Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Savior of the World

What's your favorite Christmas song? Do you like the 'tinsel' songs like, "Winter Wonderland", or do you like the spiritual ones, like "Silent Night"? Or maybe you like the completely silly ones like, "Grandma Got Run Over by a Riendeer"? One year I told my kids (ages 4 to 14 at the time) that one was my favorite and they said, "Mom, that's not even a nice song!" LOL What can I say? Most Christmas songs have great meaning to me (ok, except the Grandma one), so I can't usually pick just one. But lately, I've settled on one I always like to sing at Christmastime. My kids would say it's not really a Christmas song, but...well, let me explain.

Several years ago (wow, it really has been several years, now), I was blessed to be asked to be part of an amazing presentation our local church was giving of a musical called "Savior of the World". You can usually find the presentation being done in Salt Lake City every year around Christmas time, but many of the smaller, local congregations have given the presentation as well, and that is what we were doing. I was thrilled...mostly because it was a musical presentation and I was asked to be the musical director (um, did I mention I love music?). I was looking forward to learning new music specifically about Christ (yep, I was secretly hoping to find a new Christmas song). And the music is AMAZING! Every song is scripturally based, and each began to take on a deeper meaning to me as we rehearsed.

As a (then) single woman, my heart's desire was to have an eternal sweetheart, I could relate to the first song, sung by Elizabeth and Zacharias, "I"ll give God forever....give my plans, and give my dreams"...the song was about the patience they struggled to cultivate while they practiced their faith that God would deliver on his promise that Elizabeth would bear a child, but each of us can relate to having a desire of our hearts and learning to rely on God for the answer, and it was especially poignant for me. Elizabeth's own prayer was answered in a most thrilling way. I, too, wanted to "...Give God forever and then give one day more." It's a beautiful song, it still means a great deal to me, but it doesn't quite fit the bill as a new Christmas song.

Then we move to the scene of Mary and Joseph discussing the her miraculous pregnancy...the young man playing Joseph was my own son, and Mary, a beautiful young woman who later became his wife (happy, happy, joy, joy!). Their duet is beautiful, they sing, "O Lord, My God, Come to me this day, let me see, help me know....teach me to hear they voice". I could relate to the struggle Mary and Joseph must have as they worked together to listen and obey God's voice while those around them might not have been supportive. But Mary and Joseph persevered, and with joy, they sang "...I will Praise thy Holy Name". I want to sing that, too! The song is everything a Christmas song should be, but even with my loved ones singing it, it is still not my favorite.

Rehearsals for such a production begin many months before the actual performance. Many things happen in our 'real' lives during those many months, and my life was no exception. One evening, just before a final rehearsal began, I got a call that another of my sons was in the Emergency Room. I went to him. It was scary. Really scary...he was in pain. I cried for his pain. Eventually he fell asleep. I began to relax and while I pondered, I heard and felt the music being sung that night at rehearsal, "Come, Lord Jesus to the wounded. Broken heart and bended knee, Worthy Lamb, thy love unbounded, bid our souls to rest in thee." Peace filled my soul as I was reminded of the most wonderful sacrifice, the redemption offered to everyone. At a time when my heart was frightened, I found incredible peace (yes, even Joy) in the testimony that Christ has and will again, "Come in glory to the earth"....but...that was not a Christmas song.

The story the presentation, we see the stone rolled away from the tomb and witness many of those who believe Christ is resurrected and those who still have doubts. There are times when each of us have doubts about life We practice faith in Christ, but sometimes we have unbelief. Sometimes. The words of Thomas are for all of us, "I searched with my eyes, but I was blind. By His mercy, eyes of faith I find. Lord, what I asked a-fearing Thou answered with they love. O Lord, My God, I will believe." This is for me: I WILL believe. I DO believe. And I feel renewed, in Christ and I am overjoyed!! (But...this is not the Christmas song, either).
I am like all of those who first saw the Savior on Earth. I am like the Shepherds who ran with Joy to see the humble Baby in a manger and wondered what He would do for me. I am like those who stood at the empty tomb and believe that He lived and yes, I also am like Thomas, who had some doubts. I am sometimes like those who walked with him on the road to Emmaus and didn't realize He was walking beside me. But most often, I am like Mary who came looking in the wrong place for the Risen Lord and instead found him right beside her calling her name- He knows me! And then, in the deepest feelings of my heart, I KNOW:  "Jesus, Once of humble birth, now in Glory comes to earth. Once he suffered grief and pain, now he comes to rule and reign. Come, Lord Jesus, Come!" (and that is my newest favorite Christmas song).

