Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Keeping Christmas

When I was young, one of the things I loved most about December in Utah was visiting Temple Square. My parents weren't religious -- we went to see the lights. I loved the lights too -- but all that changed in 1971. Temple Square at Christmas became much more. I was twelve that year and two days before Christmas, my dad passed away. He had been in a coma two weeks prior to that, so I didn't get to see him at all before he died. Children weren't allowed in hospitals. It was hard. Hard to lose my father, even harder that it happened at Christmastime. We made our usual pilgrimage to Temple Square that year, but when I looked at around at the lights, they didn't bring the usual excitement. I remember feeling so sad, and so alone. I remember getting cold so we went into the North Visitor's Center. I climbed the ramp to the upstairs level where a replica of Thorvaldsen's Christus is located. I don't think I had ever been in that room before. The Christus filled the room. Opposite the statute, the wall is all windows and outside, I could see the brightly lit trees and a Nativity with the baby Jesus lying in a manger. I sat down on a bench and stared at the Christus. I could hear the faint sound of Handel's Messiah playing outside on the grounds. The music was piped through speakers from a live from a performance taking place inside the Tabernacle, also located on the square. That moment brought me peace at a time I truly needed it. I felt the Savior's love, which is what Christmastime is all about. I couldn't tell you one thing I got for Christmas that year, but I do remember Temple Square, the Christus and being with my family. Moments and feelings like that are more important than any tangible thing we could possibly receive. They never wear out, they are ours to keep. They are precious.
My last visit to see the lights was over 25 years ago, before I moved to California. The world has changed quite a bit since then, and so have my feelings about December. I LOVE that it's a month when people focus on serving others, I love listening to Christmas music and singing Christmas songs in a choir. I love the way my house feels -- it's decorated, and it smells like pine. I love thinking of the Savior's birth and his life on Earth. I love making gifts and letting people know I'm thankful that they are in my life. But .... I don't like the Worldly influence that has invaded my mind and my home. It's harder now to feel the Spirit of the season.
I don't like that we have turned December into a commercial shopping palozza. I don't like that most stores put up Christmas displays in August, nor do I like like being bombarded with "holiday" toy commercials, and store ads from July until December. (Is it just me, or does it bother you to walk into Costco or JoAnn's during the summer when it's 120 degrees outside to see a huge area with Christmas tress on display with Christmas candy and gift wrap?) I don't like running around like a crazy person to get deals on "Black Friday." I don't like all the Hollywood movies that have absolutely no message about Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men. Christmas has become all about "stuff" and making a profit.
I also don't like that we can't celebrate "Christmas" in school; or Hanuka for that matter. It's now "the Holidays." We can sing about reindeer and snow, and make snow men out of cotton balls, but forget about anything that has to do with God, or the birth of his Son.

All this makes me wonder .... do my children keep Christmas in their hearts? Do they feel the way they should feel about a sacred holiday, or are they just counting the days until they can unwrap presents under the tree? Do we spend more time worrying about what we are getting, and not enough time giving?? I think I need to do more to create experiences that my family carry with them throughout their lives. Sometimes my children think they lack, and I have to admit.... so do I. We have so much. We have the gospel in our lives, a home, food, cloths, running water, wonderful friends, and freedom. But, there are a few things we do really need. More compassion, more kindness, more patience (especially when I'm driving), more humility, and more love. We need things money cannot buy.
This year, I'm going to try hard to shut out the world and "Keep Christmas" in the real sense of the phrase. I want to do things with my family that will help them have that feeling I experienced at Temple Square. I want them to focus on Christ and what he would want us to give as we celebrate His birth.

So I'd like some advise from you if you please..... What do you do to Keep Christmas???? What brings meaning into your life this time of year?

Post Script: An amazing thing just happened. Right after I posted this entry I went upstairs to take a shower and an answer to my dilemma came to my mind. I'm making an advent calendar. Every pocket will have a tag that has something our family will do that day to make a difference in the world. Most of the tasks will be simple things, but they will have meaning. I'll tell you more about it in a few days after I get it made. Really excited about this one, hope it works. I still want to know what you do to keep Christmas..... maybe your ideas will end up in our advent calendar!!


Rosie said...

This was beautifully written. It brought me to tears. I agree completely that it is so difficult to find the real reason for the season.

I think that your advent idea is fabulous. I hope that you will share.

I brought out my Christmas books--I have both kinds--fun holiday books about Santa, reideer, snowmen, etc. but I also have ones that are more about Christ and serving other people. As I was reading this I thought that I should probably separate them into two distint baskets. Then, every night (trying to instill this tradition) when I read the little one a book we can choose two---one from Each basket. That way we aren't only reading the Holiday books.

I am also trying to find ways to think about service. We are doing a hat and glove drive(its cold here) for the homeless shelter. I picked some up when shopping but I think that I need to actually take my children to purchase some--so that they are more involved in the process. I also think that I need to have them help with a flyer to put in our little store--and also to all our neighbors telling them of our project.

Thanks for the inspiration!

crystal b. said...

Rosie, that is such a great idea. I'm putting it on my calendar!! Thanks for sharing.

R Max said...

Make me one Crystal! I can't wait to see it! You are so clever!

Lyndsay said...

This is a wonderful post, Crystal! This year the holiday season is already feeling different. I've made over half my gifts, and the others I bought online using only money I made through my blog designs. I avoided Black Friday. I haven't set foot in a mall. And I shopped Etsy. My gift buying/making felt like the most satisfying experience yet. Also, since moving to Cali we didn't get cable (or any normal TV). We have Apple TV, and buy or rent individual shows or movies. I haven't seen one commercial in the last 6 months! Finn is learning about Christmas from me, not the TV. It's been SO nice this year! And we visited the Temple grounds as a family today. :) Thanks for this post. Can't wait to hear more about your advent calendar!

That Fresh Feeling said...

love this post and love the advent idea.

we are gift making this year as well. and we read our advent scriptures every night. we are Christmas shopping though for our angel family of 6 so we have been to the the feeling of buying for others though. it is a blessing within itself.

also to keep the Christmas spirit alive i am not putting down other people because they might not be celebrating the main reason for the season. who am i to judge them. blessings, A