Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas: A Wondrous Time

What a glorious season! With Wondering Awe, we love to listen to young children–yes, truly Angels We Have Heard on High and sing hymns and carols that shout Joy to the World....” In the precious hymn Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful that we sing at least once or twice at Christmas come three wondrous strains: “Come, all ye faithful,” “Come, and behold Him,” and “Oh, come, let us adore Him.”

 “Come, all ye faithful

During this Christmas season, the faithful followers of Christ congregate to sing joyous hymns to Him. Note that the Lord did not say, “Come, all ye faithful for just this season. Rather, the words merely state “Come, all ye faithful.” The Lord wants us to be faithful every minute of the day, every day of the week, and every week of the year.

Thankfully, at Christmas time, we tend to listen to our hearts more than our heads, the spiritual more than cerebral, and the perennial more than the ephemeral. We seem to want to fix our lives so that they are in accordance with the Lord's. Yes, we tend to “come unto Christ and adore Him.” Wouldn't it be nice if every year, we had twelve Decembers?  Then we wouldn't have to be trying to repent every 12th month. Instead of an annual event of repenting and striving to be like the Father and His Holy Son, it would become a daily activity. Every day would become an act of kindness. We would actually smile because we would have forgotten how to be sad. Every day we would finally reach out to those most in need. Every day we would understand each other’s feelings. Every day would become a glorious one where the sun would shine and brighten lives. Every day would bring us closer to our Savior. Every day we would know whose we really are: For we are the Father’s and He loves us deeply.

As one poet penned in an “Ode to Christmas”:

An Ode to Christmas
Decembers come and go, like winds from the west...
But for those brief 31 days, our hearts stretch just a bit.
We sometimes sense in ourselves a gratification
that cannot be quenched without our first giving
of ourselves to others most in need.
It is at that moment, this sense of oneness with our hearts,
when we finally understand our true place in the universe.
We come to know that we, indeed, have hearts to give
and feelings of love to share with others.
This feeling, if carried for more than thirty-one days,
would endow us with the true gifts from our Father.
Surely, then, we would reach out more than before.
Alas, the essence of the trueness of Christ’s message
would fold our worrisome cares into large gray bundles,
drop them humbly in the swiftest part of the stream,
and watch them thankfully bob in the current
until they disappear around the bend downstream,
away from us at last and, perhaps, forever.
Then for 365 days, we would come and be His again.

“Come, and behold Him”

The shepherds “came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger” (Luke 2:16). After the shepherds had seen the Christ child, they returned to their flocks and herds, “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen....” (Luke 2:20). There also came “wise men from the east to Jerusalem” (Matthew 2:1) and began asking about: “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). And we know not how many others came to “behold him.”

We do know that Lamoni’s father, the great king over all of the Lamanites, after he had heard the preachings of Aaron, said, “O, god, Aaron hath told me there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day” (Alma 22:18). Thus, we see that the King also desired to “Come, and Behold Him.” And he did. When he rose from his spiritual trance, he stood forth “and did minister unto them, insomuch that his whole household were converted unto the Lord” (Alma 22:23).

Often, we believe that to “behold God” we must be completely spiritual pure. In one sense that is correct, but in another, we can behold God–through daily communion with Him. Plus, our heart can be filled with Him always. Consider the words of Christina Rossetti (“My Gift”)

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,—
Yet what I can I give Him, give my heart.

Thus, the question hinges on this:”What are we willing to do in our lives in order to ‘behold Him’”? Are we willing to give away all of our sins? Are we willing to yield our hearts to God?

“Oh, come, let us adore Him.”

What does it really mean to “Come and to adore Him? As I have sung this hymn over the past several years and in two different languages, I have come to adore Him. Who is Him? Or in more appropriate English Who is He? According to that great Old Testament prophet Isaiah, He is called “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace....(Isaiah 9:6)...the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity....Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “At the Summit of the Ages,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 72).

The ancient Prophet Moroni, as he ended his work and closed the abridgment of the record of God’s dealings with His people, which is the Book of Mormon, called upon all who read his ending passage: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ” (Moroni 10:32).

Elder Robert S. Wood of the Seventy said: “When we speak and act, we should ask whether our words and expressions are calculated to invite the powers of heaven into our lives and to invite all to come unto Christ. We must treat sacred things with reverence. We need to eliminate from our conversations the immodest and the lewd, the violent and the threatening, the demeaning and the false" ("The Tongue of Angels, Liahona, January 2000). As the Apostle Peter wrote, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Pet. 1:15).

