Editor’s note: The following is a transcript of the episode. It's been edited for clarity.
Boyd Matheson: Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas. Two gifts to experience and share on this week's edition of Therefore, What?
Welcome to a special Christmas edition of Therefore, What? Now, you might think it's a little early to be launching into a Christmas edition of this podcast, but it really isn't. I read recently something from G.K. Chesterton, longtime writer. This was done about 100 years ago. And he complained, this is a guy who was normally a pretty happy guy, but he was frustrated because as a writer in those days, he had to write about Christmas long before Christmas ever came in order to be able to publish it for Christmas.
And so we're going to do that just a little early this year. Because we think there's much more to talk about, and many lessons and Therefore, What? moments that we can find in the Christmas season.
It's interesting that he also said that the rest of the world seems to celebrate Christmas long before Christmas. And then when Christmas comes, everyone stops celebrating. And it should be just the opposite. Think about that. I know this happens in my house. We prepare, we get ready for Christmas. Christmas day comes and as soon as we get to about noon, we start talking about, well should we take the Christmas decorations down? Should we start getting ready for New Year's. Should we get ready for the next year coming in, and all the other parties and so on.
And so we literally stop celebrating Christmas on Christmas. In the old days it was very different. Christmas was the beginning of the celebration. It was usually much more austere up until Christmas Eve, even a fast on Christmas Eve was very common, and then you would have a Christmas feast. But that feast was the beginning, not the end.
When we talk about the 12 Days of Christmas, that actually used to start on Christmas. Shakespeare wrote about the 12th night. Why? Because the Christmas celebration started with the birth of the Savior on Christmas and would go through until the wise men, which is what they celebrate anyway, in terms of the 12th night. And so that's an interesting thing for us to think about as we enter the Christmas season this year. It really should be just the beginning of the celebration, not the end of the celebration.
I think one of the other things that we often forget, I'm always stunned to find that the biggest lessons, the most complex solutions are usually found in very interesting places. Somebody once said that the shepherds had always figured things out before the wise men arrived. And I think that's true. Sometimes I think we overcomplicate things. But I hope that during this Christmas season that we will both prepare properly, but then that we will celebrate and sustain it moving forward.
And so that's the real challenge. And so as we look at Christmas, you know, to me, Christmas is always family and friends, neighbors and loved ones, all the above and especially children. Christmas is always about children, and we add music and word and prayer and we come together to celebrate the Savior, Jesus Christ. We talk about Bethlehem and his birth, we talk about his love and his infinite, yet individually applied atoning sacrifice. We talk about saints and angels down through the ages proclaiming that he lives that he loves us still today.
So as we prepare for Christmas, as we prepare to truly celebrate, to Christmas and through Christmas and beyond, I often turn to a favorite quote from Howard W. Hunter (former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). He said, we should live our lives with ever more attention to the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And then he challenged, we must know him better than we know him, we must remember him more often than we remember him and serve him more valiantly than we serve him. Why? So that those around us and those we love will desire to come unto him.
And so I want to share those two gifts, gifts that we should both receive, and gifts that we should share in order to fulfill President Hunter's challenge. So first is the gift of Christlike compassion for others. And second, the blessing of believing.
Many years ago I jumped on a very small plane on a flight coming from Palm Springs back to Salt Lake City. And I took my seat in the exit row toward the back of the plane, there were a whole bunch of people on board and they were chatting about their very relaxing weekends, their refreshing spa treatments, the rounds of golf that they got in, the great restaurants that they went to.
Well, I had been there strictly for business, the only thing I saw in Palm Springs was the inside of the meeting room where it was always 70 degrees. And so as I sat there in my seat, and we got ready to take off, I found myself just a little bit resentful. Everybody else on the plane was having a great time, and I seemed to be the only one who had to work. So a little tired, a little spent, I decided that, hey, you know what, I've got about an hour flight. If I can just kind of retreat into the pages of my book, I will count that as my vacation and I will be OK when we land.
Well, just before we took off I noticed that the woman sitting in the seat just in front of me that was actually crying and she was clearly having a difficult time trying to keep herself together. And I confess, I admit, I tried to ignore her. I stared out the window. I tried to focus on the book I was reading, I tried to escape in thought, and then I had one of the most overpowering feelings of compassion I've ever experienced.
Suddenly I could feel the heaviness of her burden. I sensed the sting of her loss, I understood the cloud of confusion and her racing thoughts, and I could hear, I could literally hear the echo of her silent pleadings for peace, for strength, and assurance. Well, I found my own eyes filling and then spilling over with the tears of her sorrow.
