you and me. Such love I will never know from another, and hope to repay everyday through my thoughts, actions, and obedience. My Savior and Lord is Jesus the Christ!
There really is no other season as magical and glorious as this one. I love Christmas. The lights, the music, the time with family, the traditions, the parties, the food, the candy, and yes...even the presents! But of course the best part of all, is the spirit I feel, the spirit given to us all by the great, loving Jehovah.