Christmas was always my favorite holiday when I was a child. And not just for the obvious reason. It was more than the presents; it was the general sense of goodness in the world around me—from the Christmas music to the Salvation Army bell ringers, the carolers to our own little acts of service around the house and around the neighborhood.
For the last few years, though, Christmas has been a disappointment to me. Mainly because I feel like I’m failing at teaching my children the real meaning of the holiday and at helping them feel and want to be a part of that sense of goodness.
I sure try. We draw names every Sunday and do secret acts of service for family members. Or we are supposed to. It’s now Friday and there are 4 pieces of straw in the manger. So between the 6 of us and 4 days, we managed a collective 4 acts of service, one of which was my 4 year old who laid out my pajamas last night. And while the church’s new Light the World campaign warms my heart, my children have shown no enthusiasm for it so far and couldn’t manage to do any lifting of my household burdens today as I stayed in my bed all day with the stomach flu. Every night of the week preceding Christmas or every Sunday preceding Christmas (depending on the year), I try to do a little devotional with the kids. It’s based on the Christ-Centered Christmas book. We read some scriptures about one of the figures central during the Savior’s birth, we watch a related Bible video, sing a song, and I give them a figure to add to their own little nativity set.
It’s important to me. But it’s not important to them. I’m hoping it will be some day. But it’s hard on nights when my 4 year old prattles on the entire time about why the angels in the video don’t have wings and my 7 year old throws his angel figure up in the air over the over again, trying to catch it, and my 11 year old puts hers in her mouth (???) and then complains that she already saw the Mormon.org video “A World without Jesus” in Primary and when none of the kids have even heard of the song A Little Town of Bethlehem, yet they know all of the words to Frosty, Rudolph, and Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree.
At least the devotionals are good for me—they help me re-focus, even when they don’t help me refrain from losing my temper. Tonight I am thinking about the anticipation of Christmas. That feeling that I still remember from my childhood that’s so keenly part of the magic of Christmas. I explained to the kids that if they magnified that feeling by 100, they still would not come close to the anticipation that we felt the night the Savior was born. A night we had been anticipating since the creation of the earth, for thousands of years. No wonder the heavenly hosts could not contain themselves from singing their praises as they celebrated the baby whose birth was hard-coming and long-awaited.
The speaker in church last Sunday is a famous artist who lives in our ward. He spoke about the color crimson–alizarin crimson. For an artist, it’s a hard pigment because it’s impossible to cover. Even if an artist applies a thick coat over it, in time, you will still see the crimson below. It’s called “ghosting.” The only way to erase the color is to subject it to continuous bright sunlight, which will fade it to gray and eventually to white. The speaker applied this to our sins, which are crimson, as Isaiah said, but, if we subject them continuously to the light that is the Savior, they can be white. Christ’s gift to us, said the speaker, is forgiveness. Our gift to him is repentance, is our sins.
And that is why I think I was among those heavenly hosts, even if I wasn’t in Bethlehem singing, I’m sure I was singing and rejoicing wherever I was, even if I was surrounded by small spirits who were throwing things and prattling on and complaining. Because of that, I need to hold tight to the rejoicing aspect of Christmas and the goodness in the world around me, even if that goodness seems to be sorely lacking in my own home! So tell me, how do you rejoice at Christmas? And what can I do to keep from getting discouraged at my children’s seeming inability to grasp my efforts to rejoice?