Since the invention of the pen, poets and pundits have attempted to describe the spirit of Christmas. While many disagree about the divinity of Jesus, most acknowledge love is the reason for the season.
To some, love is attraction, loyalty and affection. To others, love is the unbuttoned infatuation of new romance as bright and innocent as puppy fur.
Christmas is God's gift of true love. No mortal ever described love more poignantly than a 4-year-old child during an interview with Art Linkletter. When asked what love is, the little boy replied, "Love is when someone says your name just a little different, and you know your name is safe in their mouth."
I have been pondering whether Christmas, literally born of God's ultimate love, is safe in my mouth?
Do I speak of Christmas in merry greetings yet limit my charity to a few weeks in December? Is my love of my neighbor conditioned on the worthiness of the select few with whom I share my love? Are my gifts penciled onto a checklist of recipients in a race to beat the year-end calendar?
While gift giving at Christmas can be a memento of our love, remember what the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested, "Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself" (Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Gifts," Essays XIII, 1844).
At Christmastime, schools celebrate winter break but do not honor the creator of winter. Cities string glistening stars across roads but ignore the author of the light shining "out of darkness" (2 Corinthians 4: 6). Store employees greet us with “Happy Holidays” but remain timidly silent about the holy days.
Christmas is safe in your mouth when God's love is reflected in your daily life. While schools, stores and governments strive for a politically correct Christmas, we need not tread so gingerly.
It is difficult to imagine the sacrifice of our loving Father, "who gave his only begotten Son" (John 3:16) that we might have eternal life. Yet, in the exquisite Atonement of Jesus, God taught us by example how to love one another, as Jesus loved us. (John 13:34).
The true spirit of Christmas is not found in pretty bows, glossy wrapping paper or sparkling lights, though all these can remind us of a higher purpose — the love Jesus offers us. As we seek his love, it transforms us. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught in a recent general conference, "For what we love determines what we seek. What we seek determines what we think and do. What we think and do determines who we are and who we will become" (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Love of God," Ensign, November, 2009).
God's love is the true spirit of Christmas and Easter its shining star. The empty garden tomb is a testament to the loftiness of the lowly manger. We honor the birth in Bethlehem by honoring the life of Calvary and Gethsemane.
For Christmas to be safe in our mouths, our love for Jesus must be year-round. While the apostles of old looked for a Messiah to overthrow earthly oppressors, we must look to Jesus to overthrow the natural man or woman in each of us.
This confrontation has many descriptions, but the same required transformation. Jesus referred to it as being "born again" (John 3:5). One Book of Mormon prophet described it as "put(ting) off the natural man" (Mosiah 3:19). Another called it a "mighty change of heart" (Alma 5:14), and Elder Neal A. Maxwell labeled it "the Great Pivot" (Neal A. Maxwell, "Becoming a Disciple," Ensign, June, 1996).
Our transformation from the natural to the spiritual man or woman of Christ is a childlike rebirth. This new birth keeps God's love safe in our hearts and Christmas safe in our mouths every day of the year. The baby Jesus, born in a feeding trough for sheep, feeds with the bread of life all who come unto him. In turn, Jesus asks us to feed his sheep. Amid the glitter and glitz of a commercial Christmas, may we ever remember the rescue and refuge of a humble manger.
"And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:7-11).
May we experience a lifelong season of peace from the Prince of Peace. May Christ's sacred name and the true spirit of the season — the love of God — be forever safe in our mouths.