By John Bonney of Springfield, OR, USA
And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” —Matthew 2:6 NRSV
There are two realms in which Christmas plays itself out each year. The one we respond to, talk about, and plan is the one that goes on with and around us—the Christmas outside ourselves.
We fill Christmas with stories and depictions of the birth of Jesus, with all the events traditionally shared surrounding the event. This Christmas is for gift giving, shopping, decorating trees, and hanging lights. This Christmas has large dinners, gatherings of family and friends, and sometimes we spend more than we should. In this outside-of-ourselves Christmas we sing carols, read Amahl and the Night Visitors, and see plays and pageants. This is the Christmas that goes on around us, and in which we often take an enthusiastic part. Part. But it’s not the whole deal.
Then there’s the inner Christmas. That is, the Christmas that affects each of us personally and individually—the Christmas within our hearts and minds. We’re not always aware of the difference. Others probably never know how we imagine and play out Christmas. Every person creates his or her own Christmas. It is whatever we make it and understand it to be.
Advent doesn’t start until the fourth Sunday before December 25, but we often get so excited, we begin to decorate and celebrate long before that. And of course the retail community tries to jump-start Christmas as early as the day after the previous Christmas.
My personal Christmas has spanned much more than the few days of Advent—even more than the days after the US Thanksgiving Day. Yet my personal Christmas has nothing to do with retail sales. It takes hold of me somewhere during the final quarter of the year. It’s as if the sweet presence of this noble and precious time of the year grows in essence day by day leading right up to the grand and delightful arches of the gates of Christmas Day. Then beyond those arches is a brief, glowing passage, drenched in opalescent light that opens into the calm sea of another year.
How much we need Christmas—the real, peace-initiating, good-will-toward-all Christmas! There are too many negative, destructive, and dehumanizing actions in the world. To linger in the darkness buries us midwinter—no hope, no joy, no peace, no love. We are hopeful, each year, to expect Creation’s expression. In that promise, in that birth, in that coming, is also the promise that we, too, can show creative ability in our own lives. We are not alone.
So s-t-r-e-t-c-h out the Advent season if it shines hope on your inner Christmas. Celebrate the birth of Christ all year long.
Prayer for Peace
Tender Shepherd, let us mull our inner praise and worship during Advent season. Help us share the peace that was meant to be when Peace came to Earth.
Spiritual Practice: Invite People to Christ
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 162:3b and 163:2b. Pray to be aware of people who might be receptive, and therefore blessed, by your sharing of the message of the Living Christ. Imagine being in relationship with them and inviting them to Christ. In preparation, discover your personal testimony of Christ. “Be persistent in your witness and diligent in your mission to the world.” Repeat this mantra throughout the day: “Christ’s mission, our mission, my mission.”
Each day throughout the year, God, I will celebrate Christ.