Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

First Gift of Christmas

                    The first gift of Christmas is love.  "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).  The feeling that we identify as the "Christmas Spirit" is actually God's love for his children or the Spirit of Christ.

                    A modern-day prophet, even President Thomas S. Monson, discussed how we can rediscover the spirit of Christmas and suggested five "gifts" that we could render to God or to others.  He suggested that our first gift should be the "gift of obedience" and keeping all God's commandments.  The second gift should be the "gift of selflessness" and giving of ourselves (a smile, a word of kindness, or a helping hand) to others.  The third gift should be the "gift of unselfishness" instead of thinking of own needs and wants.  The fourth gift should be the "gift of sharing" freely all that we have.  The fifth gift is the "gift of peace" instead of quarrels and contention to those around us.  "In this marvelous dispensation of the fulness of times, our opportunities to love and give of ourselves are indeed limitless, but they are also perishable.  Today there are hearts to gladden, kind words to say, deeds to be done, and souls to be saved."

                    President Monson shared the following words of "one who had keen insight into the Christmas spirit."
I am the Christmas Spirit -
I enter the home of poverty, causing pale faced children to open their eyes wide, in pleased wonder.
I cause the miser's clutched hand to relax and thus paint a bright spot on his soul.
I cause the aged to renew their youth and to laugh in the old glad way.
I keep romance alive in the heart of childhood, and brighten sleep with dreams woven of magic.
I cause eager feet to climb dark stairways with filled baskets, leaving behind hearts amazed at the goodness of the world.
I cause the prodigal to pause a moment on his wild, wasteful way and send to anxious love some little token that releases glad tears - tears which wash away the hard lines of sorrow.
I enter dark prison cells, reminding scarred manhood of what might have been and pointing forward to good days yet to be.
I come softly into the still, white home of pain, and lips that are too weak to speak just tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude.
In a thousand ways, I cause the weary world to look up into the face of God, and for a little moment forget the things that are small and wretched.
I am the Christmas Spirit.
(E.C. Baird, "Christmas Spirit," in James S. Hewitt, ed., Illustrations Unlimited (1988), 81)

                    President Monson has the Christmas Spirit all year long as he goes about doing good deeds and sharing cheerful and uplifting words.  In another article President Monson shared a story a news article written by Ray Jenkins entitled "The Quiet Drama at Gate 67" (The New York Times, Dec. 25, 1979, 23).  The experience actually took place in December 1970 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Travelers were "hoping to fly to New Orleans, Dallas, and other points west," but bad weather was causing flight delays.  The would-be passengers - all except "a man in a finely-tailored gray flannel suit" - were exhibiting signs of frayed nerves.  Suddenly a young man - about 19 years old and wearing a military uniform - approached the desk and indicated that he needed to get "make this flight" or "he might never again spend Christmas at home."  This experience took place during the Vietnam War, and the young man's unit was scheduled to be sent to Vietnam.  The agent listened compassionately but gave no promises.

                    The flight was announced, and the seats were all taken.  The young solder was frantic.  Then the businessman stepped forward.  "I have a confirmed ticket," he quietly told the agent.  "I'd like to give my seat to this young man."  The ticket agent "stared incredulously" at the businessman and then "motioned to the solder.  Unable to speak, tears streaming down his face, the boy in olive drab shook hands with the man in the gray flannel suit, who simply murmured, `Good luck.  Have a fine Christmas. Good luck.'"
                    The businessman then turned, picked up his briefcase, and headed to the all-night restaurant.  Even though there were thousands of people stranded in the Atlanta airport that night, only a few witnessed this example of "love and kindness between strangers" that "brought the spirit of Christmas into their hearts."

                    President Monson then offered the following counsel.  "My brothers and sisters, finding the real joy of the season comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done or in the purchasing of obligatory gifts.  Really, joy comes as we show the love and compassion inspired by the Savior of the world, who said, `Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40).
                    "As we contemplate how we are going to spend our money to buy gifts let us plan also for how we will spend our time in order to help bring the true spirit of Christmas into the lives of others.
                    "The Savior gave freely to all.  And His gifts were of value beyond measure.  Throughout His ministry, He blessed the sick, restored sight to the blind, made the deaf to hear, and the halt and the lame to walk.  He gave cleanliness to the unclean.  He restored breath to the lifeless.  He gave hope to the despairing, and He sowed light in the darkness.
                    "He gave us His love, His service, and His life.
                    "What is the spirit we feel at Christmastime?  It is His spirit - the spirit of Christ."

                    I am grateful that the Christmas season follows the political season because it gives us the opportunity to "wash the bad taste of politics" from our souls that we may go forward in peace and love.  It is my hope and prayer that we may all enjoy the Spirit of Christmas and that we might have the true feeling of peace that comes only from God. 

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