Schools celebrate "Winter Break" but are prohibited from mentioning the creator of winter and all seasons. Cities string glittering stars across roads but ignore the heavenly light shining "out of darkness" (2 Corinthians 4:6). Stores greet us with "Happy Holidays" but remain timidly silent about the holy days.
The reason for the season is Jesus Christ.
The empty garden tomb is a testament to the loftiness of a lowly manger. We revere the birth in Bethlehem by honoring the sacrifice of Calvary and Gethsemane.
The spirit of Christmas
Since the invention of language, poets have attempted to describe the love we feel during the Christmas season.
Some describe this love as a warm glow in the hearths and hearts of our lives. Others refer to this love as unbuttoned joy, bright and innocent as puppy fur. Neither the science of words nor the seance of verse can adequately define the love of the season, for it is born of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice for each of us.
Simply put, the love we feel at Christmastime springs from the singular life of Jesus Christ.
Safe in your mouth
No one ever described this love more poignantly than a 4-year-old child interviewed by TV personality 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."
Is the Christ in Christmas safe in your mouth?
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Do we honor Jesus in the gift of selflessness and Christian charity year round? Is Christ safe in our mouths because charity blossoms in our hearts?
May we recognize as did Emerson that "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).
Perhaps this Christmas season, each of us will commit to giving more of ourselves and worry less about scurrying through malls in a vain search for the elusive "perfect gift."
In the process of discipleship, we must all eventually confront ourselves. Jesus referred to this confrontation as being "born again" (John 3:5) and converted to "become as little children" (Matthew 18:3). A Book of Mormon prophet called it "put(ting) off the natural man" (Mosiah 3:19). Another said it is "the purifying and sanctification of (our) hearts" (Helaman 3:35). Alma declared it a "mighty change of heart" (Alma 5:14).
This confrontation is a transformation from the natural to the spiritual man or woman of Christ. It is a childlike rebirth that reminds us of another birth two millennia ago.
Bows and Bethlehem
The true spirit of Christmas is not found in pretty bows, glossy wrapping paper or sparkling lights, though all these things can remind us of a higher purpose: the love Jesus offers us.
The baby Jesus, born in a feeding trough for sheep, would one day feed with the bread of life all who come unto him. In return, he asks his followers to feed his sheep.
Amid the glitter and glitz of a commercial Christmas, may we ever remember the babe of Bethlehem and follow him in giving the gift of self.
"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" (Luke 2:7). To the shepherds, an angel declared, "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 2:10-11).
Ours can be a season of peace from the prince of peace. May the name and life of Jesus Christ be the true spirit of the season and forever safe in our mouths.
William Monahan graduated from BYU law school. An Air Force veteran and former Phoenix stake president, he teaches law and serves as a high councilor for QC Chandler Heights Stake. Brother Monahan begins service July 2012 as a mission president.