There is only one Christmas. Each year it comes a little more into view.
This Christmas we will take the sacrament together. The ordinance will be bigger than the time and place. Bigger than place, because it binds us to all the Saints who are taking it with us worldwide, and to God in his heaven. Bigger than time, because it brings us to the foot of the cross and to the occasions when we first made our covenants.
Like the sacramental ordinance, many sacred events seem to transcend time and place when we experience them.
When I saw each of my children being born, that birth was a sacred experience that meant much more than the hospital room and the minute on the clock.
Every birth is a nativity for the family involved. Every newborn babe unmans us, because against our settled expectations 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 individual 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 a 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 relating the mind-boggling news that every week we are born yet again as new sons and daughters of Christ when we take the sacrament. It was while I was thinking about this that I realized that rebirth wasn’t just a doctrinal concept for me. 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 back swiftly flowing in. Nothing looked the same. I’d only seen before with dead eyes. But now I came alive.
This rebirth experience, I realized, has happened to me many times. I was baptized. I’ve often taken the sacrament efficaciously. I’ve seen four daughters and one son born. And every Christmas in my heart I’ve gone to the stable to glory in the Infant. All those were rebirths for me. 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 only once.
Certainly we celebrate his birth every year. But we don’t do it, I thought, as if he were being reborn like the pagan deities are. We do it as if his birth was for all time and therefore always present. It is as if he were the Lamb slain and born from the beginning of the world.
But how 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 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.
Cross-posted at the Old Country.