We Need Christ out of the Manger

I debated what to post today.  It’s Monday so that could mean a Mormon Monday post.  But it is the last day of the 2012 which screams Top 12 List or New Year’s Resolution post.  And it is Croft’s birthday so I could write some sweet, sappy post about how much I love her.  In the end I decided to go with a Mormon Monday that looks at Christmas all year long.

I am one of those people that is okay with Christmas being over.  I get to clean up, take down decorations, declutter, move furniture back, go to bed on time again and my cream cheese intake reduces drastically. I look forward to a new start and a new year. I actually like January.

But many people talk about how they wish it could be December all year long or why don’t we keep the Spirit of Christmas with us all year.  I understand wanting to me kind and gracious all year long, but in my mind, if we had to maintain December for 12 months, we would all be fat, poor and exhausted.  We need December to end.

I read a thoughtful talk that explains, on a spiritual level, why we need Christ out of the manger, but also tells us the only way possible to celebrate Christmas all year long.  Here it is:

“For Christmas is a beautiful time of the year. We love the excitement, the giving spirit, the special awareness of and appreciation for family and friends, the feelings of love and brotherhood that bless our gatherings at Christmastime.

In all the joyousness, it is well to reflect that Christmas comes in three levels:

Let’s call the first the ‘Santa Claus level.’ It’s the level of Christmas trees and holly, of whispered secrets and colorful packages, of candlelight and rich food and warm open houses. It’s carolers in the shopping malls, excited children, and weary but loving parents. It’s a lovely time of special warmth and caring and giving. It’s the level at which we eat too much and spend too much and do too much–and enjoy every minute of it. We love the Santa Claus level of Christmas.

But there’s a higher, more beautiful level. Let’s call it the ‘Silent Night level.’ It’s the level of all our glorious Christmas carols, of that beloved, familiar story: ‘Now in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…’ It’s the level of the crowded inn, and the silent holy moment in a dark stable when the Son of Man came to earth. It’s shepherds on a steep, bare hill near Bethlehem, angels with their glad tidings, a new star in the East, wise men traveling far in search of the Holy One. How beautiful and meaningful it is; how infinitely poorer we would be without this sacred second level of Christmas.

The trouble is, these two levels don’t last. They can’t. Twelve days of Christmas, at the first level, is about all most of us can stand. It’s too intense, too extravagant. The tree dries out and the needles fall. The candles burn down. The beautiful wrappings go out with he trash, the carolers are up on the ski slopes, the toys break, and the biggest day in the stores the entire year is exchange day, December 26.

The feast is over and the dieting begins. But the lonely and the hungry are with us still perhaps lonelier and hungrier than before.

Lovely and joyous as the first level of Christmas is, there will come a day, very soon, when Mother will put away the decorations and vacuum the living room and think, ‘Thank goodness that’s over for another year.’

Even the second level, the level of the Baby Jesus, can’t last. How many times this season can you sing ‘Silent Night’? The angels and the star and the shepherd, even the silent, sacred mystery of that holy night itself, can’t long satisfy humanity’s basic need. The man who keeps Christ in the manger will, in the end, be disappointed and empty.

No, for Christmas to last all year long, for it to grow in beauty and meaning and purpose, for it to have the power to change lives, we must celebrate it at the third level, that of the adult Christ. It is at this level–not as an infant–that our Savior brings His gifts of lasting joy, lasting peace, lasting hope. It was the adult Christ who reached out and touched the untouchable, who loved the unlovable, who so loved us all that even in His agony on the cross He prayed forgiveness for His enemies.

This is the Christ, creator of worlds without number, who wept, Enoch tell us, because so many of us lack affection and hate each other–and then who willingly gave His life for all of us, including those for whom He wept.

This is the Christ, the adult Christ, who gave us the perfect example, and asked us to follow Him.

Accepting that invitation is the way–the only way–to celebrate Christmas all year and all life long.”

(Church News editorial by William B. Smart, and appears in his book, Messages for a Happier Life (Deseret Book, 1989), pp. 33-34)

I love the summary of Christmas as 3 levels.  And the point that the first 2 levels are too intense to maintain all year long resonates with me. My favorite line is “The man who keeps Christ in the manger will, in the end, be disappointed and empty.”

So here’s to December being over. We celebrate the month’s end because we NEED Christ out of the manger.  We need him to grow up. As a baby He is not enough to save us or help us.  We need His life.  We need His parables.  We need His example.  We need His teachings. And most importantly and significantly, we need His atoning sacrifice, His death, and His resurrection.  We need the adult Christ all year long.



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