Today is the first Sunday of Advent. While we don’t celebrate Advent formally in Mormon culture or doctrine, my thoughts turn even more to the birth of Jesus Christ and to all of His gifts to us this Christmas season. So, for my Sunday posts this month, I will share some of my thoughts and feelings and favorite videos that express my beliefs and my joys about Christ and Christmas.
We just finished Black Friday, which to me in some ways is the antithesis of the Christmas season. I suppose it’s good we get it out of the way up front, so now we can focus on the really important parts. This first video seems especially appropriate after the inundation of advertisements that appeared in my newspaper and my email and on my television this past week. Note: my original video disappeared, but I love the sweet and touching message of this one I saw a few weeks ago.
Music is one of the highlights of Christmas for me. I love Christmas music. I have already found the radio station that is “all Christmas all the time” at this time of year and I’ve begun listening to it on my way to and from work each day. I notice that listening to beautiful Christmas music that is sometimes exuberant, sometimes silly, sometimes peaceful and always joyful gives my spirit a lift and reminds my heart to rejoice in all the good gifts of Christ and of Christmas. Keeping with my children theme today, here is a beautiful rendition of “Where are You Christmas?” by The Piano Guys.
Many years ago, I made my parents a gift for Christmas. It was an embroidered art piece and featured the last few lines of one of my favorite pieces of Christmas prose (well, really one of my favorite pieces of prose, period) by American Author Henry Van Dyke. If you don’t know who he is, he is the one who wrote the words we sing with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” He is also the author of the “The Other Wise Man,” along with many other works. This particular piece is called “Keeping Christmas.” It touched my heart many years ago as a teenager and continues to do so today. It is one of the goals of my life to be able to “Keep Christmas” always.
It is a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and seasons, when men agree to stop work and make merry together, is a wise and wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over the individual life. It reminds a man to set his own little watch, now and then, by the great clock of humanity which runs on sun time.
But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas.
Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellow-men are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness–are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.
Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open–are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.
Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world–stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death–and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas.
And if you keep it for a day, why not always?
But you can never keep it alone.
This Christmas it is my goal to begin “keeping Christmas” and then to keep it not just for one day, but for always. I’ve started already with some commitments I have made to serve today.
But as Henry VanDyke says, I cannot keep it alone.