Wednesday, December 23, 2009

English 777: Christmas as Literature---Merry Christmas!!

I'm sorry if I get a little too deep, loquacious, English major-y, or preachy in this post. I write about things I care and think about, and I count the content this post as one of those things.

Other than reading books, poems, and short stories I love for assignments, one of my favorite things about having been an English major is interpreting symbols and meaning in texts. Symbols allow us to understand abstract concepts more clearly. Likewise, one of my favorite things about Christmas is that it is completely filled with fun symbols and interpretation.

Some meanings of symbols are easy to see.

Candles and twinkle lights represent the light that Christ brings to the world. Even during dark nights, their, and His, light can be seen.

Wreaths symbolize the endless nature of God's love and the eternal life we can have with Him.

Just as the evergreen (especially the now popular fake tree) never dies, the love of Christ never fails or fades.

The star guided the shepherds and kings to the Savior just as He guides us through life back to Him.

Gifts symbolize the gifts brought by the kings and, obviously and more importantly, the gift God provides for us--His Son (John 3:17).

Candy canes resemble shepherd crooks. (Shepherds are one of my favorite symbols in Christianity. I'll talk about shepherds more later.)

The humble setting in which the Savior was born foreshadowed His living conditions through life--humble and lowly.

It seems that almost everything about Christmas points to the Savior. But lately, a few symbols or representations have stuck out to me.
As I thought about how "cold" it is getting, I started wondering what winter had to do with Christmas, other than that's when we have this holiday. Why is the celebration of the Savior's birth in the season when much in nature dies?
Again, I might be stretching here, but these are the thoughts I had. The birth of the Savior, as miraculous and beautiful as it was, only served to bring Him to the earth for His real purpose: to atone for the world, to save the natural man, to help us return to Him. Before He came, fallen mankind had spiritually died or was spiritually separated from God. Before He came, people could only hope that He would come to save them. "The hopes and fears of all the years are met in [Bethlehem] tonight" ("O Little Town of Bethlehem"). His birth interrupts this state, and when He performed the Atonement, was crucified, and was resurrected, He overcame man's fallen state, a spiritual death or separation from God. We can now experience a rebirth and live again with God because of Jesus Christ. Similarly, Easter, the celebration of His death (and obviously His Atonement and Resurrection as well), comes at a time when life in nature is restored. In this way, nature serves as a symbol for man's relationship with God.

There are so many meanings, messages, and responsibilities associated with shepherds. When we refer to the Savior as our shepherd, we usually think of the one lost sheep He saves (Luke 15:4-7) and how that applies to all of us. We also think of our roles as stewards to help those around us by feeding His sheep (John 21:15-17). I love these interpretations; they add so much depth to my understanding of the Savior and my relationship with Him.
But I've come to see shepherds in a different light as well. Jesus repeatedly says, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine" (John 10:14). At BYU my New Testament professor, Dr. Parker, told a story about a shepherd he met in Israel. When Dr. Parker approached this shepherd, he noticed that the shepherd was wearing a bulging sling closely tied across his chest. Drawing closer, Dr. Parker realized the shepherd had an injured lamb in the sling. When asked how the lamb was injured, the shepherd admitted to breaking the lamb's leg--on purpose. He said that the lamb would not come when he called its name, so he broke the lamb's leg, so that it would need to be held close to him and learn to recognize his voice and come to him when beckoned. This story has meant a lot to me as I have gone through difficult times. Sometimes we need to endure trials to know Him more, to recognize His voice, to follow when we are beckoned.

In ancient and modern Israel, shepherds cared for the sheep that would be used for sacrifices. But in Exodus, the Lord says that only a firstborn lamb can be used for specific sacrifices (Exo. 13:2-3). So shepherds must witness the birth of the firstborn lamb and present that firstborn lamb for a sacrifice. In the Christmas story, after they witness the birth of the baby Jesus, the shepherds "made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child," this Messiah, this Savior, this Firstborn Lamb of God (Luke 2:17). They are witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this way, we need to be shepherds just to bear witness of the divinity of the Savior. At this time of year, I feel it is appropriate to share my feelings about the reason we have this holiday. I testify that I know Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and that He lives and loves each of us. He was born that He might live to save us from our sins, to die, and to live again.

Merry Christmas, everyone!! Enjoy the wonderful spirit of the season!!!!


  1. Thanks Lacey, I really appreciated that :)

  2. Yeah me too. Thanks for the reminder about what Christmas is all about.