Monday, December 18, 2017

President Boyd K. Packer on the joyful Christmas story

President Boyd K. Packer (1924-2015) served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve (a position that no longer exists) from 1961 to 1970, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He served as president of that Quorum from 1994 until his death on July 3, 2015 at age 90.
"I want to emphasize that I have no quarrel with that well-fed gentleman with the red suit and the white whiskers. He was very generous to me when I was a boy, and we are looking forward with great anticipation to his visit at our home next Monday night. The tree is there, the holly wreath, the stockings hung along the fireplace mantle—it is a very long mantle. I know of few things on this earth quite so celestial as the face of a little youngster, happy, hopeful, and believing, with Christmas almost here. All of those things with reference to Christmas are appropriate and good and all of them are for children—except, I suppose, the mistletoe.
"If you would understand what you get in exchange for giving up the childish illusion concerning Christmas, you could look forward to the greatest of all discoveries. If you could just know that at your age you can find and can have that 'little-kid' feeling again about Christmas. If you understand Christmas at all, you will find that in exchange for Christmas past comes the most supernal of all gifts. If you want to know a good beginning point, I suggest you start in the second chapter of Luke... (reads Luke 2:1-19).
"The Christmas story in the second chapter of Luke takes, I suppose, a minute and a half to read. It might take a minute more to ponder on it. Yet how infrequently, how remarkably infrequently does that find its way into the family festivities at Christmas time.
"The Christmas story does not end there. It is only the beginning. If we can accept as adults a new childhood status with reference to our God, then we will begin to humble ourselves and begin to believe, and so begin to see. In exchange for the fanciful poetry of The Night Before Christmas comes the miracle that grows in every season.
"The whole account—from Bethlehem to Calvary—is the Christmas story, and it takes simple, childlike, almost naive faith to know it....
"Of all times of the year, Latter-day Saints at Christmas time ought to be the most joyful, ought to have greater cause for festivity than anyone, ought to enjoy the Christmas tree and the holly wreath, and the stockings and the mistletoe, and all that goes with Christmas more than any else in the world because they KNOW what Christmas really is."
- Boyd K. Packer, "Keeping Christmas," BYU Devotional, December 19, 1962
Click here to listen to a recording of this talk

President Packer was known by some as a serious, staunch, sometimes hard-line traditionalist. Some might be surprised to read his take on Christmas traditions! This is a refreshing approach to the interplay of the modern, secular Christmas practices and the original sacred Christmas story. The so-called "childish illusion concerning Christmas" that includes Santa Claus isn't necessarily a bad thing; but it can be replaced by something far greater and more significant. President Packer suggests that the same emotions of pure joy, anticipation, and excitement felt by children, can be felt in a very different way by adults as they come to understand the divine gifts we recall at this time of year.

It's a good reminder that the Christmas story includes not just Bethlehem but also Calvary. The Savior's birth and life have meaning because of what He accomplished on our behalf. But knowing that, we truly should feel the joy of the season in a powerful way. And as we feel that joy, President Packer suggests, we can find appreciation in the beautiful symbols and traditions of the season.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

No comments:

Post a Comment

// Customization to close archive widget on first view - DK 3/15