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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Christmas Has Not Become Commercialized. Society Has.

It's the one time of year the world seems to be a little more socially healthy, when people are a little more kind in general, a little more giving, patient and loving.  Christmas is awesome.  It's the best holiday of the year bar none.  Yet so many (especially this year it seems to me) convey an attitude of diminishing Christmas because it's "too soon" or even dreading it because of all the commercialism sparked by the holiday.  This makes no sense to me if you consider what Christmas really is.

Christmas is, in part, about, as Alma said in the Book of Mormon, being "humble... submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things... diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive."

Honestly, I'm not sure I could possibly care less about how much stores and the media are making business off the Christmas season.  That's their business and their prerogative.  That shouldn't be, though, a reason for everyone else to buy into it or even get all up in arms about the holiday just because they are "ruining" it for some.  Yes, sometimes it gets annoying how much others try to shift the focus of Christmas away from Christ and more towards "stuff", but honestly, the responsibility is ours and ours alone to decide where our focus is centered.  Not even God, in all His majesty, might and power, will ever force the human mind and heart to feel or think anything that the individual does not choose for themselves.  He invites, always beckoning us with love.  Christ was the epitome of that very principle in this world.  It is He whose birth we celebrate this season.

No matter what anyone else does to make Christmas some kind of business gimmick, competition or contest to see who can make the biggest buck, have the coolest Christmas light display, who gave the best gift, which store had the best sale, who's the best deal finder, what it's really about is the kind of person we can become because of Christ.  It's about coming to know the Master, the ultimate celebration of the Son of God, His eternal love, ministry, life, example, sacrifice and triumph over everything that could bring us down. 

I remember the year my brother put a lot of effort into one of the best gifts he ever got me.  It was the year I discovered Jon Schmidt's piano music.  Someone wanted to see if I could learn his song "All of Me" and I loved it!  My brother found this out and, since he had known about Jon Schmidt's music before I had ever heard of him, he knew I would love a chance to play more of it.  I remember that Christmas morning when I tore the wrapping paper off of the binder in which he put all the PDF's he printed from Jon's website.  I had never seen his picture so when I saw it I didn't recognize who he was.  It was when my brother said "read the front cover" that my heart may as well have skipped a beat and, I assume, my face lit up.  It was one of the few times where I was utterly speechless with excitement.  My dad actually said "speechless, for once!" (har har dad).  I was so overcome with joy in his thoughtfulness and my mom told me later that he said my reaction was one of the best Christmas gifts he ever received.

I speak of this because it wasn't so much the materialism of the what he had bought me (though to this day I still frequently enjoy playing out of that binder), what why he did.  He knew what would mean a lot to me.  He knew that piano is one of most pronounced gifts from God to me and that the value of more means to develop that gift would have eternal value to me.  I never doubted how much he cared about me as his brother, but after that it only solidified and strengthened my trust in his concern for my happiness.  That Christmas, for me, was a powerful reminder that putting someone else's happiness ahead of our own, the way the Savior did, is really the object of the Christmas season.  It's about making Christ and mirroring His life the core of the season.  I believe I have come a long way with that in my life, and I still have a long way to go as well, but when I have actually done it right, there is nothing except divine love from God to explain the resulting joy of that kind of selflessness.

Satan is so sly with his influence over the business world and the economy.  He has had thousands of years of practice at distracting the world with a plethora of things that, in and of themselves, are completely meaningless in the scope of the individual worth of souls and the core purpose of humanity and mortality.  But, as the prophet Joseph Smith said, "The devil has no power over us, only as we permit him".  It is our choice what we make of Christmas, no matter what anyone else says or does.

Thomas S. Monson put it, as he always does, so brilliantly said:

This flawless, infinitely loving and giving man, Jesus the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, the force behind everything that is good in this world and in all the eternities to come, is where our focus should be.  We can ignore or at least not get so easily annoyed with those who elect to make their Christmas about materialism and comparison.  If you want to truly find joy in Christmas the way it was meant to be, make it that way yourself, no one else can rob that from you unless you let them.

To those who get annoyed by Christmas music, have elected to not celebrate because they don't like the commercialism identified with the season or for whatever other reason are anything but happy about Christmas, I extend the following invitation.  Get excited!  Be like Buddy the Elf!  Decorate! Give it another chance.  And another, and another, and another... because regardless of what others do or say about the Christmas season, it is for you what you make of it and it always deserves our utmost gratitude, joy and respect because of He who we celebrate during this time of year.

Spread the joy of Christ to the world by making Christmas what it was meant to be within your own heart.