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Healing, Christmas time, and a broken statue boy

Healing, Christmas time, and a broken statue boy
Church talk/sermon, Lehi Utah, December 2016

During the Christmas season, we reflect on our Savior’s birth in Bethlehem.  We rejoice in this lovely tradition, and we honor Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, angels and wise men who came to honor the baby Jesus.  But we recognize that without the events that happened 33 years later at the end of his life, there would be no singing and no festivities for his birthday, if not for the Atonement and resurrection that he completed. 
Today I’d like to share some thoughts with you, not about the little baby Jesus, but about the healing and power of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.  At our church general women’s meeting a few months ago, Carole Stephens gave a beautiful sermon called The Master Healer. My remarks are based on her comments, and I’ll share some ideas and experiences of my own.  First I’ll talk about the need for healing during the holidays, next about how that healing comes, and finally I’ll talk about how our understanding of the doctrine of Christ is necessary for us to be healed.
So it’s December, and in celebrating Christmas, we often get together with the extended family.  Maybe some of you boys and girls look forward to parties with cousins, or seeing grandma and grandpa.  Because families are made of imperfect people, sometimes these get-togethers require an extra measure of patience.  Now I don’t want you to raise your hands, but think for a minute if you have a brother or a sister who sometimes bugs you.  And I’m not talking just to the kids here. 
            Maybe one of your cousins calls you names or kicks you in the shins.  Maybe you have an aunt who kisses you twenty times on the cheek even when you’re not a baby anymore.  Or maybe the problems are far more serious, and so we’ll just leave the rest to imagination.  In any case, being part of a family gives us a chance to practice our manners, to practice being nice, to practice forgiveness.  Even for the grown-ups, sometimes we have to pray for grace, that we can be gracious.  We pray for charity, so that we can show mercy even when our feelings are hurt.  We pray for faith and hope that each of our loved ones will find the healing that we and they need.
Chances are that nobody has ever had a perfect Christmas.  We may be sad at the absence of loved ones.  They may live a great distance away, and it’s impossible to travel the miles to visit them.  Or we may sorrow at the longer term absence, when we’re separated by death.  Another dimension of sorrow comes when we’re with loved ones who are struggling.  I don’t need to illustrate all the ways that Christmas time can be lonely or difficult, but maybe we can show compassion and kindness, because there are hidden aspects of sorrow and grief that we don’t realize because we can’t see.
Another dimension of healing that we need during the holidays is from stress.  Look around.  Notice if any of the moms or grandmas look a little bit tired. I’m probably not the only woman who came to church today, feeling overwhelmed or under-prepared.  I think one of my favorite Christmas seasons ever was the year Karly was born.  She was born a few weeks before Christmas, and that year all of the tedious details were done early.  I didn’t have to worry about shopping or neighbor gifts or going places.  I just had to feed my baby and recover after the delivery.  There’s something about having a newborn baby in your home that makes heaven feel closer. 
That year I had time to slow down and ponder, to truly reflect on the miraculous birth.  I felt a sisterhood with Mary, and wondered how she survived the long journey to Bethlehem when she was great with child.  I thought about details that were meaningful to me in my situation, having just given birth myself.  And of course, I can’t remember if we acted out the nativity scene that year, but I think we did.  Norm usually gets to be the donkey, I’m not really sure how he feels about playing that role, but the kids love it.  That year even our two little boys could understand more about the newborn babe in Bethlehem, because they had their own tiny infant sister.
This year we have a toddler in our home.  Amber loves the Christmas tree, so all the ornaments that are below that 3 foot mark, are constantly moving around, all over the house.  So far there are a few broken ornaments, and a broken snow globe.  We finally taught her to quit unplugging the lights on the tree.  We don’t go to lots of cool events because we’d rather be home to put baby Amber to sleep. 
One day as we were arranging the nativity scene on the piano, we had to move our four little Precious Moments statue children.  One cool thing we bought when each baby was really small is a little statue figure of a boy or a girl.  The one for Cade is a boy wearing his daddy’s shoes. 


The one for Shad is a boy with a toolbox, eager to fix stuff.  Remarkably enough, these little figurines reflect each child’s personality pretty well, even though we bought them long before we’d had a glimpse of who that baby would become.  


The little Karly statue is a joyful girl with her arms in the air, as if she’s just finished a cartwheel.  


And the one for Amber is a sweet girl holding a doll.  We had no idea how much she’d love little baby dolls, or how much nurturing we would see from a little toddler in caring for her dolls and giving them kisses. 


Amber loves all four of these statues and she’s not allowed to touch them, because they’re ceramic.  Except that day, somehow I thought I’d let her look at them for a minute.  Well, a minute was too long, and all of a sudden two of the statue kids had bumped into each other, and Shad’s head fell off.  That is, the statue boy.  Imagine my horror and Amber’s dismay. 


It was a clean break, and a few days later I found the plastic cement and reattached it.  I wasn’t sure it was going to work, and I wasn’t sure it would look okay, but I’m pleased to report that my statue boy looks as good as new.  I guess you could say he has his head on straight. 
How often do we lose our heads over stupid stuff?  How many times do we need to readjust or realign or begin again?  Maybe there’s a metaphor here in the way we go about fixing our own brokenness.  The plastic cement worked beautifully in fixing my broken statue boy. But the healing we need for our stiff necks is repentance.  I’ll come back to this idea again in a few minutes.       
So how do we find peace and healing during the holiday season?  Whether your family has a newborn or a toddler or a teenager, whether you live on your own or your kids are grown, how can you and I both find the healing that we need?  We must turn our thoughts beyond the baby Jesus and towards the Messiah, who comes with healing in his wings. 
I love the Christmas hymns.  And I don’t say this lightly, that if I had to choose my very favorite christmas hymn, it’s Hark The Herald Angels Sing.  The music was written by the German composer Felix Mendelssohn.  The words are by the English poet Charles Wesley, who also wrote “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”  I’ve been playing it on the piano a lot lately, practicing for later this month, and each time I’m moved by the words of the second verse:

Hail the heav'n born Prince of Peace.  Hail the son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by, Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.