Merry CHRISTmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Grateful (yes, in December)

Ok, I'm dreadfully least as far as blog posts go. :) When it comes to being ready for Christmas, I'm pretty much good with it, but I've been thinking a lot lately about gratitude, and since Thanksgiving was last month...see, that's why I'm behind.

So I've been thinking about gratitude. A lot. And not just lately, but for the last few months or so. I could go into some long explanation about it, but...let's just say I've really come to understand how incredibly important gratitude is for our souls, for our spiritual selves, and to give to others. Way back at the beginning of December, I was walking in to a store when I noticed the Bell Ringer Person (you know, Salvation Army bell ringers?). I thought to myself about how last year there was a big uproar about stores not allowing the Bell Ringers to be outside, so I thought that it was neat that this store had one. I went inside, all the time wondering if I actually had any cash to put in the bucket. I don't carry cash much, and I didn't buy anything inside, so when I came out, all the cash I had was six quarters and three pennies. I dropped it in the bucket, feeling almost silly, but the girl smiled and said, "Thank you! Merry Christmas!" Oh right...CHRISTmas. Wow. It made me smile...I felt good and then it spread..... I felt Joy! I thought about it all day and felt Joy all day, over just a little thing...over $1.53 to be exact. I thought about how her gratitude was part of the Joy I felt all day. It made me think about all the THINGS I have...and all the blessings (you know, the ones that aren't things), and that dropping my little coins in the bucket was part of showing the Lord how thankful I really am for all those, um, things that aren't things. I have SO much! There's the Good News of the Gospel to start, my Savior. There are so many wonderful people in my life! So much that brings me Joy, so very much to be thankful for.

A few weeks ago, my sweetheart started a new treatment for the cancer that has plagued him since just a few weeks after we were married. Before that happened, he had to undergo the usual tests to see exactly what was happening. And the results of those tests were pretty much amazing. The largest cancer spot that was there is shrinking...the smaller ones are now no longer visible on a scan. It was too was everything we hoped and prayed for, and now the Dr. says it and...I'm numb. It took days for it to register....and then I could hardly contain myself once it did. Shrinking!! SO much to be grateful for, and I almost missed it. How many other little things...little teeny, non-life-and-death kinds of things, do I miss being grateful for?

I love this song...and every line is a lesson, so I can't even just quote one or two. Read the lyric for yourself:

(by John Bucchino, as sung by Brian Stokes Mitchell)

I’ve got a roof over my head
I’ve got a warm place to sleep
Some nights I lie awake counting gifts
Instead of counting sheep

I’ve got a heart that can hold love
I’ve got a mind that can think
There may be times when I lose the light
And let my spirits sink
But I can’t stay depressed
When I remember how I’m blessed

Grateful, grateful
Truly grateful I am
Grateful, grateful
Truly blessed, And duly grateful

In a city of strangers
I"ve got a family of friends
No matter what rocks and brambles fill the way
I know that they will stay until the end

I feel a Hand holding my hand
It’s not a Hand you can see
But on the road to the Promised Land
This Hand will shepherd me
Through delight and despair
Holding tight and always there

Grateful, grateful
Truly grateful I am
Grateful, grateful
Truly blessed And duly grateful

It’s not that I don’t want a lot
Or hope for more, or dream of more
But giving thanks for what I’ve got
Makes me so much happier than keeping score

In a world that can bring pain
I will still take each chance
For I believe that whatever the terrain
Our feet can learn to dance
Whatever stone life may sling
We can moan or we can sing

Grateful, grateful
Truly grateful, I am
Grateful, grateful
Truly blessed And duly grateful
Truly blessed And duly grateful
So here's my Pre-Christmas promise (ahhh, maybe I'll say I'm ahead of the game and call it an early New Year's goal?), to remember, every day, to count my gifts, for I do believe that whatever life brings us, our feet can learn to dance. We can feel JOY, we can be thankful, even in our trials. And for that, I am truly grateful.