Saturday, December 19, 2009

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Merry Christmas, everyone! It's less than a week away; I can't believe it. I have a request from all of you. Don't worry; it's not hard, and it will take less than ten minutes. Here's what I want you to do:

1) Find a quiet spot, preferably near a fireplace or other warm spot. (This part isn't essential, but it sure adds to the ambiance.)

2) Make some hot chocolate or cider (especially if you don't have a fireplace).

3) Watch this video. It's the story of how the Christmas hymn, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" came to be as told by Ed Herrman at last year's Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert. Ever since I saw this last December, I have been trying to find a way to see it again. I finally found it today, and I feel compelled to share it. It is a powerful story of what it means to find hope on Christmas morning.

4) Think about your blessings. When I hear this story, I can't help but be grateful for my family, safety, warm homes/cars/clothes, good food, a stable job, and all of those things I often take for granted. Finally, I am grateful for Longfellow's beautiful verses that capture so much truth:

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Christmas advent calendar... without the candy

As a child, I loved advent calendars--the anticipation of opening a new box each day, the taste of waxy chocolate (any chocolate was great to a five-year-old), and the thrill of seeing fewer and fewer days until Christmas.

This year, I don't open windows with chocolate, but I have made a habit of reading a "Christmas Advent Thought" each day. This article from The New Era magazine pulls together songs, scriptures, quotes, and a daily challenge. It's been a great way to bring a little Christmas cheer into my day and remind me why I love this holiday so much. So, if you feel so inclined, download it yourself. I think it's definitely worth the 45 seconds a day.

Here is today's thought:

“Despite all we can do, we cannot have a fullness of joy in this world or through our own efforts. Only in Christ can our joy be full. This is why the angel proclaimed: ‘I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day … a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:10–11). We are able to have a fullness of joy only when spirit and body are inseparably connected in the glorious resurrection to celestial glory. That joy, of course, comes only through the mercy of the Holy Messiah” (Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, Nov. 1991, 74).

“And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name. … And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world” (Mosiah 3:9–10).

Express your love and gratitude for the Savior in your prayers.

“It Came upon the Midnight Clear,” Hymns, no. 207.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Light of the World

One of my favorite things about Christmastime is twinkle lights. There are few things more magical to me than turning off all the overhead lights, sitting on my couch with a mug of hot cider and a blanket, and losing myself in the glow of a Christmas tree covered in white lights. This year, for whatever reason, the symbolism of light has struck me as particularly profound. Representative of the star in Bethlehem, lights are a reminder of the coming of Christ, "the light of the world." Light is often linked to knowledge and truth (hence the dark ages were a time where little progress in knowledge and truth was made). It is also linked to happiness (why do you think smiley faces are traditionally yellow?).

How grateful I am for the many sources of light in my life: books, friends, my family, experience, church membership, and most importantly the Savior himself. His teachings bring light to the dark corners of my life, revealing things both good and bad that I hadn't known about myself before. He teaches me little by little, allowing me to clean out the dusty corners and making the beauty sparkle more brightly. Slowly but surely, he brightens the light inside of me, until someday I will be like him.