Every year my family reenacts the Christmas story by donning bath robes, fastening towels to our heads and acting out the parts of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men and the donkey. When I play the donkey he tends to have an Eddie Murphy in Shrek attitude, but this year the part went to my eight-year-old niece who is much less experienced playing a mule than I am. She didn't even say, "You know what everybody likes? Parfaits..." Oh well, she'll learn.
My daughter played the part of one of the angels. Angels and Christmas go hand-in-hand like Santa and chimneys, stockings and oranges, Ralphie and BB guns, and rich kids and four wheelers. Angels visited Mary to tell her that she would be the mother of the Son of God. Angels visited the shepherds in the field, proclaimed peace on earth and goodwill to men, and then sang out in joy to announce the birth of the Savior. Angels have always been an important part of Christmas.
But this year, angels were an important part of my Christmas.
Some of you know that I have been battling pretty severe back problems for about a year and a half now. Last week my back went out completely on me and I was bedridden and in constant pain for five days in a row. To make matters worse, the Normal Mormon wife had flown out of town early for Christmas with our two daughters and left me home alone with the seven-year-old Normal Mormon Boy. The only way I could get around the house at some points was to crawl on all fours (which was also good practice to play the donkey part - maybe next year.) Since I spent about 23 hours a day laying flat on my back I ended up watching a lot of daytime courtroom TV shows and doing a lot of reading and learned two valuable lessons:
Valuable Lesson #1) From Judge Mathis: If you lend $1,200 dollars to your cousin named Shantiniqua, get her to sign a contract stating that the money is a loan that needs to be repaid and not a "gift" from a "caring relative".
Valuable Lesson #2) From Reading The Ensign: Angels still exist today.
And what better time for angels to spring into action than the week before Christmas? The talk in the Ensign that I read during my time of trial was Elder Holland's October 2008 General Conference message called, "The Ministry of Angels." The part that nearly overwhelmed me goes as follows, "I have spoken here of heavenly help, of angels dispatched to bless us in time of need. But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us, and in my case, one of them consented to marry me. Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind."
Thank you to all of the angelic friends and family who went out of their way to bless my life when I was alone, in pain and nearly helpless. You know who you are. You were the ones who let the Normal Mormon Boy come over to your house after school so that I could get a little more rest before trying to take care of him. You came over to my house late at night to give me a blessing and spoke the words I needed to hear (and that was after you fed the missionaries and had your home teachers visit you.) You called me on the phone to make me laugh by telling me that I was a wimp who needed to get better before the Stake basketball season starts. You drove me to my doctor's office and waited in the lobby for an hour while he examined me and gave me enough prescriptions to sedate a herd of wildebeests.
You guys were my Christmas angels.
Elder Holland makes reference to his angelic wife. I am in the same boat. My back problems have made it hard at times for me to do simple things like hold our six-month-old daughter or carry in the groceries from the van. The NMW never complains, never gets visibly frustrated. She just keeps on making life fun and exciting, even when she is on the other side of the country and can only lift my spirits over the phone and by kicking my rear end on Pathwords on Facebook. She's angelic. (Except for on Pathwords. She's a demon!)
I am grateful that this year I was able to be the recipient of service and goodness and love and compassion and caring and everything else that Christmas is supposed to be about. This was my Christmas where angels became a little more real to me.
Maybe in next year's family Christmas play I can be an angel.
I bet they even like parfaits...