Happy Christmas Eve to everyone! My Christmas gift to all of you, being the extremely poor person that I am, is a blog post! Huzzah! (Virgin) Drinks all around! I hope that all of you, my dear blogging friends in the void, have a very happy Christmas and that you enjoy this wonderful time of the year.
I've got two main things to talk about tonight and one of them kind of leads into the other so here it goes. I went to church with my grandparents today because I'm staying with them (and the rest of my family) until just after new years. Coming from a student ward in general it's a bit of a shock to the system-much more noisy. My grandma's ward is in two extremes: there are the really young new families and the really old couples. Discussion in relief society was pretty non existent and (I'll be honest), I wasn't paying much attention to it. The discussion was something about how we need to be disciples of Christ and what that means. Everyone was giving the standard "do your visiting teaching" "do your best" kind of answers so I kind of tuned it out in favor of this adorable baby a row across from me who kept making cute faces. Near the end of the lesson (or was it the end of Gospel Doctrine? Shows how much I was paying attention), the speaker made reference to a quote (Maxwell?) about how we will some day have to answer the question about what Christ means to us. So in light of the Christmas season, I'll propose that we all think a little more about what the Savior means to us as individuals.
Personally, I started thinking about why we celebrate Christmas at all. Not to be cynical-I love Christmas as much as the next person-but we place so much (albeit, commercial) importance on Christmas, and virtually none on the events surrounding Easter. After thinking about it for a while I thought about how glad I was that Easter isn't as commercialized. Wouldn't it be terrible if the focus of the holiday was put on more than just a bunch of jelly beans? Back to Christmas-I started thinking about A Christmas Carol after that and why it's a Christmas story at all beyond the fact that it takes place at Christmas. Now, I'm sure many have had this thought before me but it really hit me today in light of the question that was asked in church that the reason we celebrate Christmas is because the birth of the Savior was the dawn of a new brightness of hope in a world that had none. The birth of Christ led to the death of Christ, and the resurrection of Christ after that. There is a reason why Christmas is such a joyful time of the year. It is because it is a celebration of life, and hope of better days to come through His light.
This optimistic thought in mind, I really enjoyed the rest of today. We had a lovely family dinner and watched a movie together and just enjoyed one another's company. Later after most of the kids were off either in bed or watching a movie in the den, we started as adults (ha! I call myself an adult. Well-I'm not a kid) to talk about the past year and eventually got on the subject of how sad it is that schools aren't allowed to celebrate Christmas any more. There's a school district in Minnesota that doesn't allow kids to wear red or green during the month of December, for example. My elementary school at home can't have a Christmas program any more, they have a "winter" program, even though the school is at least 90% Christian. In light of that and several other things that have come up in the last year (a co-ed sleep over in my brother's show choir, for example), my dad has become fairly pessimistic about the condition of the world, especially for teenagers. And who could really blame him? There is so much evil in the world. It is available everywhere we turn. One need only open a newspaper and read the front page to see it. Turn on the internet or open a magazine and all you see is scantily clad celebrities with insane love lives. And these are the role models for youth? Even at my apartment complex-a place that is sponsored by BYU-we hear loud parties every night with at least 90% of the songs about sex and drugs. The 13th Article of Faith talks about finding things that are virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy-but finding such things in the world is hard. I'm not saying it's impossible. Anyone who knows me really well will know that the absurdity of my movie knowledge knows very few bounds. I'm just commenting for the sake of conversation that the world is bleak. Teens are presented with options for little outside of sex and drugs (and usually both).
However terrible the world is-I refuse to lose sight of my optimism. President Hinkley is one of the most optimistic men on this earth, and one of the very few men on earth who is able to comprehend the evil in the world. We are told that men are that they might have joy. I was watching Lord of the Rings the other day and thinking about Sam's quote about why they are still fighting to destroy the ring when Middle Earth is full of such evil-he says it is because there *is* still good in the world, and that good is worth fighting for. The way I see it (and the way Sean Astin sees it too if you watch the commentary), the word fighting should be in quotes. Fighting doesn't necessarily mean through violence. I see it as men striving to do good in a world that may reject it no matter what the odds are.
Throughout history there are examples of men who made a difference as an individual. Hitler, for example, was able to pull an entire nation down because he was a terrible, selfish leader. On the other hand, men like Gandhi were able to pull thousands of people out of despair and into a better life. No matter how evil the world is, it will never be so evil that we should stop looking for the joy in it. There are so many good people left in the world. I will not give up. God has promised that he will not remove the church from the earth again. If I have the gospel in my life, then I have hope. And if I have hope, then I truly can find happiness in a world that lives in a state of misery (whether they know it or not). Tolkien really did have it right-the good that is left in this world is worth fighting for, even if we are fighting a losing battle.
The great thing there, of course, is that we know we'll win the war, so losing all the battles doesn't matter all that much in the great scheme of things. All the best wars were like that (Revolutionary War, for example)...
Merry Christmas everyone! I hope that you are able to find joy no matter the circumstances.