Sunday, December 1, 2013

Having A Christ Centered Holiday

Last month I was asked to give a quick little talk at a Thanksgiving Dinner with the topic of having a Christ Centered Holiday.  I thought I would share that talk here for those of you that are heartbroken to have missed it.... 

When I was a child my Mom’s best friend, our next door neighbor was Donna Semonelli.  Donna is Jewish.  And for Christmas one year she thought it would be appropriate to give my mother the Barbara Streissand Christmas Album (Because she liked the irony of a Jewish friend giving her Christian friend a record of a Jewish singer singing Christmas music.)  That album became our symbol of the beginning of Christmas.  Every year, as soon as my mom played that record, and we heard Barbara’s fast paced version of Jingle Bells we knew it was time for Christmas.

My children and I have a similar tradition; only their favorite song is Josh Groban’s Little Drummer Boy.  It has become a family favorite.  And every time we sing it, I think about the words. (Don’t worry, I will not sing them) 

Come they told me, pa rum pa pum pum, A new born king to see, Our finest gifts we bring, To lay before the King, So to Honor Him, When we come.”

The next verse continues as this young drummer boy explains his gift:
“Little Baby, I am a poor boy too, I have no gift to bring, That’s fit to give our King, Shall I play for you, On my drum?”

According to the song, Mary agreed and he played his drum as a gift for the King of Kings.  And it is reiterated that He is playing to Honor the Baby.  And then he even says “I played my best for him”.

I think my kids love all of the “pa rum pa pum pums” in the song, but I love that little part.  That the poor boy played his best to Honor the Baby Jesus.

Tonight, I have the opportunity to speak about having a Christ Centered Holiday.  In the First Presidency Christmas Devotional in 2011 President Uchtdorf  talks about this Spirit of Christmas.  He said   
“It is usually something small—we read a verse of scripture, we hear a sacred carol and really listen to its words, or we witness a sincere expression of love. In one way or another, the Spirit touches our hearts, and we see that Christmas, in its essence, is much more sturdy and enduring than the many minor things of life [that] we too often use to adorn it.
“We realize in these precious moments what we feel and know in our heart—that Christmas is about the Christ.”
I love that simple reminder, that we may feel in a song, in a verse, in a Family Home Evening that remind us that Christmas is about Christ.  But how do we continue to remember that throughout the Holiday season?  After all, Black Friday now starts on Thursday!  We have to get out there and start buying our gifts, and climbing our roofs to string the lights, and hunting and searching for the perfect Noble Fir to display in our living room.  It seems so easy to forget those beautiful words of a hymn, or verse about Christ when there are so many other distractions.  Even though some of those distractions are good as well.  (I want to make sure that JT knows he is not off the hook for putting up Christmas lights this year.)

But I think there is a lesson for me in the song my kids love, and also from the story of Christ’s birth. 

President Uchtdorf said that we, “like the Wise Men of old, should seek the Christ and lay before Him the most precious of gifts: a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We should offer Him our love.”

There is nothing I can buy for sale on Black Friday, to offer the Savior.  The only thing I have to offer Him is my heart, and my love.  We each have our own ways of offering this gift.  The Wise Men brought expensive gifts as a symbol and acknowledgement of His Royalty.  The little (and probably fictitious) drummer boy brought his talents.  A few years ago when our family was struggling financially, our friends secretly provided Christmas gifts for our family.  That tender offering was sacred in our home, and was an offering to Christ as much as it was to my children.  Because when we serve our fellow men we are only in the service of our God.  And when we bring tender, heart felt gifts to those in need, we are laying them at His feet as well.  As a missionary, my companion and I sang Christmas Carols at the homes of our investigators.  In a poverty stricken, third world country, I would have loved to have given the material gifts that they so desperately needed.  But the offering I had was simply the beautiful message of a Savior.

There are literally hundreds or thousands of ways that we can be like this Little Drummer Boy and give our best to the Savior this Holiday Season.  I love that the Holiday Season begins with Thanksgiving.  What better way to prepare to celebrate the Birth of the Savior than by giving Thanks? We can start right there, and carry that spirit of Gratitude for the rest of the season. 

As a parent, I feel like one of the ways I can “offer Him my heart and my love” (like President Uchtdorf suggested) is to teach my children.  After all, as the mother in the home, I am probably the biggest contributor to the Spirit in our home.  If I am frazzled by gift wrapping, and turkey, and holiday baking - that may become the center of our holiday.  And I, like the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas may teach them to misunderstand the meaning and purpose of Christmas.  I love when the Grinch hears the Who’s singing on Christmas morning.

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
I have tried, over the past few years, to combat some of that materialism by adding in some traditions that help us to focus a little more on the Savior every day and to teach my kids that Christmas does mean more.  The first couple years, I made one of those fun “countdown chains” that the kids could pull off one link each night.  And the link would have a scripture about Christ that we could read together as a family before bed.  I was amazed at how much a simple little scripture helped me to stay focused on the Savior.

Last year I decided I really wanted an advent calendar.  I always loved them growing up, especially the ones with candy behind the little doors!  And while I was scouring Pinterest and Costco for “the perfect advent calendar”, I realized I wanted it to be more than just a chocolate, I wanted it to some how countdown to the Birth of the Savior.  And since pinterest and Costco didn’t have “the perfect count down to the birth of the Savior advent calendar” I had to make my own. (I am not some super crafter or anything, so please don’t get any ideas to call me to Relief Society Enrichment or anything).  And every day, as we placed an ornament on the tree – with a scripture and symbol of Christ, we studied about the birth, life, and teachings of Christ.

This is just one simple way, that my little family has tried to have a Christ centered holiday.  I hope to continue to add more traditions that enable us to offer our best gifts this year. 

I’d like to suggest one last way that we can have a Christ centered holiday and offer a gift to the Savior.  President Uchtdorf suggested that this gift be a “broken and contrite heart”.  This is the offering that Christ commanded the Nephites to offer when He came to the promised land. This was to be there sacrifice.  We all have something we can sacrifice. A bad habit, a sin, even a sin of omission, or something that we have been reluctant to do for whatever reason.  What will your offering be?

 This Christmas, we can focus on giving the purest, and best offering of a pure, contrite, broken, and willing heart.  There may not be a better gift to give to the Christ Child than a willingness to repent and come closer unto Him.  After all, it is a season celebrating Birth- a new beginning.

I love this season.  I love the smell of trees, I love the shopping, I love the Christmas carols and Christmas decorations, I love the giving, and baking, and every other aspect of this season.  But above all of that, I love the Savior.  I am deeply grateful to be a member of His Church and to feel such a closeness to Him at this time.  I hope that our hearts grow like the Grinch’s heart, as we realize that Christmas means a little bit more this year.  And that we can all find an offering to give that brings us closer to Him and centers our lives around Him.

Here is a link to the post I did last year that shows the tree Felt Advent Tree that I made with the Scriptures.  
Merry Christmas!

1 comment:

  1. That was wonderful! I'm sure your new ward enjoyed it a lot!!!