On Christmas (1997)

I don't know how many people will see this before Christmas, because most of my friends are home from school and don't have internet capabilities unless they are home, but I hope to write a timeless piece that can be enjoyed any time of the year. And for those of you who see this in time for the season, I wish you happy holidays.

My life has taken many twists and turns of late, and most of them good. I feel good about where I'm heading in life. I have good friends, good family (good is inadequate to describe my friends and family, but you get the idea) and have good health. There is so much for me to be grateful for. No, this isn't a rehash of the Thanksgiving message. I have had some new thoughts on my mind lately (when do I not?). I bring up the things for which I am grateful for a reason. My God is good.

Hopefully, that is already obvious, but not everyone knows this. I know I have forgotten in weak moments. He is so good. He gave me the best gift nearly two thousands years ago, and I like to think I was one of the angels that sang to the shepards in the fields. Nearly two thousand years ago, my Father in Heaven sent my big brother and Lord and Savior to the world in mortal flesh, to live as a man and die as only a God can. More than any other gift, I am most grateful for the gift of the atonement.

Built into the word atonement is the idea of a reunion, a rejoining. I was with my God before this life; I hope to return to His presence worthily. The word atonement also implies an encircling of His power, love and authority. He embraces me, as I embrace the sacrifice of the Savior, in a warm, spiritual hold. I marvel that the Lord would leave His throne from on high to live among a corrupt people upon this sinful world. I am amazed that he would think of me in particular, and take my specific sins and sacrifice His own holy blood to pay the price. He knew I would not be perfect. He knew I would not always choose the right. He knew I would sometimes be purposefully rebellious. Yet he loved me enough to bleed and die for me, for mankind.

I cannot think of Christmas without remembering the atonement, because they go together. What a humbling experience, to leave his dominions and powers to become a weak, mortal, dependent being that needed His mortal parents (one of them being adoptive). This is the Creator of all, the Holy one of Israel. He is Wonderful, Counselor. He is Savior. And he descended below us all, to save his brothers and sisters, to bring them to the happiness he knew and knows. Astounding.

This year, Christmas sneaked up on me. I didn't realize how close it was until about five days ago. It suddenly struck me that I had done no Christmas shopping, had not sent out any cards, had done little to bring Christmas cheer to others. This was partly because I have spent a semester being very self absorbant, very me-centered. I was not thinking of others or reaching out beyond myself. I was not very happy.

Just a few days ago, I thought about my condition and what was really important. I have to take stock like that often so I can keep up with where I'm supposed to be in life. It amazed me how far I was able to be sidetracked by the world and my own petty concerns. There is so much more for me to be doing and concerning myself with to get stuck in the rut of self indulgent pitying. I am who I choose to be. I feel how I choose to feel. My life goes the way I want it to go. I decide and the Lord empowers me. On the day I spoke of, I came to that conclusion once again (I go in cycles) and decided to be happy, to care about people, to reach and extend outward. I decided to love people without shame or fear and do my best to lift others.

I would like to thank those who were there with me during my time of trial. The month of November was particularly challenging, but several friends stayed by me during that time. I appreciate them more than I can say. You know who you are (I hope). Most of all, I thank my Savior for staying next to me, despite my weakesses and rebellions and cynicism. He knows I will always return to Him. The occurance of Christmas so close to this time is coincidental, but a happy incident. I have an excuse to look for ways to help others. I have even more than the normal amount of reason for thinking of Jesus Christ and His great gift.

Christmas is about many things, but most importantly Christ Himself. Don't be afraid to not fall into the consumerism trap we are taught to believe in. Don't worry so much about appearances (ie, how good you will look for giving a good present, having the best lights on the block, etc.). Rather, worry about people, about family, about friends, about strangers that need help. Remember those who have not. I have some dear friends in New York whose family is being torn apart by unguessed at problems. Since I cannot be there, I can only hope someone will take care of them and let them know they are loved. Sharing God's love is the greatest gift you can give.

Thank you for listening.

© Matthew Rutherford 1997

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