Sunday, December 29, 2013


Now that we have explored some of the historicity of Christmas I want to put forth the case for those who feel no need to apologize for lights dangling from the eves of their houses in June or for Christmas decorations which still linger well after Boxing Day.

I feel no need to contend with those who have established a certain event or date when Christmas season is to officially begin. I believe all should have the privilege to celebrate how and when they wish. I have even heard it expressed in my own home that now that we have had the First Presidency Christmas Devotional from Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Christmas season has begun. Another might decide to start with the clearing of the Thanksgiving Feast table. Some may appoint Black Friday as the beginning. I think I repeat myself.


Let me spend some time explaining why my Christmas celebration has MANY days.

When I was very young I don't remember individual days being counted. There was just a time of anticipation where days were spent looking through the wish books, (Sears and J. C. Pennys catalogues) sneaking into closets and attics and shaking and squeezing of packages in Christmas ruining routines. The days of anticipation slowly moved to the morning of actualization when with swiftness packaging was shredded revealing previously discovered treasures and an occasional Santa surprise. The agonizing days of anticipation which quickly dissolved in moments of ripping were all too often followed by a selfish feeling of ‘is that all there is to Christmas?’

As my childhood years morphed into what I then thought of as the wonderful teen years, the last few months of the year changed into a calendar full of parties which seemed to begin sometime around Halloween and didn't end until the New Year’s Dance decorations had been taken down. Christmas became just another time to gather with friends and family enjoying food and company until one was overstuffed with both.

During the time when I was on active duty as a reservist in the United States Army and the time I spent serving a mission for my church in Northern Mexico, was when my realization and conversion to the concept that Jesus born of Mary in Bethlehem was indeed Christ the Savior and my Many Days of Christmas begin to expand dramatically.

With parenthood I found that during the days of anticipation my role had changed. I once was the hunter I and had now become the hider, on Christmas day I was now the one hoping that there was at least one present for each child which would be a surprise and when the day was over I was left with a feeling of gratefulness for the blessings we had been given.

As the days have continued to morph, to where they now leapingly bound in increasing velocity I find that it would be rather pointless to limit the celebration of birth of the Redeemer of the world to one day.


I am grateful that where once the carols, songs and hymns of Christmas could only be heard when the radio stations decided to play them, or when the chorister in church decided to select them, I now live in a day where hundreds and thousands of interpretations of Christmas music can be stored on devices not much bigger than a piece of chocolate and with a flick of the wrist I can shuffle through songs and artists every day of the year if I wish.

I am grateful that although the days when weeks were spent putting up decorations throughout our house have been minimized and in some cases eliminated because of the ravages of aging, I can put the stored pictures of those days gone by as my screen saver and once again be brightened by the remembrances every day of the year if I so desire.

I am grateful that the bounteous blessings of a loving Father in Heaven have so filled our home and our lives that it takes but a quick glance in any direction to discover and sometimes be surprised at the stuff which surrounds me and which has brought such great joy into my life. I can do this glancing every hour of every day if I wish.

I am grateful that the choices I have made in life and the blessings which have been poured down upon me have made it so that every day I can celebrate the birth, the life and the words of Jesus the Christ and learn to generously share the Lord’s abundance to others in need until that wondrous day we have ‘all things in common among us.’

There, now you have it, The Many Days of Christmas are now extended to the maximum of 365 days of every year.

And for those who feel that my fixation about Christmas robs from other holidays:

I find New Year’s Day to have greater reason to begin again because He was born on Christmas Day.

I find Valentine’s Day to be filled with greater love because He was born on Christmas Day.

I find Easter and the resurrection to have meaning because He was born on Christmas Day.

I find Patriotic and Memorial days to be more touching because He was born on Christmas day.

I find myself filled with more gratefulness on Thanksgiving because He was born on Christmas day.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Kathleen and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!!

