As a little boy, I began thinking about Christmas, usually sometime in the fall, about the time the weather started to turn cold. But now as an adult, with all the things we’re facing, budgets and colleagues and everything else, I find myself trying to recapture that Christmas spirit. What I’ve learned over the years is that what I’m really after is a feeling I’d like to share today, what I’ve learned about finding that Christmas feeling. I’m John, by the way, and this is my five minute fireside.
Years ago, I came across an insightful editorial that was originally published in the church news that helped myself get to that Christmas feeling a little quicker. It was written by William Besart and he called it The Three Levels of Christmas, Brother Smart explained that the first level is the Santa Clause level. It’s the level at which we do too much and spend too much and eat too much. And we enjoy every minute of it and we love it. We call it the Santa Clause level of Christmas and is probably fair to say that the world is mostly focused on the Santa Claus level.
It’s not a bad place to visit, but it’s not the place that we want to stay. Brother Smart called the second level the silent night level on this level and more focused on the reason for the season, which is the birth of Jesus Christ, and this level is captured in our beautiful nativity scenes that we display in our homes depicting that little holy family, the shepherds, the star, the wise men, and bringing gifts from the East Level to is really about finding the joy that was promised by the Angels in Luke Chapter two.
Remember, the angel said to the shepherds, Fearnot, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people, the shepherds might have wondered, what’s the reason for this? Promised Joy. So the angel continued, for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior which is Christ the Lord. The Angel directly connected the feeling of joy with the birth of the Savior. And indeed he is the source of true joy.
Then, if you can imagine the spectacle, as soon as the angel concluded the happy message, suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. Imagine an angelic announcement followed by a backup choir of the heavenly host. That’s got to be a really great day for an angel. But the joy that characterizes level to Christmas is not totally guaranteed. We know from one of the most profound statements of Father Lihi to his son Jacob Adam fell that men might be and men are, that they might have joy.
In other words, you might have joy, but then again, you might not. In this life we’re here that we might have joy. And on other days we are made, as the great price says, partakers of misery and woe. So sometimes we have second five to twenty five days and sometimes we have Moses six forty eight days. So here’s the big question. Will the day ever come that we can really be full of joy, a continuous joy and endless Christmas?
The scriptures answer yes, but not in this world and not in what this world has to offer. There is the key, the key to lasting joy. Real joy is in Christ. As President Russell M. Nelson observed. The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives when the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation and Jesus Christ in his gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening or not happening in our lives.
Joy comes from him. And because of him, he is the source of all joy, which leads us beyond level two into level three. Level three is Christ the Lord, the newborn king, the savior that the shepherds talked about, Brother Smart observed. Even with all that level one and level two of Christmas have to offer, something is still missing and he said it so well. I want to get it exactly right. The Angels in 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. I love that phrase. The man who keeps Christ in the manger, because it often seems that that is exactly what the world is trying to do with this holiday. Either stay really focused on Santa Claus only, or if they acknowledge Christ at all, keep him in the manger. The adult Christ and all that he accomplished on our behalf as an adult is exactly why we refer to his nativity as a happy morning.
Level two, which we love, celebrates the baby Jesus, but level three is about Christ, the Lord, the newborn king, the adult Jesus who performed the atonement and saved us all from sin and death. It was the adult Jesus whose body was missing when the women went to the tomb. Without Easter, of course, there would be no reason to celebrate Christmas. The greatest triumph of the adult Jesus was the empty tomb, and that is level three.
The happy morning of his birth was followed some thirty three years later by resurrection morning, the greatest miracle and greatest triumph of the adult Christ. Now I’m going to make a confession. I love Christmas at all three levels. When I was a little boy, I wasn’t thinking to myself, Oh, this is all too commercial. Let’s just forget all this gift giving and sing hymns. Nope, I love level one. I also love Level to the Silent Night level.
I love listening to the sacred carols about Bethlehem and Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and all those who surround them in the nativity scene. Poor brother Smart is absolutely right. Christmas wouldn’t be celebrated at all without level three, the adult Christ. So here’s my invitation.
As you celebrate Christmas this year on all three levels, let’s do what the shepherds did after they heard from the angels they made known abroad all they knew concerning the child. What did the angel tell them? That he was a savior, that he was the Lord, even though Christmas will be different for all of us this year. Listen for level three. Listen for the adult Christ in the hymns that you sing and the things that we do because he is where we will find, as promised in the scriptures of fullness, of joy on John, by the way.
And that’s my five minute fireside.