Choosing a Level 3 Christmas

The Christmas season is full of magic and wonder, gifts and memories, and, of course, a little stress and chaos. The other night brought some of the latter elements to our home. It had been a busy day for me full of shopping and driving and little sibling spats. It had been a stressful day for Scott, who has an overflowing plate of work and church responsibilities. I had just gotten home and had about 10 minutes to get dinner on the table. My 12 year old, Ellie, asked if she could use Scott’s and my shower because hers doesn’t get hot enough. “Sure,” I said, while rummaging through the refrigerator. A few minutes later Scott had just finished a desperately needed workout on his exercise bike and came to ask me “Why is Ellie in our shower? Can you please ask her to head out so I can change?” It seems simple enough. Before I knew it, Ellie was mad at Scott, Scott was mad at me for making Ellie mad at him, and I was mad at him for being mad at me for making Ellie mad. Then Addie started getting mad at the stick-on nails she had purchased that weren’t sticking, and Zach was mad that no one was ready to hear his family home evening message.

Christmas. I love Christmas. I love the presents, the cards, the tree, the lights, the songs, the smells….everything. Recently I was listening to a new book by John Bytheway called Born this Happy Morning that reminded me of the three levels of Christmas, as first described by Deseret News editor William B. Smart. Our family meltdown helped me put the Christmas levels into perspective.

The first level is the Santa Claus level. Gifts, lights, presents, elves. Check. We love the Santa Claus level.

The second level is the Silent Night level. This is where those beautiful Christmas hymns come in. This is the baby in the manger, the story of Mary and Joseph and a donkey long ago. We love the Silent Night level. So often, this is where Christmas stays. But the most important level of Christmas is level three.

The third level of Christmas is the story of our Savior not as a baby, but as the Redeemer of the world. This level of Christmas includes trying to be like him and remembering his gift to us. His gift is his life, his example, and his sacrifice. Now, because of him, we can have the family chaos, the mistakes, the mess, and ultimately we can know it will all be ok. Because of him, I can say sorry, and so can everyone else, and we can start over.

Eventually we all were able to apologize and forgive each other. The episode gave me a chance to reflect on what I want my Christmas to be about this year. This Christmas I plan to enjoy the Santa Claus level. We will sing carols and deck the halls and watch funny Christmas movies and eat treats and give presents. I plan to enjoy the Silent Night level. We will tell the story of Christ’s birth and sing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” my favorite hymn, and see our nativity on display. But most of all, I plan to do my very best to remember our Savior’s life and legacy. I want to lift burdens when I see them, give where I can, love my neighbor and my family (even when we are all much less than perfect). And I will remember every day that it is OK to have a little mess, chaos, and imperfection. Indeed, those are the moments where we learn to rely on him even more.

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