To everyone celebrating Christmas today, Happy Christmas!
One of the cool (and maybe difficult) things about being an adult around Christmastime is that you don't feel the same magical anticipation that you did as a child. I remember that Christmas for my young self was a constant joy filled with unchanging traditions, familiar anticipation, and a reliable source of magic. As you grow up, each Christmas becomes more distinct. You amend some traditions, anticipation gives way to long shopping lists and party preparations, and you have to find magic in different things each year.
I sat in church a few weeks ago, thinking about what Christmas was really about. Like, I know it's about the birth of Christ, and by association his life and mission of salvation. I've been taught that since before I was born. But we celebrate the suffering and resurrection of Christ at Easter, too. I wondered if Christmas is really a repetition of that (I mean, it's a pretty big deal so celebrating it twice is probably fine), or if there's something unique about Christmas by virtue of observing His birth.
Among the many special things that people celebrate specifically at Christmas and because of the Christmas story, I found a new insight that I hadn't really focused on before. A lot of the traditional Christmas story focuses on various people receiving prophecy. Mary is visited by an angel to inform her of her calling to be the mother of Christ. Joseph receives heavenly witness and direction concerning his roles in the upcoming events. Wise men from distant lands knew of signs that would accompany the birth of a new King. And as the foretold events unfolded, angels appeared to shepherds, delivering the news and telling them where to go and how to recognize the Christ child.
In the Book of Mormon, people inhabiting the American continents during the time of Christ's birth looked forward to signs of his birth, as they had been prophesied by ministers in those lands. The signs came as witness that Christ had come into the world, and in earnest that the other prophesies concerning the Savior would likewise be fulfilled.
Christ's birth is an event that was originally celebrated as the fulfilling of God's promises and prophecies. And His birth came as a touchstone sign that the other prophecies were indeed true--that God would send a Savior to overcome death and hell, and that Christ would accomplish the divine task of mercy and salvation. This had not yet happened, yet the faith that it would come to pass is what made that Christmas night a special celebration for those who gathered in the stable-temple.
So this year, I celebrated Christmas as the pivot point of prophecy, and as our ability to rely on God to fulfill His promises. It was a new insight to me, and to the role that prophecy and faith plays in my own life and holiday observance. And it brought a new sparkle to Christmas for me.