I hope this won't sound overly preachy or contain too much "psychobabble" for everyone's liking, but I have some things I've been thinking about that I would like to share. First, I loved this Christmas. It was extremely meaningful for me to be home with family and just felt extra special somehow (especially in light of a couple of experiences that I'd be more than happy to share on an individual basis). Anywhohow, I was left with a question that somewhat unsettled me but more so simply got me thinking in the good "search, ponder, and pray" way. Was Christ all that connected to Christmas in my mind and in the way I celebrated the holiday?
On Sunday, I posed a similar question to Natalie and Michael C. "What is the true meaning of Christmas?" I asked. I admitted that I'd really been thinking about it and wondering because I had this terrific day (and holiday season more generally) but how much did I actually sit and ponder the birth of Christ during the festivities and traditions of the holiday? How did all this "Santa" stuff come to be so prominent? I was actually starting to feel somewhat guilty because I really liked all the "Santa" stuff--the presents, the stockings (or in our family's case, the gift bags:)), the tree, the tinsel, the decorations, etc.--and hence began a mini-exercise in self-reflection, something I have come to do fairly often, but I think that's a good thing.
I suppose I should get to the point before this post turns into one of those long emails we all know I'm prone to produce:). And here comes the danger of turning preachy or psychobabble-y, -ish? -esque? So I'll try to keep it short and to the point. In reflecting, I remembered the quiet moments when I had been thinking of the Savior (expressing gratitude for Him in prayer, reading the nativity story with Natalie and Michael on Christmas Eve, going to church with Paula and Brian for their ward's Christmas program , etc.). In addition though, I also thought of why I liked all the "Santa" stuff so much and it quickly became obvious that it's because of my family. All the traditions and the exchanging of gifts--it's a tangible expression of the love of/for/with/through my family. And my family is a web of experiences and relationships that completely defines me. I have some psychological support, but more importantly I've gained spiritual evidence that relationships are absolutely fundamental, or in the language of philosophy, "ontological." In other words, our lives and progress can only be understood in the context of relationships. It's who we are, it's where we came from, it's where we're going. It's what we do:). It's what God does too, as a matter of fact.
With this in mind, Christ was, is and will always be intimately connected to Christmas for me. Not only is it through Him that families can be forever; not only is it in our relationship with Him that we find the greatest happiness and ultimately salvation and exaltation; but it is in celebrating His birth that we can be reminded of what is most important. It is in commemorating His birth that we experience in a beautifully real and poignant way, the love of Christ, the Spirit of Christ. For "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith" (Gal 5:22). I could literally list people and experiences of this Christmas season that have brought every single one of those fruits into my life in wonderfully meaningful ways. "For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (Eph 5:9). Is Christ connected to Christmas? Surely if His Spirit is so readily manifest in what we do and feel, Christ is here.
I'm thankful for the blessings of this wonderful season; for family, for friends, for the Savior of the world who makes it all possible and gives everything purpose and meaning. Every good thing I have in my life, every happiness, every blessing is because of Him. God is real; He's alive and well and working in our lives. He's certainly made His presence known in my life for which I will be eternally grateful. I love you all! Merry Christmas! I'm excited to see what new adventures 2011 will bring!