Merry Christmas to one and all. I know it's common to say things like, "I hope we all remember Christ and the meaning of this time of year not just now, but all the year through", and I echo those sentiments. However, it's also good to know that because of what I know and believe, being grateful for my many many blessings comes easier all year. There is something special about this season, though, and this year, it was even more palpable.
Ted and I feel so blessed to be in North Carolina, even if only for a short time. We've often talked about how we've never lived with this much debt hanging over our heads (and it's only going to get worse over the next few years), but at the same time, it helps us communicate and realize all the things we do have and all the things we can really do without. (We used to go without cable, but now that we get it for free, I also have to include that I'm very grateful for the food channel.) This year, our budget was tighter than it's ever been for Christmas, and though I'd like to experience maybe just one year not buying one gift for anyone and instead reveling in the music and togetherness and traditions of the season, I'm a product of Christmas Consumerism, and I have to confess that along with many other things, it does bring joy.
This was Tessa's first Christmas, and though she woke up with her first present - a bad cold - she was the number one reason I enjoyed the day so much. To see a 10-month-old baby perfectly happy with ripping wrapping paper and shoving it in her mouth while looking adorable in a Christmas dress is sheer joy. We tried to think of little things that really would make her happy, so we bought her BIG bottles (she instantly tried to gnaw on the plastic-covered nipples) and wrapped a bow around a banana, and we just laughed at her reactions and thought everything coming out of her mouth was nothing but genius. Several of the presents we gave this year were homemade, and therefore, more personal and special (and, I found out, much more fulfilling than just picking something off a shelf and laying down money for it). Ted and I spent many hours working and talking together about the things we wanted to give to our loved ones, so we came away not only with fun trinkets and games, but a stronger relationship, which is a much better feeling than the stress and hullabaloo that often surrounds this time of year.
I remember being about 7 months pregnant this time last year, and every time we'd sing a carol about the sweet baby boy Jesus, I got teary and tried to blame it on the hormones. The truth was I couldn't wait to hold and swaddle my own little sweet baby, and every day, I feel grateful for that chance. Christmas is about love and giving and celebrating Our Savior coming into the world to give a gift only He could give. In so many ways, I know that gift of His Atonement was for me, and He shows me that mercy by blessing us with a sweet child to love and raise the best we can. We often reserve Christmas for His birth and Easter for remembering His death and Atonement, but I recall one Easter when a friend wore a bowtie to church to honor our Bishop who had recently passed away. Bowties were this Bishop's trademark. I smiled and complimented him on it, knowing why he had donned it that morning, and he grinned right back and said, "I'm celebrating the resurrection." I've never thought of the Atonement and His mission the same way since that day. Every day is a day to celebrate that gift, including Christmas day.
I always find it so interesting that those who claim they're atheist or agnostic have no problem buying up a frenzy of gifts for their friends and family members. What are they celebrating if they claim to not know, care about, or believe in Jesus Christ? Is Christmas just a day for passing expensive baubles around? A chance to get the latest gadget at 10% off? Do they sing carols about angels proclaiming the Savior's birth? Do they have an inkling of what that means? I'm so glad to say that I do. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I choose to know Him, to sing praises, to commune in prayer with the One who makes it possible for me to learn from my mistakes and improve on them. He makes up for my imperfections, and He deserves my gratitude daily.
Today I was reminded of all the reasons I am a happy person. To be with family, to recount memories, to laugh until your face hurts, to give without expecting anything in return, to bring joy to someone else, to sing your heart out, to remember all your friends who feel just like family - these are the things that make Christmas grand. I hope all of you were able to revel in such joys this season. Let us remember His gifts to us and give of ourselves as much as we can.