The True Meaning of Christmas

img_0157Christmas Eve

Sitting in front of the fire.  Christmas tree with its twinkly lights.  Presents beneath. Soon to make the grandchildren smile.  Both beautiful & fun carols sweetly wafting from the speakers. My wife and two youngest daughters puzzling over a thousand piece puzzle.

I’ve been puzzling, too.

How could I make Christmas, and all it’s previously joyful accoutrements, the poignant and meaningful celebration that it once was?

Over the past 2 1/2 years, I’ve traveled a faith journey filled with many ups and downs. Last Christmas, for the first time in my life, I faced the season without knowing if Christ was real or just a real nice story.  It made for a hollow festivity.  Not one that I wanted to repeat.

My puzzle seemed much more difficult than the thousand jigsaws currently spread out on the table.  After months of trying to fit each piece into the Christmas picture….I think I’ve finally got it sorted out.

It all hinges on the choice choice that I made on a fateful February day.  I decided to put my faith in the teachings and example ascribed to Jesus Christ.  I didn’t know if Jesus was real, but I knew with certainty that his Way of Life was True.  A True Way to live a good, productive and fulfilling Life.

John 14:6 Jesus saith, I am the way, the truth, and the life.

New Meaning

On Christmas day, I now celebrate the birth of the gorgeous principles personified as the the baby Jesus coming into the world.  Teachings and example that are supremely appealing to me…and to most all of humanity.

So, this Christmas day I celebrate the birth of…

* The Good Samaritan
* The Prodigal Son
* The Golden Rule
* Charity that never faileth
* The greatest commandment–to love my neighbor as my self
* Love for the hungry, the thirsty, the strange, the naked, the sick, & the imprisoned.
* Peace on earth
* Goodwill toward men

The birth of this True Way of Life is now what I celebrate.  It was created, not in the stately halls of a grand palace.  Rather, it had the lowliest of humble beginnings. Among the commonest of people…like the shepherds who adored this beautiful way of life.  Even wise men and kings would come to recognize & honor its excellence.

Today, a plethora of nativities are displayed throughout the house. The center piece of each is the baby Jesus. In reality, the center piece is the embodiment of heavenly teachings and noble example.  The aspiration of my heart and all of Christianity.

And so, for me, the Christmas season and celebration has meaning again. A new and beautiful meaning.  More beautiful than it has ever been before.

Now…I wish you a Merry & Beautiful Christmas contemplation of the birth of the glorious way of life that the Christ child represents.

Conversations. Chapter 4: Merry Christmas George


From George (For Context see Chapter 1)

Dec 23, 2016


Hopefully you have a great Christmas and a happy New Year.


My Response

Dec 23, 2016

Greetings My Friend,

You’re growing on me.  I’m really starting to love you, my brother.  Thanks for the last two messages.  You made some great points and raised important issues.  The busy holiday season has prevented my response.  But, it will  be coming.

Now, I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!


To All My Friends and Family

Along with my new friend George, I sincerely wish that you have a perfect and happy Christmas celebration.  May the magic of Love be woven in all your activies.  Thank you for enriching my life with the bonds of our friendship.

Merry Christmas!

O Tannenbaum Talkeria


O Tannenbaum Talkeria—It’s Christmas!

Ok…we won’t have snow.  But, we will have great food & great conversation.  Friendships formed.  Connections created.  Stories shared.  Loneliness lifted.

The food has generously been provided for!!!  So, come and enjoy.

If you plan to attend, please send me an RSVP.  Either private message on Facebook or email me at

Over the past 6 months, 32 people have visited the Talkeria.  Ten more have told me they hope to come soon.  The largest gathering ever was 7 attendees.  We may have more or less this Wednesday.  If you have never come before, you are always welcome to join us.

What’s the Talkeria all About?

Gut-Wrench in the Closet

Over the past 2 1/2 years, I have undergone a gut-wrenching faith transition. I am still a faithful member of the LDS church. However, I look at the world much differently. I say gut-wrenching because my journey has been accompanied by a good bit of anguish, pain, anger, disappointment and loneliness. Navigation has been difficult for me…..and my family.

For the first 7 months, I thought that I was completely alone in searching out new truths. Little did I know that there were, and are, many treading the same path. But, that was not initially evident. There was a part the LDS culture that I was naively unaware of. Much of the history and doctrine of Mormondom is forbidden to discuss at church. Asking certain questions in public or in private yields judgment but no answers.

The suppression of honest discussion causes a number of unintended consequences. I have personally experienced several. I have also witnessed the difficult experience of others.   Two years ago, I started suggesting to my local church leaders that there was a need to find a way to discuss troubling issues. As the years have passed, I have watched as more and more friends and family walk away from the church that they had once been so committed to. All of them had basically grappled in private with their gut-wrenching faith transition.

