I love Christmas time, and I would be remiss to not write my feelings about it on this blog.
The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has an odd relationship with classic Christian holidays. Although we celebrate the major ones, such as Easter and Christmas, we do not celebrate many of the other holidays that are common in the Protestant and Catholic traditions. Sometimes this comes from theological differences (such as the Catholic holidays celebrating Saints) but other times it is just tradition.
I wish that we made more focus on Advent.
Advent is the time leading up to Christmas. Usually it comes with fasting and various folk traditions, but the main point is to prepare ourselves to celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ.
I like this idea, because it allows us to focus on the underlying core of Christmas: the Atonement. Technically, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ but the whole purpose that we even care about his birth is that eventually it would enable us to be free from sin.
This is the true meaning of the Christmas miracle.
Every Christmas we receive gifts that we did not really deserve. The only reason that we get anything at all from our friends and family is because of their unconditional love for us. They are sacrificing their time and money to make our lives a little better. Sometimes we forget that they act of gift giving is a symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ gave us ultimate gift, the ability to live with our Heavenly Father again. But what have we done to deserve it? Not much. I spend most of my time stumbling around, trying to do my best but failing more often than not. I am on the right path, but my measly efforts to do well do not even compare to what Jesus Christ has given me. Just like when I was a kid getting Star Wars action figures that I probably didn’t deserve, I have been given the ultimate spiritual gift, even though I know that I do not deserve it.
The whole point (and the whole message of Christmas) is one of love. We show our unconditional love to those around us, just as Jesus Christ showed his unconditional love to us. Alma cataloged all the things that Christ would go through:
10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
Advent is a great time, because it helps us build up to the day of Christ birth, the day that our salvation came into play. Even though we celebrate his atonement and resurrection on Easter, Christmas is where it all started.
I like having Christmas at the end of the year, because it feels a great time to reevaluate my life. It feels the same way to me as Sunday does. During the whole year, I make mistakes, I learn about myself and I realize what I can do better. Then, at the end of the year, I can focus wholly on Christ’s life and decide what I can do better. Then, the New Year comes, and I start all over again.
This is what gives Christmas time such a special feel. Yes, we feel more love from our friends and we get to see our hometowns covered with bright lights. But really, deep down, we like this time of year because it is a fresh beginning. We are given the opportunity to begin again, become a new person and be who we have always wanted to be. And the only reason that this is possible? The birth of a baby boy 2000 years ago that lead to the ultimate act of love this world has ever seen.