Christmas Rose

Yesterday I sang in sacrament meeting.  Ever since I stopped going to church in October, I was hoping that I would be able to sing in the Christmas program.  When it didn’t seem I would be able to return before Christmas, I was so disappointed. What joy I felt when I was able to partake of the sacrament with my ward family!   I prayed mightily that when I sang that I would not see judgmental and angry Trump supporters as my fearful mind had imagined. The anger and bitterness in my heart was swallowed up by his atonement. Not only was I able to sing in the choir, I sang a solo as well.  I was honored to have the opportunity to testify of my Savior in song in celebration of his birth.

I thought about how many songs I have performed in this Christmas season.  Grand Chorus sang 11 songs in the DMCO concert, we sang about four in the stake Christmas concert, and four in the ward Christmas program, and then I sang one solo.  That’s a lot of singing! Almost every one of them was testifying of the Savior somehow.  

Almost twenty songs!!  That is a lot of testifying.  Not only did I perform the music, but I also learned and practiced it.  I also attended my son’s Christmas band concert and his clarinet recital.  The band concert was a little difficult since I had Austin who was constantly distracting me, but the recital was different.  The clarinet is a shamefully underrated instrument. The low rich resonance of the clarinet is like a warm blanket and hot chocolate on a cold winter day.  Hearing the clarinet ensembles play complicated music with dancelike precision was inspiring. Those young musicians made me want to work harder and be better.  Music will never make me any money. The clarinet will likely never make my son any money. That’s okay. The value is in the mode of expression. There is nothing like musical expression.  I could sit and type here for days and never be able to convey the message of the Savior’s birth like music can.

As I sat on the stand waiting to sing our next choir number, my brain started to synthesize the details of the Savior’s birth; the manger, the animals, the virgin mother, the shepherds, the wise men, the angels…….the strangeness of it all.  Of all the royal births in king’s courts celebrated by nobles and announced with trumpets across the land, we remember and celebrate a child born in a stable to an obscure couple in a small city halfway around the world.  

In the age of Trump, Ailes, Epstein, Weinstein, Cosby, and Jackson, we see what power, fame, and money can do to men.  This is not to say that all men who have these things become like these travesties of human degradation, but they would not have been able to do the amount of damage that they did and get away with it for so long without the support of those around them who profited from denial.  They were willing to look away because confronting the truth was inconvenient, painful, or even dangerous.

In that moment in sacrament meeting, sitting in the alto section of the ward choir, I seemed to see for the first time the sad truth.  It has always been this way; powerful men abusing and using and hurting others. There is no justice. There is no mercy. There is no compassion.  Not in this world. We are fallen. We hurt one another and ourselves. The shrewdest, hardest, most cruel person is often rewarded while the best and brightest who show us a better path are rejected, beaten, stoned, banished, and murdered.

It is no wonder we long for something better.  We celebrate the birth of the Savior; a man so different than the petty tyrancial despots with their cadres of sycophants!  A man of complex opposites, he was the servant king, the bridegroom and the man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief. He was the most powerful person ever born on the Earth, able to control the elements, and command the spirits.  Those who saw him could not deny that he was not of this world. They either feared and hated him, or revered and worshiped him, but he could not be ignored. He said that if his disciples were of the world, the world would love their own.  Because we are not of the world, the world hates us. Before it hated me, it hated Him. That brings some comfort doesn’t it?

And I have a new hope as I watch this season of political upheaval commence.  As a nation we have strayed from the Savior. We worship celebrities and politicians.  We feel powerless and resentful as we see suffering and wrongs. We blame others for these wrongs and find scapegoats to despise and punish.  The meek and lowly Savior with his endless patience and persuasion is not popular even with those who carry his name. The truth is, the Savior was powerless among men. He was not a military leader, a corporate climber, or even a religious leader. He held no office of respect or honor among men. God spoke to Him and showed Him how to feed his flock, to serve His people.  They came out of the world seeking after him. They were made alive with His spirit. He did what he could do and it was enough. If I do what I can do; write on my blog, sing my songs, testify of my Savior, live authentically; it will be enough.  

In a wicked world of might makes right, there is only one man who made it possible for us to live differently.  He showed us that we can pierce the heavens and bring His spirit down to bless the lives of others. His power is real, and His influence potent.  He is the only way. Meekness, humility, compassion, submission, faith, and hope. Political machinations, caucuses, elections, bills, judicial appointments, and government bureaucracies will not save us, and nor will they destroy us if we tap into the power of Him who is Mighty to Save.   

It’s hard to put into words the spirit I felt at the moment.  It was as though my mind had opened, like a Christmas rose, to see hope and truth at a time where my mind is often clouded with fear and doubt.  Then the moment passed, as it always does. As the day progressed I had dinner to make, messes to clean, fights to referee, and lessons to teach. When everyone was in bed, I sat on the floor in my bathroom for a few minutes to meditate.

“Lord,” I asked in a small voice, “How am I doing?”  I felt a wash of comfort and peace come over me. My mind flashed through the many hard things I’ve done, the courage I’ve shown, the ways I have served, the testimony I sang, and the guilt and shame that I carry around were swept away. It is enough!  I am enough, and the Lord is pleased with my offerings.

I started writing a poem.  It’s a bad one, but it uses simple language to convey complicated concepts.  I wrote it for my boys and hopefully it will help teach them a little about the way I feel about my Savior at Christmastime. I’ll post it when I have it finished.

We celebrate Christmas near the winter solstice.  It is not thought to be his actual birthday, but I think it is symbolic just the same.  The days grow ever shorter as the winter solstice approaches, and yet the sting of this decay of daylight is swallowed up with Christmas.  We celebrate the coming of better times, of progressively greater amounts of daylight. Christ can do that for us in our lives. He can take the darkness away.  He can bring the light in.

One of my sons, my little Wesley, was born on the winter solstice.  I have always considered him to be my best Christmas present. He has brought such joy and light into my darkest days.  When I am upset or depressed he is always there with a hug and an encouraging word. I have seen in him what I imagine the Savior would do.  Once, he was four years old and playing one of his first soccer games. There was a younger boy on the team, a young three year old. He looked scared and uncertain as they stood waiting for the game to start.  Wesley leaned over and gave him a side hug. He seemed to intuitively know how that boy felt and how to help reassure him. His teachers have told me about times he has watched for children who are sad or feel left out and he tries to include them.  Sometimes it’s hard to imagine what the Savior’s love looks like until we see it. Then we know. Then we can go and do likewise.

Wesley with a teammate. The expression on his face captures the empathy he has.

One of the Christmas carols I did not sing this year was “Gesu Bambino,” or the Christmas rose carol.  Wesley is my Christmas rose. The Savior is my Christmas rose. I am so grateful for the tender mercies of a loving Savior who has given me a voice to sing his praises in many different ways.  

Gesu Bambino

When blossoms flowered ‘mid the snows upon a winter night

Was born the Child the Christmas Rose, The King of Love and Light

The angels sang, the shepherds sang, The grateful earth rejoiced

And at His blessed birth the stars Their exultation voiced.

O Come let us adore Him,

O come let us adore Him

O come let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

Again the heart with rapture glows to greet the holy night

that gave the world it’s Christmas Rose, It’s king of Love and Light

Let every voice acclaim His name, The grateful chorus swell

From paradise to earth He came that we with Him might dwell

O come let us adore him

O come let us adore Him

O come let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

Ah! O come let us adore Him

Ah! O come let us adore Him

Ah! Adore Him, Christ, the Lord.

O come, O come

O come let us adore Him

Let us adore Him

Christ, the Lord.

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