This holiday/Christmas season sure has been a different one for me.
Different tone. Different adventures. Different thoughts.
We are even living in a different house than we were last year.
And all of that brought with it...different lessons.
Since our major efforts went to hosting our family for Thanksgiving and Guy's baptism this year...the three weeks following were my time to decompress. As a result, we weren't able to do all the fun crafting that we normally do during Christmas. That wasn't a problem, exactly, it was just different.
One thing that I thought about this year, is how awesome it is to be a kid at Christmastime. Adults lose so much of the joy of Christmas. And as "the adult" this year, I found myself letting the worries of the type of world my kids are facing trouble me.
I had to struggle in my mind and heart to figure out what I should do as a follower for Christ, to honor the Christmas Spirit, which as President Monson has taught IS the Spirit of Christ.
"When we keep the spirit of Christmas, we keep the Spirit of Christ, for the Christmas spirit is the Christ Spirit. It will block out all the distractions around us which can diminish Christmas and swallow up its true meaning.
"There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus Christ." - President Thomas S. Monson
Time and again this month, as I have navigated life, I have been reminded of the truth of President Monson's message. When we follow the principles taught by the Savior, we are happy, and we serve under his watchful care.
How easy it is, as mortals, to be tempted to step outside of that safe zone, even as we are striving to do what is right. But we must follow in his footsteps...and tread there only, and remember that his grace is sufficient for the meek.
One of the moments where I really felt peace came while I was watching Autumn perform as one of the angels in her preschool Christmas pageant. (She's on the far left.) She sang so loud and was absolutely confident as she sang "Hark, the Herald Angles Sing!" This is a side of Autumn that is newly emerging, and it's exciting to watch.
Just listening to these sweet children sing about Christ's birth, so proud to be playing a part in the retelling of this beautiful story, filled my heart with hope for the future.
On the Sunday before Christmas, our Bishop and his wife gave really beautiful talks in Sacrament meeting. They spoke about how the story of Christ's birth is prophetic and a type of things to come...and how we can learn lessons from the various "characters" in the story.
He pointed to the Book of Mormon account of Christ's birth, and said that we can expect to see similar conditions before Christ comes again. I feel that we are already starting to see obvious manifestations of this promise.
Never before have I stopped to consider the comfort in the angel Gabriel's words to "Fear not." And I am glad that his words echo through the generations.
The Christmas hymn's lyrics ring true to me this year, "The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight." And I identify with the early saints of the Book of Mormon who waited and watched for the sign to be given that the Savior of us all had been born into the world. I too wait and watch for His return. Until then, we walk by faith.
As I passed through the halls of church that Sunday, I could hear the other ward's Christmas presentation, further down the hall, I could hear the laughter (and the smell of cinnamon rolls) spilling out of the YW room, and children singing Christmas carols in the Primary room. This all made me happy and feel light again.
In the end, despite my personal, internal meanderings this Christmas, I learned so much about walking in the spirit. I learned most especially about the resilience of the Christmas Spirit...which is the Christ Spirit.
I learned that just as Christmas "doesn't come from a store," it also cannot be kept from coming by administrators of the world...because Christmas lives in the hearts of those who keep it.
I learned that every time we follow the Savior, we keep Christmas.
I learned that every time we are kind to our (perceived) enemies and walk a mile (or a few minutes) in their shoes, we are keeping Christmas.
I learned that Jesus loves ALL of his children, and that through us, he can touch even the most "untouchable" and love the seemingly "unlovable," if only we will practice what HE preaches.
It sometimes feels like an overwhelming task for mere mortals like myself, but I know that the Lord gives no commandment unless he prepares a way. And it is often our job to work hard to find that way.
So, yes, looking back, this Christmas was full of gifts...of the most unexpected, but genuinely valuable variety.
One special gift was that our home was filled, once again, with friends and many of our new neighbors!
And that helped bring the Christ Spirit, you can be sure!
As did my husband and the sweet angel faces of my children who fill our home every day of the year with light.
I hope that your Christmas season was filled with light and hope and joy and peace...and most of all the Spirit of Christ and whatever beautiful lessons the Lord had in store for you.
2013 was a very, very blessed and beautiful year in our family. For that, we thank God. Here's to 2014!!! Oh what adventures await....!!!