Tuesday, December 20, 2011


On Sunday I had a "moment" of stillness.

You know those rare moments when no matter how busy and crazy your life seems to be, the world slows down around you and the air turns fuzzy?

It was one of those moments.

The moments that you are aware there are still things swirling around you but it seems that they are in slow motion and you suddenly can see what's in front of you perfectly clearly.

And then the moment is gone, and you are left with the hub-bub of life. And you must pick up and go on, trying to etch the feeling in your mind.

I felt it at the birth of each of my babies.

I felt it when I held baby Lucy one crazy evening and realized she couldn't see me in the dim light of the nearby lamp post. And although I knew our fears were confirmed...she had the syndrome our geneticist had brought up as a possibility...I also felt a strange peace. I was washed over with the knowledge that we could handle whatever lay ahead...with help from Above.

I feel it every so slightly when my kids eyes glow at me when I come to volunteer in their classrooms, and more vividly when we read Christmas stories under the Christmas tree...especially the ones that make me cry and my children huddle around me and put their arms around me.

Well, this Sunday I needed one of those "moments" because all this Christmas mumbo jumbo was killing me. I have been so wrapped up in so many things swirling around me lately that I needed something to pull me back into the Christmas spirit.

And then someone read the following excerpt in their talk. And my heart turned to mush. And the clattering of my children's "reverent" motion and the thought of how hard my chair was all faded away as my eyes pricked with the true meaning of the season.

So I had to share it here:

"For Christmas is a beautiful time of the year. We love the excitement, the giving spirit, the special awareness of and appreciation for family and friends, the feelings of love and brotherhood that bless our gatherings at Christmastime.

In all the joyousness, it is well to reflect that Christmas comes in three levels:

Let’s call the first 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 it the 'Silent Night level.' It’s the level of all 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 a steep, bare hill 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 most of us 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 he trash, the carolers are up on the ski slopes, the toys break, and the biggest day the stores in the entire year is exchange day, December 26.

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 shepherd, 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 at 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 tell 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.

This is the Christ, the adult Christ, who gave us the perfect example, and asked us to follow Him.

Accepting that invitation is the way–the only way–to celebrate Christmas all year and all life long."

Oh every time I think of this I get that feeling once again. He is there. He loves us dearly. The adult Christ who gave His life for us.

I was so grateful for that crystal clear realization to hit me there on my hard chair at church as my children and their scramble for markers and request for back rubs died down to slow motion around me. The true meaning of Christmas washed over me and filled me with love.

Then of course yesterday I was overcome almost to tears with the amount of Christmas and motherhood busy-ness of this time of year.

May we all remember to be still enough to remember not only that tiny babe born in Bethlehem all those years ago, but that third level of the living, adult Christ this week and throughout the whole year.

post-edit note: I googled where this came from and this is what I found:
"The article was written as a Church News editorial by William B. Smart, and appears in his book, Messages for a Happier Life (Deseret Book, 1989), pp. 33-34."


  1. Such beautiful thoughts...thank you for sharing.

  2. Very inspiring. I've not thought of Christmas this way before (different levels), but I love how the author acknowledged that each is important and good. Kind of a good, better, best. A really great perspective. Thanks!

  3. I was just thinking about this the other day as we walked around Temple Square. Not as well said as the speaker, but that we need to come to our Savior as he was when He left this earth, not as the baby. The baby was the hope of all that was to come.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. What is the source for these beautiful thoughts? I'd like to use them, but want to give credit to the author. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Wow, what an amazing talk! It reminds me of the Christmas Jar book. Thank you for sharing, I needed that little boost before Christmas!

  6. This is such a wonderful reminder of the true spirit of Christmas. And you encapsulate the moment of spiritual stillness so well. Thanks for sharing and may this be a joyous season for you and your darling family.

  7. "You know those rare moments when no matter how busy and crazy your life seems to be, the world slows down around you and the air turns fuzzy?"

    Thank you for giving words to something I've tried inadequately to explain before. It's what it feels like to be "in the Spirit."

  8. Thank you! Thank you for the feeling of unconditional love I felt from the Savior as I read that. I needed it.

  9. My husband read that exact thing at our ward Christmas party. He is the bishop and was preparing something totally different until he read that to the children under the Christmas tree the night before the party. He completely changed everything he was going to do and read that instead. I love it!

  10. thanks for sharing. Who is the author of that?

  11. love this. thank you for sharing!

  12. I just added this to the post, but I looked up where this came from and found this: The article was written as a Church News editorial by William B. Smart, and appears in his book, Messages for a Happier Life (Deseret Book, 1989), pp. 33-34.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing that. It's the perfect thing for me to share with my family for FHE (kids were sick last night so we couldn't hold it), and the perfect thing to discuss as a family Christmas Eve. Thanks for all the inspiration you provide here on your blog.

  14. Thanks so much for this! A really thought-provoking post, and a great reminder :)

  15. Needed that so much today. Thanks, Shawni.

  16. Can I tell you, I had a little moment of stillness when I read this? I've also been caught up in everything - a lot going on right now and a crazy time of year. Thank you so much for bringing tears to my eyes and helping me focus on where the importance lies, even if just for a moment.

  17. Thank you thank you. I needed this too!

  18. Thank you so much for sharing this.
    I am a young mother with two small girls (& expecting our 3rd). We moved to Argentina 3 months ago on an assignment regarding the church farms. We will be here for 2 years. Some days are difficult, but I find peace & comfort through our Savior as He is.
    I love your blog & admire your perspective on life. Thanks again for sharing.

  19. B-E-A-UTIFUL Post... Stillness. So true...when we find stillness...we can finally hear and see with clarity. I have often experienced that “slowing down” effect. I wonder if that is “authentic” non-time...where our souls really reside. My personal favorite moment of stillness is this version of “Angels We Have Heard on High” (You’ll have to copy and paste) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Z1-i7MyyiE

    It is the one version that transports my soul to those fields...and can nearly experience this Heavenly event unfolding with perfect stillness of joy. Listen...close your eyes...and see.

  20. Loved this post... as a mom, Stillness is something we don't get very often, but when the moment hits you, it almost takes your breath away. I found myself in the "Stillness" over the weekend amist a house full of family. Thinking back to a year ago with a 6 month old fighting RSV and how hard it seemed at the time. I love these type moments.

  21. Bingo Shawni. Thanks a MILLION times over for sharing this today. What a beautiful perspective for us crazy, harried mothers, 4 days before Christmas, trying to NOT get swept up in the Santa Claus level, but doing so anyway. I love the idea of being still and pondering on this message. Thank you, truly.

  22. What a great post. We are loving this booklet that Deseret Book is selling that is titled The Story of Christ. It uses only scripture, but tells the story of Christ from birth to resurrection. I think you'd like it. It's awesome. Here's the link:

  23. Wow, so lovely and even more powerful. Our Savior is real and very aware of our needs. We need him and his atonement to cleanse and heal. Thank you so much Shawni for sharing your thoughts and passing William B Smart's words along with all of us.

  24. We love Bill Smart! But we love you more! Divine thoughts!


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