We all know the prophecies of Christ that he “shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases...” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “At the Summit of the Ages,” Ensign, November. 1999, p. 72). He has already done those things, both when he lived among His people in Jerusalem and when he visited the Americas after he was resurrected.

Thus, the challenge: “Come, all ye faithful....come, let us behold him... [and] come let us adore Him.” The real goal is to “Yea, Come Unto Christ.”

May we accept the challenge and experience the glorious days the Nephites had with the Savior that we may at some time "thrust [our own] hands into his side, and ...feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet...[that we may] see with [our own] eyes and...feel with [our own] hands, and...know of a surety and...bear record, that it was He, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come... [that when we have] all gone forth and...witnessed for [ourselves], [we] can cry out with one accord, saying: Hosanna!  Blessed be the name of the Most High God!  And then [we will] fall down at the feet of Jesus [our Savior and Brother], and...worship him" (3 Nephi11:15-17) who is the Truth and the Light and the Prince of Peace is my prayer and Christmas challenge....

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The 2016 Darrel and Joanne Hammon Family Christmas Newsletter

Merry Christmas! We have had an incredible 2016!

From Hawaii
In April, we were able to go to Hawaii for the first time for Joanne’s birthday. We went to the island of Oahu and spent about five days.     We went to the Polynesia Cultural Center, attended the Laie Temple, soaked up the sun on the beach (several times), went snorkeling, toured the Dole Pineapple Plantation (a few times because of their delicious pineapple whips), climbed Diamond Head, shopped in Honolulu, strolled Waikiki Beach, and visited various other places along roadways we took to see the sights. We took—or should we say, Darrel took—lots of pictures.
Waiting on the wagon for the ride through the cornfield and pumpkin patch
Emiline and William were able to spend a couple of weekends with us. We had a ton of fun. Springville has a new little lake with a beach. They loved going there. Also, we went to the Springville pumpkin patch this year. Instead of a sand box, they had a huge corn box, filled with kernels of corn. They didn’t want to leave. Anna Rose and Christiaan were able to go on a river cruise in Europe and spent some extra time going to Norway.
On our way to the Grotto
Hailey and Joseph did a major move this summer, moving from Kansas to Washington. Joseph is now a math teacher at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. On their way to Washington, they were able to come for a week or so and spend some time with us. When they were here, we went on a hike up Payson Canyon to a little waterfall. Plus, we went to the little beach here in Springville. While the water was freezing cold, they still played and played and played. They came out popsicles; yet, they loved it.
At the pumpkin patch
Darrel was able to go to his 40th high school reunion, one year late, at the Rigby Lake in Rigby, Idaho. What a great experience to see many of his friends whom he hadn’t seen in years. They are all looking pretty good for being a little older, some a little grayer, and most way wiser.
Darrel took a watercolor class. 
Darrel was promoted to Associate Vice President, Academic Outreach and Economic Development at Utah Valley University, Utah’s largest public university. He is having a good time. In January, he was called to serve as a counselor in one of the Young Single Adult Wards (YSA) in Provo; then, in August, he was called to serve as a Bishop in a newly organized Provo YSA ward. We are enjoying our time with these YSAers. Our ward is a little older than most. Many of them are young professionals or going to graduate school although we do have a few of the 18-year-olds but not many. They have something going on almost every evening. They will keep us young.
The little dudes this summer
Joanne continues to work part time at the BYU Health Center. She also volunteers at the new Provo City Center Temple on Thursday mornings. Plus, she has taken several cooking courses through UVU’s Professional and Continuing Education program. Darrel is definitely the beneficiary of her class projects. She has been successful in learning how to cook new, delicious entrees, desserts, soups, and pasta sauces.
Our family at Thanksgiving
We had Thanksgiving at Hailey and Joseph’s new place in Cheney, Washington. Anna Rose, Christiaan, and their little family drove up. We had a glorious three days with all of them. We walked the Turkey Trot, ate lots of food, played games, put together a puzzle, and did our traditional thing of going to a movie (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them). The cousins got along amazingly well. Emiline (7) became the surrogate mother to Avonlea (2); William (4.5) and Clark (4) played well together. We did take a family photo while we were all there. Thus, we are using it as our Christmas photo. It is amazing how much everyone has grown this year. It was nice to be with them.
Emiline and Avonlea
Christmas will be quiet here as Anna Rose and Christiaan are going to California, and Hailey and Joseph are going to Seattle side of Washington—all to be with their in-laws. I guess we have to share. We may go some place warm. We are still deciding.
Hailey, Joanne, Darrel, & Anna Rose

We wish you all a huge MERRY CHRISTMAS and a Happy New Year. We know 2017 will be an incredible year for all of us. We love you all!