The candles had barely been snuffed in the jack-o-lantern when it started. The annual sniping by those who feel that Thanksgiving is being cheated by the early onslaught of Christmas’ commercialization. There is even chirping about how long we have to be bombarded with Christmas carols, songs and hymns. Other’s simply make us suffer with their not so silent, silent protests, as they refuse to display even a strand of tinsel until the turkey leftovers are eaten, frozen or discarded.

Even a very short investigation of the history of Christmas, whose celebration, by the way, out dates the celebration of Thanksgiving by almost two millennium, quickly brings to our attention that the elongation of Christmas celebration precedes trading posts, general stores, nickel and dime stores, department stores, malls, box stores and 99 cent stores.

We begin by ignoring such ancient calculators of days used by the Sumerians, Israelis, Mayans, Greeks, Vikings and Romans etc. We move boldly forward in our discussion of the Many Days of Christmas referencing only our present day modern calendar which is mostly a modified version of the Gregorian calendar which didn’t come into general use until 1582. It is hard to believe that even though the identification of a day has remained consistent with the sun’s rising and sinking, months and years have been defined in a variety of ways among the inhabitants of the same planet with the same sun and the same moon. Then we have the stepsister of measurements, the week, which was generally ignored on most calendars (except for Israel) until the Christian calendar Anno Domini set apart groups of seven days with the first day of each week being called Dominica or the Day of our Lord.

In the fourth century, St. Nicolas of Italy was a beloved priest who brought joy and happiness to children as an expression of his love of Christ. After his death many of his followers kept his name alive by a celebration where gifts were given to children in remembrance of his kindness. St. Nicolas’ Day eventually became universally celebrated on the 6th day of December of our modern calendar. Since St. Nicolas’ Day and Christmas fell so closely together the two celebrations were eventually merged into a day where the birth of Christ was celebrated by gifts being given on behalf of St. Nicolas and eventually by Santa Claus himself. We must hasten to say that in many nations the bearer of gifts is not St. Nicolas, but either Baby Jesus or the Christ Child or an angel sent by the Christ Child and thereby St. Nicolas is slowly losing his place in history all together. The miracle of technology which has brought the peoples of the earth closer in many ways is now making Santa Claus a more universally recognized bringer of the wonderful surprises on Christmas morning.

That should make some of you happy, we have now diminished our celebration of Christ’s birth to one day.

However, it seems that even Christmas Day comes at least twice a year depending on which calendar your Christian culture uses. There are those few nations who remain orthodox in their Christmas worship who celebrate the birth of the Savior on the 6th of January as we number the days on our modified Gregorian calendar. And then there is the rest of the Christian world who celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December. There are even small denominations of Christians such as the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, but recognize the 6th day of April as the actual day of the Saviors birth. There are also many scholars who lean to spring time as the time of year of the His birth because of the Shepherd’s tending their flocks on the hill side.

Ironically, seeing that Christmas is celebrated on these two dates, the twelve days of Christmas are those days between the 25th of December and the 6th of January. If you celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December you call the 6th of January the day of Epiphany.

Now that we have historically extended the celebration of Christmas by 12 days, and if you haven't tired or rebelled against the lengthening of the days of Christmas which is taking place I will discuss how the days of Epiphany can extend our celebration even further.

The original meaning of Epiphany from the Greeks would be translated in English as ‘striking appearance.’ We use the words ‘Revelation of God’ in English as our meaning for the word Epiphany. The original Christians celebrated the Day of Epiphany as The Revelation of the Son of God as a human being in Jesus Christ. Most groups of Christianity today celebrate the Epiphany or the 6th of January as the day of the coming of the Magi to see the Baby Jesus. Eastern Christians use the day of Epiphany as a day to celebrate the baptism of Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church then uses the 13th day of January or the eighth day after the Epiphany as the day to commemorate the baptism of Jesus. In the Roman Catholic Church the 13th of January, as a day to recognize the baptism of Jesus, has been changed to the first Sunday after Epiphany as the official day to celebrate His baptism.

