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Sr. Okazaki shares some sweet and poignant thoughts on Christmas in this short, seven chapter book.She draws out some important lessons from obscure parts of the Christmas story. For example, one that really resonates with me is in relation to the wise men who had followed the star from the East until they arrived at Herods court. There they inquired of the kings scholars where the child was born - the scholars knew their scriptures and gave the answer of Bethlehem - and the wise men set off for that town. Sr. Okazaki point out: It is not enough for us to know what the scriptures say. It is not enough for us to have knowledge--even correct and complete knowledge. We will not see the star unless we leave the court. We will not be led unless we are willing to move. We will not find the child unless we are willing to journey to a place that may only be a strange and foreign name on our mental map. And we will never know what it feels like to rejoice with exceeding great joy unless we yearn and seek and journey.And comparing several different journeys that took place as part of the Christmas story, she says There are times and situations and circumstances in our lives when a shepherds response of a few hours or an interrupted nights sleep is not enough. To set our lives in order or to gain the kind of living faith in the Savior that we must have, we may need to make the journey of the wise men, leaving our psychological homes and familiar surroundings, testing the flattering words of the Herods who surround us, being willing to travel far with only the glimmer of a star to guide us. We must travel sometimes with only hope as our companion, because we saw no angels and hear no majestic choirs singing. But hope is enough to lead us to the Savior if we will persevere.She also extends some cautions for this busy time of year. We can secularize Christmas even while we think we are celebrating it...If you feel that Christmas has you marching in lockstep toward a destination you dont like very much, step out of line. It is more important to be kind than to be on time. It is more important to show love than to show efficiency. Continuing with this theme through another chapter, she explains that the best present you can give anyone is your own presence, your willingness to be fully present for a neighbor, a child, a spouse, or the individuals in a class youre teaching. Im talking about making each encounter a loving encounter to which you bring a gracious and loving presence rather than a very long checklist. And again, talking about encounters with other people, she says remember that each one of those gatherings, no matter whether it lasts three seconds or a whole evening, is a gathering into which you can invite the Savior and which he will be eager and overjoyed to attend. I find it interesting to trace the influence her Buddhist upbringing has on how she expresses her Christian values and I think this counsel to be mindful and present for others is one of the most obvious carryovers.Heres another section that rang true to me, particularly with recent events in the Bloggernacle (the online Mormon world): Sometimes we get confused about whats gospel and whats tradition. Sometimes were not sure if what were experiencing is the spirit of Christ or a traditional part of Mormon culture that seems right because its familiar, much loved, and part of our family life. We need to keep all of the parts of culture and tradition that are meaningful and that work for us, but lets not confuse them with the core of the gospel. Lets not mistake them for the spirit of our Savior.In a chapter considering the Christmas story from the point of view of the Nephites in the Americas, Sr. Okazaki highlights how different their experience and understand of Christmas would have been from that of those in Palestine and what we traditionally think of. For them, Christs birth was intricately associated with his death because of the vision of Nephi and the prophecies Samuel the Lamanite. This close connection between the bright and the dark--between glory and suffering changes the tenor of the story a bit. It reminds us that there are beautiful and glorious places in our lives, and there are dark and destructive places in our lives, just as there are in the Christmas story. The way of Jesus is to go into both places, to make the glorious places even more radiant, to bring wholeness to the broken places, and to transform the dark places into light. But he can only go on the way that we offer willingly to him. He can only pass through the gates that we open to him. He can only make whole the broken fragments that we put into his hands. He is the newness of the baby in the manger and the eternality of Christ the Redeemer who created the heavens and the earth.For more book reviews, come visit my blog, Build Enough Bookshelves.

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