For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
When you start writing names and descriptive titles for the Savior, you can go on for about a week. The Doctrine & Covenants uses 18 such titles or names, all of them spoken by the Savior Himself. In the verse above, Isaiah uses 5 names for the Lord. And what pleases me most about the names he uses is that the first one is WONDERFUL!
December is a nice time of year to remember that He really is WONDERFUL. That His birth is WONDERFUL. That His mission and kindness and mercy are WONDERFUL. Why? Isaiah tells us. “O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things . . .” (Isaiah 25:1).
I have reflected on my own children and family, and the outpourings of His WONDERFUL things this year. After years without full-time employment, Debbie and Earl have found work and a place to live in Oregon. Josh and Kim have a child. Tami and Jerald have another child. Adam and Micalee have another child. Mike has graduated. Robert is home from his mission and there are six new grandbabies that have arrived while he was gone. We have prayed so hard about so many things and the Lord has heard our prayers and in His own due time has answered them and it is WONDERFUL.
I have a deeper awareness of His love than ever before in my life. I have come to believe that if He only wanted us to be happy now, or good now, that His task would be much easier and the manifestations of His power would be much more prevalent. But He wants us to be happy forever, not because He has imposed it on us, but because we have embraced it for ourselves; because it is the life we have chosen and because we have followed the path that leads to it. He wants us to be good forever, not because it is His nature, but because it is ours. Thus He transforms so many of our experiences into teaching moments (or teaching months, or years), helping us not just to be happy for a while, but to become so forever.
But so much of what happens at Christmas does not bring us to Christ or His desires for us.
Try this experiment: go to your neighborhood department store and, as you enter, take a deep breath. Then, as you walk the aisles, limit yourself to new breaths only when you see something that is necessary to sustain life. You can forget the ceramic pot-holders embossed with a likeness of Oprah. You can skip the fourteen shades of Rubbermaid toothbrush holders. Never mind the Reeboks and Nikes (at $200 a pair) and the fleece wear with every college in the solar system displayed. Ignore the floral print ties and thirty-nine brands of denim.
Overlook the Nerf swords and javelins and bows and arrows. Forget the Christmas bows in forty-seven packages of varying cost, content, and construction. Omit the video games. No matter what anyone says, there is life after Mario and the Old-Aged, Hunch-Backed, Tai-Kwan-Doh Lizzards. Disregard the books. Michael Connely and Tom Clancy and Steven King do not count as life-sustaining.
I tried this at K-Mart and would have passed out from oxygen deprivation except that I found some potato chips. My wife did better. There were chocolates everywhere.
It requires a great discipline to focus on Christ during the holiday, because almost everything we focus on as we celebrate directs our attention in another direction. The scriptures help.
Isaiah, who told us that Christ was WONDERFUL, also wrote this about Him: “Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth” (Isaiah 12:5). We must remember, in December and always, how excellent His gifts and goodness are. And it is WONDERFUL to sing to Him, especially at this time of year.
Let’s “repeat the sounding joy,” and listen to the “herald angels sing.” It is acceptable to chase Frosty around the neighborhood from time to time, and to listen for the prancing of reindeer hooves on the roof, but not at the expense of those moments by the manger in the stable. We must focus more of our energy on that “midnight clear,” and more of our love on the miracles “far, far away on Judea’s plains.”
I think perhaps I am beginning to understand the feelings behind Psalm 150:
PRAISE ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD (Psalms 150:1-6).
This is a wonderful thing to do at Christmas. Let’s get together and sing!
by Ted Gibbons