If you are keeping score and are not completely befuddled, we have now extended celebration of Christmas day to either 13 or 20 days depending on when the first Sunday after the 6th of January falls.

Let us continue to add days to our Many Days of Christmas. In most of the Western and Mediterranean world the celebration of Christmas is preceded by the celebration of the Advent or the Celebration of First Coming of Christ and the Longing for the Second coming. Advent calendars can be seen in homes which are both humble and ornate, but there are but few who know the significance of the calendars. They come with little slip in pockets or with windows or doors which hide treasures as varied as gumdrops and diamonds. Those who are religious in their observance of the Advent using modern day Advent Calendars will celebrate each passing day with the setting of the sun by discovering a new hidden delight, starting on the 25th day before Christmas.

The Advent is also referred to as St. Martin’s Lent or Fast and for those who observe it correctly it is much like the observance of Lent in anticipation of Easter. St. Martin was the Bishop of Tours, France, in what our modern calendar dates as the mid fourth century. The fast begins with a festive fair and feast on the 11th of November and ends on the eve of the 24th of December. To save you the finger counting that’s an additional 40 days added to our remembrance of the Savior’s birth.

Our tally sheet now numbers 45, 60 or 53 days of Christmas celebration depending on when the first Sunday after the 6th of January falls and whether you use a traditional or modern Advent Calendar.

I have only just begun to count the Many Days of Christmas (to be continued}

Sunday, December 15, 2013


During the last few weeks I have been reading in the Old Testament historical books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. One of the continuing themes which occurs as the Lord struggles to keep David’s posterity upon the throne, is what seems to be an overwhelming need of successors to make themselves great by destroying all traces of predecessors.

Israel does not stand alone in this practice. We see incumbent Pharaohs chiseling the names of fathers and mothers off of all monuments and obelisks in the kingdom. The Babylonians were especially skilled in the art of erasing opposition, destroying conquered nations so extensively that they were assured that that enemy would never again be able to rise from the rubble to threaten.

Today the tide of thinking one can become great by undercutting and destroying the opposition seems to be rising in an ever threatening wave in all levels of society and upon all nations of the world. Children bully children on playgrounds and computers. Gangs roam streets seeking to eliminate any who might dare to invade their territory wearing another color. Careers are founded not on ability, but by pulling down those who preside. Leaders spend their days in efforts which will undermine the position of opponents rather than advancing principles which will benefit and strengthen.

No matter how long it has been going on nor how wide has been the proliferation of the practice of rising upon another’s rubble, we should have learned long ago,that this practice will always end in the self-destruction of the destroyer.

Just as ancient as this practice of self-punitive elimination, there has always existed a counter philosophy to this human caused plague. In its simplest form it is expressed as the development of self-mastery. Although it has been long taught and recognized as an essential element in the culturalization of societies, it still remains today as one of the most difficult of life’s characteristics to conquer.

There is a special kind of self-mastery which allows us to be inwardly confident, in such a way that we have no need to build our mansions on a foundation formed from the ashes of a destroyed predecessor.

In the kingdoms of the world we see that insecurity is the basis which causes one to believe that they gain strength from making others weak. However, in the Kingdom of God it will not be those who go about snuffing out the candles of others who will triumph, but those who add illumination in the world by shining their meager light on others, calling attention to the brightness emanating from another and as much as they possibly can allowing the light of Christ to shine through them to bring greater light to a world dimmed by the insecure-ness which results from the desire for self-aggrandizement.

At times it seems difficult to remember that our small glimmer will only have significance when it is united with others’ to bring a lasting glow to a world which is “walking in darkness at noon day.” Can we not learn the simple truth that there will never be an increase in illumination if we are continually extinguishing our neighbor’s candle? In a world where stewardships and responsibilities are continually being shifted and changed from one person to another as generations quickly crowd upon one another, it should be self-evident that advancement can best be accomplished by adding upon what was built before rather than tearing down and starting anew. Can we not see that generations rise higher by building on foundations rather than rubble?