Well as we got into the air, the woman got up and went back to the restroom. As she did so I turned away towards the window, just to hide my own tears. And then I was prompted, compelled really, to pull out a piece of paper and jot a quick note. And I tell you, my pen flew across the page as I began writing, and I wrote something to this effect: I wrote, "I know sometimes a good cry on a bad airplane can be a good thing, and other times it can be horribly isolating, which can cause simple sadness to sink into deep despair." I continued, "if talking would help I did tell the flight attendant I was willing to assist all passengers in the event of an emergency, because I was sitting in the exit row after all," and then I concluded, "if talking is not what you need today, then my prayer for you is that in the quiet of today, you may recognize the greatness of your spirit and the grandness of your soul. May your hopes rise on the wings of possibility, and may you realize above all else, that you are not alone." And then I signed it, "wishing you all the best, a fellow traveler."
I folded the note and handed it to her as she returned to her seat. Shortly before we landed, she handed me back a note that she had written, a note filled with gratitude. As we landed and got ready to exit the plane, we stood, and she leaned over and very softly said, "Thank you," and then she was gone.
As I walked out of the airport, I found that my energy had actually been restored. My hope had been renewed, I felt connected to the throngs of people I passed leaving the airport, I found myself actually looking into people's eyes, instead of looking down at my shoes, and I had this desire to reach out instead of just focusing inward on my own problems, my own challenges, my own tiredness and my own troubles.
Now, I'm convinced that true joy and happiness are to be found in the ways we compassionately connect with one another. You see, two scribbled notes exchanged at 30,000 feet, and two words, thank you, spoken on solid ground, provided both a soaring view of what we can become, and more importantly, the certain confidence that we do not walk alone here on the earth.
You see, there's a renewing power to be found in compassion. Compassion is the essence of what makes Christmas Christmas. Compassion is central to our coming under Christ, and learning how to recognize, to feel, to share and to reap the benefits of the ennobling, enlightening and empowering effects of compassion is worth pursuing during this Christmas season.
Well, over the course of this year, we have had a year, particularly here in the United States of America, that has been filled with divisive rhetoric, dire predictions, and dark and discouraging societal trends. To say the least, there is a critical need, I would say vital need, for people everywhere to simply believe.
More than ever, we need to believe. We need to believe in the goodness of people and the greatness of God. Christmas is indeed a season for believing. A very believing Mary said, be it unto me according to thy word, when told of the blessed baby she would bring forth. Joseph believed and was not afraid to take Mary to be his wife. The wise men believed and followed the star. Jesus Christ himself declared, all things are possible to him that believes.
Now here's something that you need to notice in that, and I paraphrase this from something I once heard Elder Jeffrey R. Holland say, that all things are possible.
That's what he said. He didn't say all things are possible unless you're missing a loved one. Nor did he say all things are possible except if you have a wayward child or a wandering spouse. He did not say all things are possible unless you have a financial setback, debilitating disease, or you feel depressed. He said, all things are possible to him that believe.
So on this Christmas, and this Christmas season, as you prepare, as you celebrate, and as you sustain that celebration, you need to know that all things are possible to those that believe. Now, how can I say that? I can say that not because I've seen God or angels, I can declare that because I've seen people. I've seen neighbors and friends, I've seen colleagues, I've seen people in our cities and towns who go out and make a difference every day.
So I can say that because I've seen you. I've seen how you live your life. I've seen how you share your talents and resources. I've watched and been blessed by the countless people who selflessly serve. That's why I can believe. And I hope you recognize that it is you and people like you who make it possible for a Heavenly Father to confirm on a Christmas day and every day that all things really are possible to them to believe.
So when we receive and share the gift of Christlike compassion, and when we receive and share the blessing of believing, we will truly light the world. While understanding the reason for the Christmas season in new and exciting ways.6 comments on this story
And that is my wish. And my Therefore, What? for all of you is that you will take the time to receive and share real compassion and the blessing of believing. Remember, after the story is told, after the principle is presented, after the discussion and debate have been had, the question for all of us is Therefore, What? Don't miss an episode. Be sure to rate this episode and leave us a review. Follow us on DeseretNews.com/podcast and subscribe to our newsletter This is Boyd Matheson, opinion editor for the Deseret News, thanks for engaging with this on Therefore, What?