Christmas and the Sacrament

December 20, 2007 | 4 comments
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There is only one Christmas. Each year it comes slightly more into view.

This is my yearly reworking of my favorite Christmas post:

Every birth is a nativity for the family involved. Every newborn babe unmans us, because against our experience we see innocence and holiness existing in a fleshly vessel. Births are a miracle.

In this way every birth is like Christ’s birth. His birth does to all of us what individual births do to parents. He unmans all creation.

And because we experience innocence, in a sense we are spiritually reborn when we are at a birth. For we individual parents, at the birth of our children. For all of us, at Christmas, at Christ’s birth.

That was the conclusion I came to at the sacrament while thinking over Christmas and rebirth. I had remembered that baptism makes us born again and that the sacrament “renews our baptismal covenants,” which is the matter-of-fact Mormon way of saying that every week in the sacrament we are born yet again as new sons and daughters of Christ. It was while I was thinking about this that I realized I had experienced that rebirth. At least, I had sometimes experienced something when I took the sacrament that I had experienced on witnessing my daughters’ births or on standing as a Christmas witness to the timeless birth of Jesus. I had felt the value, hope, freshness, and vitality that slowly drains out of everything come flooding back in. Nothing looked the same in those times; I’d only seen before with dead eyes.

This rebirth experience, I realized, has happened to me many times. I was baptized once. I’ve often taken the sacrament efficaciously. I’ve seen four daughters born. And every Christmas in my heart I’ve gone to the stable to glory in the Infant. All those were rebirths for me and remembering them was a sweet accompaniment to the sacrament.

Then, as I was sitting there with the bread and water, I suddenly saw myself in contrast to Him. I have been reborn and will be reborn many times. He was born but once.

Certainly we celebrate his birth every year. But we don’t do it, I think, as if he were being reborn. We do it as if his birth was for all time and therefore ever present. It is as if he were the Lamb slain and born from the beginning of the world. But now can a birth, how can anything, be timeless? The answer came. His birth continues–the joyful promise of it is as good today as it was then–because he has never blighted it and therefore has never ceased to be what he was. The omnipotent Jesus is in some sense still the child.

Every baby grows a little crooked as it grows. Every sacrament goer leaves the meeting touched, if still only lightly, with stupor. Every Christmas brings its quarrel. Every new leaf stiffens in the summer and sickens in the fall. He alone–the Christ–was born and lives an evergreen.

Prior versions of this post are found here and here.

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4 Responses to Christmas and the Sacrament

  1. Janet on December 20, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    This is quite lovely, Adam. Thanks. As a new (long-awaited) mama, I especially like:

    “Every birth is a nativity for the family involved. Every newborn babe unmans us, because against our experience we see innocence and holiness existing in a fleshly vessel. Births are a miracle.

    In this way every birth is like Christ’s birth. His birth does to all of us what individual births do to parents. He unmans all creation.

    And because we experience innnocence, in a sense, in a sense we are spiritually reborn when we are at a birth. For we individual parents, at the birth of our children. For all of us, at Christmas, at Christ’s birth.”

  2. Adam Greenwood on December 20, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    Congratulations, ma’am. You’ve mentioned it before but I was slow in saying anything.

  3. Janet on December 21, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Thank you, Adam. We finalize our adoption and will be sealed to our beautiful baby boy in January, so I’m also especially appreciative of the notion that God entrusted his only begotten to an adoptive father and that, according to Paul, we are all God’s children through adoption. I’d never viewed the nativity in that light before. This year has brought all sorts of wonder to my life. Our renewed innocence in the face of God’s trust in us constantly amazes me. I’ve been thinking about how baffled Mary and Joseph must have felt by their Father’s act of entrusting them with the Christ child and–as you allude to–how each birth replicates this baffling act of faith.

    Congratulations on another Christmas with a new baby at the Greenwood house as well!

  4. Ray on December 21, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    Beautiful, Adam. Simply beautiful.

WELCOME

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