Joshua, who once stomped hay into straw to make bricks for the Pharaoh of Egypt, became a mighty warrior-leader of Israel. As he succeeded Moses, Joshua counseled his officers, “Remember the word which Moses, the servant of the Lord commanded you…” Joshua felt no need to attempt to glorify himself by diminishing the glory of Moses. Interestingly, the men of Israel responded to Joshua, “According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things so will we hearken unto thee.” Seemingly, what would seem ironic to the snuffers of light who try to lead today, Joshua won acceptance more fully and sooner by honoring the revered leader whom he succeeded.

It seems righteous self-mastery imbues us with the ability, when we are entrusted with some form of leadership, to take the time necessary to get the ‘feel’ of our new station and to allow others to get the ‘feel’ of their new guide, without having to drag the names and reputations of previous holders of the position through the quagmire or destroy them completely.

Some years ago I received the counsel of a respected shepherd who had just called me to a new stewardship. He reminded me that I wasn't called to begin a revolution and correct all the mistakes of those who had previously held this position, but I was called to be responsive to the whisperings which would augment all that had gone before.

Hard though it might be, as we find ourselves being shifted with the sands of time, I think our torches will burn more brightly if we put upon ourselves the confidence of righteous self-mastery. Hopefully, we will have our vision somewhat unclouded by the flickerings of self-mastery and thereby more frequently see ourselves as others see us, sometimes more clearly see ourselves as we really are, and catch glimpses of what we have the potential of becoming without having to apply the snuffer’s tool of destruction.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


As Tevia who felt like a Fiddler on the Roof said, “on the other hand”…

Do I sometimes feel guilt swell in my bosom:

As I wonder if I have a right to peace while witnessing others in such constant turmoil?

As I contemplate my joyful life while viewing the suffering of others?

As my heart fills with love while others taste the bitterness of hate?

On the other hand:

If peace were taken from my life would it alleviate the turmoil in another life?

If the joy found in my life were to stop would the suffering of another be terminated?

If love were taken from my heart would bitterness be removed from the heart of another?

Like all of our struggles, as we pass through the trials of this one-time-only mortal experience, the solutions probably will not come because kings suddenly walk in the righteous ways of King David. The world will not become a Camelot because we bury our heads in the sand. Hearts will not become pure because Eternal Truths have been taught by Eternal Beings.

Edward Everett Hale wrote, “I am only one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let that which I cannot do interfere with that which I can do.”

One of the Savior’s parting admonitions to his Apostles was that they feed his lambs.

Isaiah spoke of becoming publishers of peace on Mount Zion. (The ancient name for Jerusalem)

Lehi proclaimed that the purpose of mankind’s existence was to have joy.

John the beloved spoke of the power of a love which could cast out fear and torment and make one bold unto perfection.

I may not be able to feed the ninety and nine, but I can nourish the one I find who is hungered.

I may not be able to stand and shout from Mount Zion, but I can publish peace each day in all I say and do.

I may not bring joy to the world, but I can bring joy to those I meet and greet each day.

I may not be able to manifest love to all of Heavenly Father’s children, but I can love my neighbor.

Feed, publish, and love are all words of action, words of giving which only take on meaning when shared, spoken, and spread and are not to be held within or to oneself.

Are the golden thread and the silver lining often overlooked because of the abundance of the bolt of drab fabric wherein it lies, or the horizon spread cloudiness which conceals it from our view as we wearily are bombarded by the notices of our days?

Maybe we need to begin to out publish, out feed and out love the constant blare of the dismal-ness coming from the media.

Maybe we need to begin to cease being closeted Christians and boldly love, publish and feed an ever more accessible audience.

Maybe we need to better understand that it is not only a privilege to enjoy the peaceful fruits of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also a sacred obligation to joyfully feed, love and publish the good news to others.