So, absent any other venue for open & in-person discussion, I started the Mormon Talkeria.  A casual sit-down to kindly and respectfully talk.

Talkeria Topics

If you find yourself in any of these situations, let’s talkeria.

  • LDS history and doctrine are troubling you, family members or friends.
  • You have a child who is doubting or has left the church.
  • You have a parent, sibling or friend who is doubting or has left the church.
  • Your faith has changed, and you are having difficulty interacting with family or friends
  • Your faith has changed and are having difficulty in your marriage.
  • The faith of your spouse has changed and you are having difficulty in you marriage.
  • You are LGBT, in or out of the closet.
  • You have an LGBT child, sibling or friend.
  • You have left the church, but still have Mormon issues to discuss.
  • You have left the church, but still want to maintain contact with Mormons.

Belief Spectrum

The Mormon Talkeria is meant for both believing Mormons, ex-Mormons and anybody in-between. Whatever path a person choses or has chosen, judgment has no place here. Discussions are not intended to try to sway anyone to leave, stay or come back to church. Rather, this will be a place of support for the journey each has chosen.
I am not an expert at anything.  I’m certainly not a professional counselor. That’s not the purpose of The Talkeria.  It’s simply a venue for talking face-to-face and friend-to-friend.

For more information on the Talkeria history, click HERE.

Cleaning the Church to Tears


Alphabetically, my name came up for the church cleaning assignment this weekend.  The next 2 days are jam packed with activities.  Two stake conference sessions and the stake Christmas concert.   The choir has a practice scheduled first thing Saturday morning.  So, I decided to clean the chapel tonight, Friday, rather than be a nuisance during the rehearsal.

I was not the only person in the building.  Two men in charge of the extensive sound system were there to nail down all the technical details.  Shortly after I started vacuuming, my late night companions turned on a recording of Christmas music sung by the Tabernacle Choir.  Oh my goodness, it was gorgeous!!

Dust…Wipe… Arrange…Vacuum.  All the while beautiful holiday music wafted from the high quality sound system that had been specially set up for the upcoming Christmas program.  I’ve never enjoyed cleaning as I did tonight.  At least, for the first hour, anyway

Then came the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.  The sublime voices, stirring cadence, and beautiful instrumentals touched me deeply.  I choked up.  Tears filled my eyes.  This classic Christmas mainstay brought back pleasant and painful memories.

Over 20 years ago, while serving as bishop, I had interviewed a particular man in the ward.  We only met 2 or 3 times over the course of maybe 8 months.  A delightful young professional.  Returned missionary.  Strong testimony.   And….he was gay.  Still in the closet, he hadn’t come out to anybody, yet.  I don’t remember much of our conversations.  My only counsel was encouragement to continue coming to church.  Except to express my love, I had no idea what to do.  Soon, a move took him out of the ward boundaries.  I lost track of him.

Ten years later, our stake started our annual Christmas Concert.  At the very first rehearsal, guess who walks in the door?  My former gay parishioner.  My heart warmed to see him.  And, to see that he had stuck with the church.  I had not heard hide nor hare of him for all these years.   Selfishly, I took a spot right next to him.  He was a strong tenor, I was weak.  He led me through all the difficult parts.  Plus, I wanted to reestablish our connection without the office of bishop between us.

For me, the most difficult number in each annual Concert was the Hallelujah Chorus.  Man, that was tough for me.  But, my talented tenor friend never seemed to miss a note.  He helped me miss a lot less.  We developed a great camaraderie.  I sung with the stake choir for 3 years.  The next 7, I only attended the performances.  My friend stopped singing, too.  But, he stayed on as the choir organist.  Every year we had a joyful reunion at the lovely Christmas musical.

Then November came.  November 2015.  The infamous gay policy was announced.  Twenty years had now passed since I first met my gay friend.  How would he react?

The policy was devastating.  Twenty years of working to stay in the church.  This was too much.  He was done.

He stayed just long enough to play the organ for one last Christmas Concert.  Now, he’s gone.  We’re still friends…good friends.  But, he’s gone from the church that had been such a big part of his life…for his entire life.  Last May, I composed a piece about my sadness over friends leaving the church.  He was one I definitely had in mind when I wrote “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.”

So, tonight, when the Hallelujah Chorus echoed joyously over the hum of my vacuum, sweet and sour memories swept through my mind.  Tears flowed into my eyes.  They remained teary for the entire next cleaning hour.

My dear choir-mate, if you read this, I love you my brother.  Although you are gone, I stay and vote opposed to the policy that drove you away.