The Three Levels of Christmas
William B. Smart
Why doesn’t the spirit of Christmas last? This thoughtful writing answers that question. While it isn’t exactly a story it is highly relevant to the holidays.
Let’s call the first of these levels The Santa Claus Level . It’s the level of Christmas trees and holly, of whispered secrets and colorful packages, of candlelight and rich food and warm open houses. It’s carolers in the shopping malls, excited children and weary but loving parents. It’s a lovely time of special warmth and caring and giving. It’s the level at which we eat too much and spend too much and do too much—and enjoy every minute of it. We love the Santa Claus level of Christmas.
But there’s a higher, more beautiful level. Let’s call the second level The Silent Night Level. It’s the level of our glorious Christmas carols, of that beloved, familiar story, ‘Now in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus. . .’ It’s the level of the crowded inn and the silent, holy moment in a dark stable when the Son of Man came to earth. It’s shepherds on steep, bare hills near Bethlehem , angels with their glad tidings, a new star in the East, wise men traveling far in search of the Holy One. How beautiful and meaningful it is; how infinitely poorer we would be without this sacred second level of Christmas.
The trouble is, these two levels don’t last. They can’t.
Twelve days of Christmas, at the first level, is about all we can stand. It’s too intense, too extravagant. The tree dries out and the needles fall. The candles burn down. The beautiful wrappings go out with the trash, the carolers are skating on the ice, and the toys break. The feast is over and the dieting begins. But the lonely and the hungry are with us still, perhaps lonelier and hungrier than before.
“Lovely and joyous as the first level of Christmas is, there will come a day, very soon, when Mother will put away the decorations and vacuum the living room and think, ‘Thank goodness that’s over for another year.’
Even the second level, the level of the Baby Jesus, can’t last. How many times this season can you sing ‘Silent Night?’ The angels and the star and the shepherds, even the silent, sacred mystery of that holy night itself, can’t long satisfy humanity’s basic need. The man who keeps Christ in the manger will, in the end, be disappointed and empty.
No, for Christmas to last all year long, for it to grow in beauty and meaning and purpose, for it to have the power to change lives, we must celebrate it on the third level, that of The Adult Christ . It is at this level—not as an infant—that our Savior brings His gifts of lasting joy, lasting peace, lasting hope. It was the adult Christ who reached out and touched the untouchable, who loved the unlovable, who so loved us all that even in His agony on the cross He prayed forgiveness for His enemies.
This is the Christ, creator of worlds without number, who wept, Enoch tells us, because so many of us lack affection and hate each other—and then who willingly gave His life for ALL of us, including those for whom He wept.
He is the Christ of whom the prophets had foretold for centuries would come. Even before the world was created we learned of the key role the Savior would perform in the Plan of Salvation. He accepted the Father’s Plan of Redemption and submitted himself to the will of the Father. We read in Moses 4:2:
Behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father; thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
We also read in the scriptures from Isaiah 7:14:
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
In Isaiah 9:6 we read:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
We read in 1 Corinthians 15:22:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. How great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah.
Yes, He was and is wonderful, the Great Counsellor, the mighty God, willing to sacrifice His life that we might live if we are but willing to accept Him as our Savior. He is the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
This is the Christ, the adult Christ, who gave us the perfect example, and asked us to follow Him.
It was this Jesus Christ whose birth we are celebrating that asked us:
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:14)
Accepting that invitation—to keep His commandments and to love one another—is the way— THE ONLY WAY —to celebrate Christmas all year and all life long.