The “Winds of Winter” have meaning for us this year. The cold that blights the landscape emphasizes vividly our smallness and inadequacy beside the mighty forces of nature. And who channeled the forces of nature, organized and employed them for usefulness in this world? He who had brought the elements of the heavens together, and created this earth whereon weather – day and night, fair and foul — would play such a large part.

The Savior was not likely born in the bitter narrowness of winter, but the fact that we celebrate his birth at this time of year has a significance that is worth our consideration. In winter we are acutely aware of our human condition and limitations. As Andrew Wyeth put it, in winter we feel “the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.”

We, ourselves, are taken down to the bone and sinew of our lives. Our “inner parts” seem exposed and vulnerable, and we are compelled to think about matters of mortality and eternity because the essentials loom more important than they do in milder, easier times of the year. “Every winter when the great sun has turned his face away,” wrote Charles Kingsley, “the earth goes down into a vale of grief, and fasts, and weeps, and shrouds herself in sables.”

In winter we become vulnerable, and when we are vulnerable, we are open. The spirit pushes its way to the forefront, and we are a little more “of eternity” at such times than we are of this world.

Then the Lord can get our attention, as it were, and take us in hand.

If we think in terms of humility rather than vulnerability, we understand the import of being swept clean of the taints and stains of mortality – becoming vessels prepared to receive what the Spirit is willing to impart.

“Humility makes great men twice honorable,” Benjamin Franklin said. And Rabindranath Tagore taught that “we come nearest to the great when we are great in humility.”

The greatest is, of course, the Savior, and humility is an integral part of the Atonement and of the eternal, creative power of charity, or the pure love of Christ. To be humble is to be spiritually alive. Within true humility resides the power of the Lord.

As we approached the Winter Solstice, darkness outweighed light; darkness had its iron hold upon the earth. As we celebrate the birth of the Christ-child, we (and all cultures before us) celebrate the return of Light; the renewal of hope, that light will again flood our existence and bring us continuance, and life.

The symbolism is as true and powerful as the physical reality: Light driving out darkness; Light as a source of growth, healing, knowledge, and direction in life. The Light of Christ as the source of our salvation and our joy.

So, as cleansed vessels, swept white and pure again by the winds of winter, poised and ready, we turn toward a new year — and toward all that is real and symbolic in beginnings.

It has been said that “every day is a fresh beginning; every morn is the world made new.”

Is that not most sacredly true to those of us who understand and partake of the cleansing, empowering work of our Savior?

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We can become new creatures in Christ. We can be careful what we allow to enter the “vessel of this new year,” the vessel of our inner self, of our eternal soul: welcoming what our Heavenly Father and the Savior would offer us — selecting wisely what we ourselves draw into our being — less of the darkness of the world, the shadows of error and uncertainty — and more of the light.

Unencumbered by past weaknesses, doubts, mistakes, we begin anew, encouraged by what Brigham Young said: “”The Lord praises you and comforts you if you live as you are directed . . . you do receive, from the fountain head, life, joy, peace, truth, and every good and wholesome principle that the Lord bestows upon this people, and your hearts exalt in it, and your joy is made full.”

A blessed and joyous new year to us all!