I know this is rather late, but I do hope that this Christmas Season was filled with cheer and time with your families. As the holidays have gone on this year, I’ve felt and been very busy. I’ve felt the weight of this holiday season, just as I’m sure many of you have. However, the thought has entered my mind repeatedly to share with you some thoughts. Some that I’ve had had during this Christmas season to be specific.
I always feel that Christmas and the holidays during December are interesting – because they’re filled with a “mixed bag” of feelings, and quite often, I tend to hear more about the negatives. Some people can’t stand the chaos that seems to ensue. Others dread seeing their family members due to strained relations. Some mourn not having a loved one with them anymore to share the holidays with. Some fear financial stresses related to not being able to get everyone they love nice gifts.
So the question to me becomes this:
Why do we celebrate Christmas?
While I can’t answer for everyone, I would love to share with you why I celebrated during this Christmas Season.
Very simply, I celebrated this Christmas season this year because of my joy for, love for, and gratitude for Jesus Christ.
This year was extremely difficult for me. The first day I got back from the holidays in January, my employer let me go from my job and for about five months, I sunk down into a deep state of depression and anxiety aided by the nastiness of people around me until I felt like such a failure, so worthless, so pointless, and honestly, at the lowest point I’d been at in years.
Sometime in the middle of the year, I hit a point where I honestly just prayed deep in my heart to my father in heaven – saying that I would do whatever I needed to do if He could pull me out of where I felt I had fallen. I put my health on a pedestal – both physical and mental. I took to heart the council of the Apostle Elder Holland when he said, “If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing [or God’s spirit] and get the best medical care available.”
To do this, I began to fight to find doctors. I made it a point to exercise for 45 min to an hour 4-5 times a week. I also took up daily meditation. But I believe the thing that brought me the most peace was when I committed myself to seeking after God’s words. I did this primarily by committing myself to reading one chapter of the Book of Mormon every day. Sometimes, it was really hard. I’ve never been very good at daily reading my scriptures – it always felt very tedious, something that I didn’t want to do because I’d already done it. I didn’t always see why I had been advised for years to study the scriptures daily.
But I did it. And sometimes, I’d do a little extra. Sometimes I’d drive home and listen to Elder Holland’s talk “Like a Broken Vessel” and just sob in the car after something had happened that seemed to push me away from the healing process. He’d quote President Monson who said,
“God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve [it]. It is simply always there.”
And I needed to hear that every time.
It was all I could do some days to just trust in God.
As I continued to read and do these things, I began to notice changes. I found doctors who could help me who gave me proper aid and direction. But oddly, to me, I noticed something was different. I genuinely found my mood to be lifting. And not by brief spurts of endorphins or other chemicals my brain would create. My mood seemed to be lifted by something more than that.
Looking back, I remember something else had started to occur at that same time. I had begun to notice more fully how much the Book of Mormon was truly about Jesus Christ.
It was this month though that it fully hit me just why Jesus Christ was the key factor that was making a difference in my life.
I had taken to reading my scriptures in the morning before work and then upon arriving at work would often let my phone go off on YouTube, allowing me to listen to random music (don’t worry, this is totally allowed in my office) letting it run in the background. A song came on by the Piano Guys titled “The Sweetest Gift” that I had never heard before. In the preface – Jon Schmidt, the primary pianist, spoke about the sorrow of losing his daughter, Annie, the previous year and how this song helped him and his wife. I listened to the song and, never having heard it before, began to quietly cry as the words touched my heart, speaking of grieving the loss of a loved one, but knowing that they were with Christ:
You’re with the Son of God, you’re with the Prince of Peace,
You’re with the one we’re celebrating, and that thought amazes me,
Sometimes I still break down, grieving that we’re apart,
But the sweetest gift is knowing… you’re in his arms.
And a thought entered my mind – a verse that had struck me powerfully that morning. It was in 3 Nephi 9, which details the time directly after the death of Christ in the Americas, as experienced by the two peoples – the Nephites and the Lamanites. Many died in the midst of great and terrible destructions caused by natural disasters and storms. And then they that remained alive hear the voice of Christ –
13 O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?
And I just realized how, right then and there, He had been healing me, all year long. When I had felt worthless, like I wasn’t worth the dirt on the pavement before me, He had been there for me through the words of his prophets and apostles, reminding me that He had come down to this Earth for me. Little ol’ me. He had sent great men and their families to write of Him, of His purpose for coming, of His great Plan of Happiness for all who are born into this world, made possible by His Atonement, and of his Atonement which allows us to all, one day, be reunited and together with our families, demonstrating His great and pure love for each and every one of us. Love He also had for me.
Christ went on in 3 Nephi –
14 Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.
15 Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name.
The joy that this knowledge brings me, the healing it brings – I can’t fully express it all with words.
He came here for each and everyone of us. He came here so that despite our faults, we could one day find happiness. I know He knows my struggles and I know that He’s been healing me all year long. As I read my scriptures, as I listen to His words as spoken by the prophets, I feel His spirit close to mine. And it gives me so much peace, joy, and relief to know that even if I’m not perfect, that that’s okay. That someone still loves me more than I can comprehend. And I’m filled with awe to know that He feels the same way about me as He does each and every one of you. Even if it was only for one of us, He would have come down and died for that one person. Yes, that includes you.
In the talk I listened to (and still listen to) over and over again, “Like A Broken Vessel” Elder Holland went on to say, “Trust in God. Hold on in His love. Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee. We may feel we are “like a broken vessel,” as the Psalmist says. But we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter. Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed.”
I celebrate Christmas because I know that my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is healing me every day. He relieves me of great burdens created by my feelings of inadequacies and my shortcomings while also providing a way for me and my family to be together forever. I wish to thank Him every day and be an instrument in hands in helping to heal others and bring them peace. Inevitably, I fall short every day. Every. Single. Day. But I can get up and try again with His help, with His outstretched arms that He freely gives me. They wish for me to be able to find happiness and ultimately, come home. And that means everything to me.
President Monson once said “As we seek Christ, as we find Him, as we follow Him, we shall have the Christmas spirit, not for one fleeting day each year, but as a companion always.”
The Prince of Peace
So while we all may have our personal grievances with the holidays and this Christmas season, I wish to impart with you one of my greatest prayers and wishes – that you may find peace, that you may find joy with those you love, that your pains and afflictions may one day be healed, and that you may know of your divine nature as a literal Child of God, one God and Christ love more than I can express with words. You are special. You are unique. No one can replace you. And those who we exalt on high would never want to because they truly love you.
May this holiday season, as we celebrate the birth and coming of the one who gives us all a fresh start with such great love and mercy, who bled and died on the cross so that we could come home to be with our families forever – may you have His spirit of peace, joy, and pure love to be with you. May we Light the World, my brothers and sisters. During this Christmas Season and always, this is my testimony which I bare in His holy name.