Thursday, May 11, 2006

Consolation of Israel

While I was growing up, my siblings and I created a Christmas tradition. Every Christmas morning, starting when we moved into the "new" house (17 years ago now), we would put on a Christmas play. Usually heavily based on Disney cartoons--Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Christmas Carol according to Mickey (the first time we made up our own story, even we were bored silly) these plays had little or nothing to do with Christmas itself. Rather, it was a time to get the kids together doing something with costumes, special effects (aluminum foil over the windows, flashlights covered with green material), and rehearsals that only rarely ended in tears. On Christmas morning we would wake up extra early, practice one more time (all the while resisting the urge to peek at the tree downstairs), and finally wake Daddy and Mommy up for the theatrical event of the year. For an audience of two we would sing, dance, moan, cackle, laugh, and cry until the "happily ever after" ending. After accepting the applause, we would line up to troop downstairs for presents.

We kept this tradition going for years, even after my oldest sister (the main support of the project) went to college. We'd just cram our rehearsals into the few days before Christmas after she returned from school. We continued while she was on her mission in France, and even after the second oldest got married. But it got harder and harder, with half the siblings out of the house and starting their own lives. So the tradition died out.

But the last such "event" will always remain precious in my memory. It was the Christmas of 1999. My oldest sister had been teaching school for a year, my second sister had two children, my brother had returned from his mission just a few weeks previously. I was in my first year of grad school. We decided that a fairy tale play just wasn't going to happen, but we wanted to do something--and my oldest sister had a great idea (naturally). She'd noticed, in the Bible Dictionary, the long lists under the heading Christ, Names of. What if we put together a little devotional, for Christmas Eve, centered around the names and roles of Christ in our life? At Thanksgiving, we each chose a name we wanted to focus on and research, and then prepared during the month of December.

I chose "Consolation of Israel":
"And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him." Luke 2:25
The man of Jerusalem, Simeon, had waited years for the birth of the Savior--waited for the rescue that the Consolation of Israel brings to all of us.
"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." Isaiah 9:2
Darkness is not just doubt, fear, pain, unhappiness, disappointment--it is also the doubt and fear that comes from sin--apostasy. This is the way that all of us need Christ, need the consolation that He brings, that He is. It is wonderful and essential for us to have Him to turn to when we are lonely or aching or afraid--but we have to turn to Him to save us from our sins, to rescue us from our apostasy. There is no other way, no other name, whereby salvation can come.

Christmas Eve was a very special night. My parents didn't have a clue that it wasn't going to be a play this time. We set up the big upstairs room with a table covered with symbols of Christ--a vine, bread, water, a crown, a rock, a candle, a shepherd's crook. We each presented the name we had chosen, and in between we read all the names of Christ from the Bible Dictionary. It was a beautiful, spiritual event that set the perfect tone for the rest of our Christmas Eve traditions--reading the Nativity story from the Bible, and then bearing our testimonies. It was the perfect final performance of the Christmas plays.


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