Today is Christmas.
Merry Christmas, no matter your personal views on the matter, because, well, it's Christmas!
This time of year is often characterized by a massive push of consumer greed. The uber cheerful music, showy gift wrapping, and crazed shoppers are enough to make me gag. If I have to hear one more rendition of "Santa Baby" I just might tear off my own ears.
Except, I truly do like Christmas. I like the glittery lights, good feelings, good food, and massive push for family togetherness.
I like gifts!
Receiving is great, but I really love giving gifts. Particularly when I have something especially good in mind for the recipient. The joy of watching them carefully peel off brightly colored wrapping paper is only topped by the singular moment when they realize exactly what is in their grasp. It's priceless! It is beautiful.
Today I received a bit of an unexpected gift.
A touch of the "true meaning of Christmas" in wondrous solidity.
We only had one hour of church, as opposed to the regular three hour set. I arrived late due a miscommunication and arrived just as the children were singing about the birth of Christ. As I sat in the family pew I was a bit surprised to see a dear Brother on the stand in front of the ward choir. Earlier this year we were shocked to learn that this man had a vigorous form of cancer with few treatment options. He's known for some time but waited to share with the community until recently when his health has impacted his ability to participate in normal activities. This man holds my utmost respect and I'm sure he will never know quite how large an impact he has had on the lives of many thousands. He is good and kind and has done much to help my personal understanding of gospel of Jesus Christ without ever knowing.
He had been invited to speak on Christmas to share his feelings about the Savior of the world. His testimony was sweet and simple but powerful.
He opened by stating, "I don't know how many days, weeks or months I have left, but nobody really does."
That alone reduced me to tears. I cried openly as the realization touched my heart that this may be the last time I hear him speak at all. However, I am consoled by the knowledge that he knows where he is going and who he will meet and all will be well for eternity. Death is scary, but not so terrifying when the outcome is understood before.
No one knows when we will be called back to our Heavenly Home. No one knows how much longer we have to set things right. No one knows when our last day will be. That is why it is so important to find joy in every moment. Joy in the journey, no matter where it takes us. That is why we must use today to show others that we love them. That is why we must live today as if it is our last. Because it just might be. But even if it's not, even if we have dozens of years left ahead, wouldn't it feel like a waste if it was used in the pursuit of unworthy goals?
It is no mistake that Christmas is celebrated at the close of the year. We have exactly one week before the new year dawns, bringing new opportunities for change and growth. Let's use this week to prepare not only for the coming year but also for that great unknown adventure that has no knowable time or date. Let us prepare by using every day to become better, more worthy children of a loving God.
The real beauty of Christmas is in its name: Christ. Jesus Christ was born to help us undo all of our mistakes. He helps us to set things right, to atone for the things that have and will go wrong. He shows us that we are worth second chances. He helps us not only to learn but to reach our potential to be more than what we are naturally capable of becoming. It is only through Jesus that we can ever hope to be found worth before our Heavenly Father. He shoulders the weight of sins that would crush us. He sets right the injustices of the world. He does more than you or I can comprehend while in the mortal sphere.
In the New Testament, Luke 2 tells the story of Christ's birth. A group of shepherds were visited that night by glorious angels. The angles brought these common men "good tidings of great joy" and communicated how they ought to recognize the babe. When they found Him, these good men told Mary all that the angels had told them. Mary not only heard and wondered at these words but "kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."
Don't forget how you feel today. Store up every amazing thing you hear, see, and feel. Ponder them in your heart as Mary did and know that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of the world.
Christ is worth celebrating.