Christmas is coming. Isaiah wrote this about the Savior:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6).
In the verse above, Isaiah uses 5 names for the Lord. And what pleases me most about the names he uses is that the first one is WONDERFUL!
When we start looking for adjectives to describe the Savior, there is no better place to start than where Isaiah starts, and December is a nice time of year to remember that He really is WONDERFUL. His birth is WONDERFUL. His mission and kindness and mercy are WONDERFUL. His teachings are WONDERFUL. His atoning sacrifice is WONDERFUL. Why? Isaiah tells us. “O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things . . .” (Isaiah 25:1, emphasis added).
I have reflected on my own children and family, and the outpourings of His WONDERFUL things. All twelve of my sons and sons-in-law have full-time employment, which is remarkable in this economy. After years of financial uncertainty, Debbie and Earl have housing and employment in Oregon. Josh and Kim, who wondered if they would ever have children have four of them. Tami and Jerald are expecting another miracle child with a reproductive system that, according to the doctors, makes childbirth impossible. Adam and Micalee have a new home across the street from the temple in Payson. Michael has a business in Springville. Robert and Jocelyn have a home in Syracuse and he has the job he wanted in a place where he was told there was no possibility of being hired. Matt and Tiffy are employed and expecting.
We have prayed so hard about so many things and the Lord has heard our prayers and in His own due time has answered them and He is WONDERFUL.
I have a deeper awareness of His love than ever before in my life.
I have come to believe that if He only wanted us to be happy now, or good now, that His task would be much easier and the manifestations of His power would be much more prevalent. But He wants us to be happy forever, not because He has imposed it on us, but because we have embraced it for ourselves; because it is the life we have chosen and because we have followed the path that leads to it. He wants us to be good forever, not because it is His nature, but because it is ours. Thus He transforms so many of our experiences into teaching moments (or teaching months, or years), helping us not just to be happy for a while, but to become so forever.
But so much of what happens at Christmas does not bring us to Christ or His desires for us.
I had an interesting experience as I explored City Creek Mall in Salt Lake with my wife last week. We spent time on Temple Square with the lights and the lessons. Then we crossed the street where we found jeans advertised at $75 to $100 off the regular price. We found a game store with 42 different Monopoly games. We found skincare products worth more than skin itself.
My moments in the mall caused me to consider an experiment we might try: go to the neighborhood department store and, as you enter, take a deep breath. Then, as you walk the aisles, limit yourself to new breaths only when you see something that is necessary to sustain physical or spiritual life. You can forget the ceramic pot-holders embossed with a likeness of Oprah. You can skip the fourteen shades of Rubbermaid toothbrush holders. Never mind the Reeboks and the Nikes and the fleece wear with every college in the solar system displayed. Ignore the floral print ties and stuffed Disney characters.
Overlook the hottest CD’s. Forget the Christmas bows in forty-seven packages of varying cost, content, and construction. Omit the video games: no matter what anyone says, there is life after Mario and the Old-Aged, Hunch-Backed, Tai-Kwan-Doh Lizzards. Disregard the books. Michael Connely and John Grisham and Steven King do not count as life-sustaining.
I tried this at Wal-Mart and would have passed out from oxygen deprivation except that I found some potato chips. My wife did better. There were chocolates everywhere.
The point is that it requires a great discipline to focus on Christ during the holiday that celebrates His birth, because almost everything we see as we celebrate pulls our attention in another direction.
The scriptures give a suggestion about how we can do better.
Isaiah, who told us that Christ was WONDERFUL, also wrote this about Him: “Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth” (Isaiah 12:5). We must remember, in December and always, how excellent His gifts and goodness are. And it is WONDERFUL to sing to Him, especially at this time of year.
Let’s “repeat the sounding joy,” and listen to the “herald angels sing.” It is acceptable to chase Frosty around the neighborhood from time to time, and to listen for the prancing of reindeer hooves on the roof, but not at the expense of those moments by the manger in the stable. We must focus more of our energy on that “midnight clear,” and more of our love in Bethlehem, as we come, joyfully and triumphantly, during this holiday season, to adore Him.
I think perhaps I am beginning to understand the feelings behind Psalm 150:
PRAISE ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD (Psalms 150:1-6).
This is a wonderful thing to do at Christmas. And it will help us remember Him. Let’s get together and sing! And iet’s spend more time at the manger this Christmas than at the mall, and more time at the stable than at the store.
And let’s spend at least as much time redecorating our hearts as our homes. Let’s rejoice all year in the warmth of this December son-shine.