The Christmas season is an interesting time, full of emotions. Christmas means happiness, delight, excitement, joy, and most-all-things-good for some; while for other folks the season is a hard one. For those whose circumstances- whatever they are – bring heartache, where is the joy?
Even for the many who deal with no particular trial or harsh memory, the stress of “trying-to-get-it-all-done” leaves some harried and overwhelmed.
The gift buying!
The gift making!
The money issues!
The time constraints!
While digging through all the “stuff” of the season, even with the best of intentions, the reason for it all may get buried under the temporal-ness! Can’t you envision a picture of a harried mom, hair askew, bags under the eyes, shoulders drooping, trying to manage a smile as she tries to go in ten different directions? Burdened with a To-Do list that may or may not get done? Worried about budget? Unsure of how to get through the season without collapsing? Where is the joy in that?
So here’s the thing: Christmas is about the Savior. Our focus on Him and celebrating the event of his holy birth can be the balm to soothe every hurt, to calm every frayed nerve, and to bring light to any dark space within our heart or mind. But while it’s easy to write or say these words, it may be harder to connect them from the mind to the heart, and to put aside the cares of the world. It can be done, though. Peace can come, during this time when we celebrate the mortal birth of the Prince of Peace himself!
Here are a few thoughts that may help us settle down a bit, finding more Christmas joy for ourselves while we offer more of it to those we care about:
- “Yes, we still wish Christmas were more deeply felt and lasted longer, but the visibly increased goodwill nevertheless reminds us, if only briefly, of what could beeverlastingly. For a few days, the first and second commandments are more pondered and observed.” [Elder Neal A. Maxwell, The Christmas Scene, p.2.] Isn’t this true??! We can’t help but be buoyed up when we notice the amplified kindness and benevolence!
- “He before whom a few gifts were laid in that lowly manger has spread so many gifts before us, thereby providing an unending Christmas. In fact, from Him for whom there was no room at the inn there comes to the faithful so many blessings “that there shall not be room enough to receive them” (Malachi 3:10)” [Elder Neal A. Maxwell, The Christmas Scene, p. 5.] We could prayerfully ponder for days about these wise words. Christmas- and all the year through – we would find more peace and joy.
- We can set aside so much concern about temporal stuff. For some, that’s easy. For others, not so much. Yet, the more we can get away from spending a bunch of time and money on ‘things’, the more time and energy we have to enjoy for the best things of this holy season. The poem, by Christina Rossetti, is full of meaning and wisdom:
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb.
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,
Yet what can I give Him?
Give my heart.
The beauty is that, regardless of circumstances, we can give the gift of our devotion to the Savior. That increased ability to love Him increases our ability to love other people- including ourselves. That’s more precious than anything that money can buy.
- We can try to give as the Savior gives. Without reservation. Without thought of anything in return. We can more fully give in remembrance of the Savior who gave us His all. We can give of ourselves in ways that will last beyond those gifts that will rust or break or be misplaced.
- President David O. McKay once explained that the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing our life to gain it is simply to make others happy. That Christmas spirit is the spirit of Christ. That goodness prompts us to do good, to find ways to make people smile, to strengthen our own mind and heart in order to feel closer to Him. Then… then, the joy begins to grow. The peace begins to spread. The burdens begin to lift and the light begins to glow inside…even where it may have been dark and damp and lonely.
- Elder Richard L. Evans some years ago spoke of tending to our sweet elderly neighbors and friends: “What they need in the loneliness of their older years, is in part at least, what we needed in the uncertain years of our youth: a sense of belonging, an assurance of being wanted, and the kindly ministrations of loving hearts and hands; not merely dutiful formality, nor merely a room in a building, but room in someone’s heart and life.” So much good can be offered by tending to those whose lives have spanned many years of experience and learning. Joy comes when we lovingly attend to them!
What a season is Christmas! We can turn our burdens over to Jesus Christ, and feel relief. We can give away a habit or way of speaking or thinking, as a gift to Him. We benefit, of course, as we offer up a better version of ‘us.’ We can heal old wounds by courageously taking the first step toward reconciliation. We can breathe in the sights and sounds of the Christmas season. And allow them to echo in our soul, bringing a renewed sense of purpose and desire to follow the Good Shepherd.
The sweet feelings come as we remember Him….the Christ child, born to heal us all and make possible a full reconciliation with our God. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to reconcile with our family members or friends from whom we have been estranged? Or to let go of past hurts? To remember the eternal plan, so that the ache of missing a loved one doesn’t rob us of the joy of celebrating the very One who makes it possible for us to see them again?
A beautiful and familiar Christmas hymn teaches us the only real way to accept the joy of this season. When we accept Him, we receive all the joy and peace and beauty that come with that acceptance:
“Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.”
Vickey Pahnke Taylor is a wife, mom, grandmother, teacher, author, and songwriter/singer.