The whole purpose of our Savior’s birth was to begin his mortal ministry, which ultimately gives us life and raises us up.  Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings.  In our hymnbook at the end of the song, there are some scriptures listed, and by following them, eventually we end up with this profound verse from Malachi.  The very last chapter of the last book in the Old Testament is Malachi 4.  Verse 2 reads: 

“But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings...”  When we talk about wings in the scriptures, it’s a symbol of power.  Not necessarily having wings, but having power.  In this case, power to heal us from our infirmities but also to heal and cleanse us from sin. 
Sister Stephens mentions three kinds of healing specifically:  relief from sorrow because of our own sins, strength when we’re wounded by others, and comfort as we experience mortal difficulties.
            Healing comes as we understand the doctrine of Christ.  These simple principles are part of the fourth Article of Faith that we teach to Primary children:  faith, repentance, baptism, following the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. After we begin to understand, then we practice living by these principles.  Sister Stephens said, “When we learn how to apply the doctrine of Christ to our individual circumstances, our love for our Savior grows.”  How can I do this in my life?
Faith is a principle of power, and we add to our storehouse of faith on a daily basis.  This is where the small and simple things really add up.  Reading and studying the word of God are powerful ways to grow in faith.  As our faith grows, our capacity to feel love for our Savior also grows.  That love that we feel for Him is reciprocated tenfold.  We choose faith over fear, and faith sees us through even the most difficult losses or hardships. 
            Sometimes we like to break these principles up and talk about just one at a time.  But I think they’re meant to work in tandem.  For example, we need faith in God and his mercy, in order to repent and change.  We need to keep repenting to be in tune to hear the Holy Ghost.  When we talk about endurance and consistently doing what’s right, enduring to the end can’t really happen if we don’t have faith.
It takes faith to continue being a good employee, knowing that even when a company is struggling, eventually growth and success will follow.  It takes faith for the farmer to plant.  It takes faith for any of us to begin something new or unknown. 
It takes faith to be a good son or daughter, especially when caring for an aging parent.  I had a glimpse into what this looks like as it played out in the lives of my mother and my grandmother. My grandfather died while I was in college, and Grandma was alone for three more years.  My mom lovingly cared for her during those final years with Alzheimer’s.  She was confused and sometimes upset or scared.  I think my mom must have needed the healing that only comes through Jesus Christ, as she patiently loved my grandma.
            Repentance.  Remember the example of gluing my statue boy back together?  The miracle of the atonement is that it works a little bit like plastic cement.  When things are broken, the Lord’s specialty is mending and healing.  He wants us to present ourselves with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, because that’s when we’re teachable and that’s when we’re malleable and that’s when He can shape and mold us into the men and women He needs us to be. 
As a kid, I used to be afraid of repentance.  If I could just be good enough, then I wouldn’t need to repent.  But as an adult, each year that goes by I realize repentance is a gift.  Certainly we don’t try to screw up in major ways, but part of the process of being human is making mistakes.  And it’s okay.  It’s okay that I’m still flawed and that I’m still trying.  As I recognize my own foibles, it’s easier to be tolerant of others and realize that each of us is a work in progress.
So to sum things up, we’ve talked about healing and how we all need help.  Especially during the Christmas season, we need to seek our Savior and remember his Atonement.  

Editor's note: last year when we moved to Texas, of course I did a hasty job packing and the little statue boy broke once again. It was months before I even dug out the box and realized what had happened.  
There were other things that broke on the moving truck and in the move: the music stand on my piano, the fishing poles got tangled in knots, etc. It took months to figure out where to find somebody who could re-make the music stand, and while it was on my To-Do list forever, Norm made time to take the lead and figure out how to get it done. We learned that pianos are made one at a time, and that the music stands on the front aren't mass produced.  It's not like a car part where you can just call and replace a piece.  By springtime he'd found a man in Idaho with a woodworking shop who could take the old pieces and reassemble them enough to make a pattern so that he could make a new music stand that matches the old one. So for my birthday this year, my very favorite present was having my piano restored, or made whole.  It was something I hadn't made time to figure out, but that my husband willingly did for me.
The fishing poles were hanging in the garage, all tangled up, just waiting for the day when we were finally ready to try fishing again. The fishing in Texas is completely different from the western states. Different bait, different weight on the lines, etc. 
It also took months for my heart to heal. It took months for my kids to adjust and for our family to finally feel like we hadn't made a huge mistake. I'd say this process is well underway, but definitely not done. I've had to reapply all the same principles I taught in this message three years ago.
As we understand the principles of the gospel and practice them, our love for the Savior grows.  Healing comes as we understand the doctrine of Christ and practice living it.  I’m grateful for the faith that has sustained me through some difficult seasons in my life.  I’m grateful for the healing that has come to me.  I can testify that our Savior is near, and that He knows our needs, our brokenness and our heartaches.

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