Maybe it is time for those who find the truth in Christ’s teachings to stop basking in the comfort which the gospel brings and venture forth from their serenity to find a lamb to feed, a mole hill to speak from, bring joy by lightening another’s burden or finding a child who wants to be loved.

Today might be the day, when every other wind of doctrine is being blown about, that those who have in some way been touched by the Master’s hand reach out to those who are walking in darkness at noon day, who seek the truth but know not where to find it. Feeding, publishing and loving according to their capacities, doing something because they can.

Tonight might be the night when I leave the trumpeting of doom to those who have become so practiced in that strain. Although their numbers are legion and their forces abound; I can resolve to take my little candle from beneath its basket and with its warm glow of love, I will begin to feed a lamb by publishing peace to my neighbor.


Sunday, December 1, 2013



Sunday, December 1, 2013

I had a colleague in Reno, Nevada who came to work one day and announced that they were no longer going to watch or listen to the news. He was just tired of hearing what a mess all the inhabitants of the world were in and that the news in no way brightened his day When he watched the news he was left with depressing feelings and shattered hope.

At various times over the years Kathleen and I have had ‘the world is in such a mess’ discussions. At times it is she who counters with words of reassurance and good cheer, pointing out a few bright spots in the dismal picture. At times I become that voice. It is probably a good thing that one of us always finds a need to shine some light in the darkness, otherwise we might sink into an abyss.

We have used the argument that it may not be all the peoples of the world who are in a mess, but only the leaders (Which is by the way a very old argument found over and over again in the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles in the Old Testament). “And King _________ (fill in the blank) sinned and did not follow in the footsteps of King David and caused Israel to sin.” The sad experiences, found in the scriptures, teach us that blaming the leaders is about as valid an argument and does about as much good in bringing about a solution to the world’s problems as blaming the Devil for our own foolishness.

Any arguments which point to the leaders as the root of our problems can quickly be put to rest by the counter argument which is also supplied by the nightly news. A murder, a couple of rapes, senseless destruction by arson or graphitic taggers quickly helps us realize that individuals among masses are also adding to the blackness of the cloud which seems to thicken with each passing day.

Frequently our discussion is brought to a temporary conclusion with the standby clincher, “I’m grateful that at least we can find peace from within and make our home a bastian of peace through the strength generated from our belief in our Savior.

The discussion may be brought to a conclusion, but often the turmoil in my mind finds no place of settling.

If belief in the Savior is indeed the answer:

Why do we find couples who claim to be believers deciding the only solution to their discorded-ness is a termination of their wedding vows?

Why do we find siblings who claim the scriptures to be the foundation of their beliefs who will no longer communicate with one another because of some long ago offense?

Why do we find pockets of church goers standing in chapel corners excitedly, verbally destroying the reputation of a fellow congregant?

Why do we read the words of parishioners, hidden by the veil of social media, spewing hatred upon others because of their place of birth, political party, pigmentation or social status?

We are left to conclude that one or all of the following possibilities might be true:

The Messenger (Savior) must not have been what he claimed to be.


The message he proclaimed must not be true, or does not translate into real life situations.


We find the message inconvenient, unpopular or counter to the way we choose to live our lives.

Whether watching the news or walking daily in our own shoes, we quickly become aware:

It doesn't take a very extensive search to discover those around us who have chosen to abandon the teachings of the Savior because they have accepted one or all of the forgoing possibilities as a reality for themselves.

An honest search of the days we have put behind us, or are yet to come, would probably reveal moments when we too have lapses of belief or behaviors which betray our proclamations of belief.

I suspect we have all had moments when the emotions we have had during some of the hours of our days have fallen far short of being a fulfillment of the Lord’s promises to those who would follow the Plan of Happiness.

As Tevia who felt like a Fiddler on the Roof said, “on the other hand”…

(To be continued)