I read through the headlines for today in order to find come current event to write about. The longer I read, the more depressed I became. The President of the United States makes the usual fool of himself by taking a “selfie” during the funeral of Nelson Mandela. The Budget Committee Chairmen for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House have reached a bipartisan agreement to prevent a government shutdown in January – but conservative radio host Mark Levin calls it “Mickey Mouse.” Shaw Air Force Base caved to pressure and took down a Nativity display on the base.
I could not find any current story in the media that made me feel good inside, and I kept reflecting back to Sunday, December 8, 2013, when I had the opportunity to attend – or at least watch live - the First Presidency Fireside. All of the speakers were outstanding and had good counsel. I wish I could share all of them. I was most impressed with the words of President Thomas S. Monson who told us plainly how to have a joy-filled Christmas. “Christmas is a glorious season of the year. It is also a busy time for most of us. It is my hope and prayer that we may not become so caught up in the pressures of the season that we place our emphasis on the wrong things and miss the simple joys of commemorating the birth of the Holy One of Bethlehem.
“Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done. We find the real joy of Christmas when we make the Savior the focus of the season.
“Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, He came forth from heaven to live on earth as mortal man and to establish the kingdom of God. His glorious gospel reshaped the thinking of the world. He lived for us, and He died for us. What can we, in return, give to Him? …
“Our celebration of Christmas should be a reflection of the love and selflessness taught by the Savior. Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. We feel more kindly one to another. We reach out in love to help those less fortunate. Our hearts are softened. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things. To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the Spirit of Christ.”
President Monson quoted President David O. McKay – it is very important when a prophet quotes another prophet – as saying, “True happiness comes only by making others happy -- the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it. In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service.
“It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring `peace on earth,’ because it means -- good will toward all men” (Gospel Ideals (1953), 551).
President Monson continued, “May we give as the Savior gave. To give of oneself is a holy gift. We give as a remembrance of all the Savior has given. May we also give gifts that have eternal value, along with our gifts that eventually break or are forgotten. How much better the world would be if we all gave gifts of understanding and compassion, of service and friendship, of kindness and gentleness.
“As the Christmas season envelops us with all its glory, may we, as did the Wise Men, seek a bright, particular star to guide us in our celebration of the Savior’s birth. May we all make the journey to Bethlehem in spirit, taking with us a tender, caring heart as our gift to the Savior….”
President Monson counseled us to “focus” on the Savior. Do you know how to do as he counseled? One of the best things I do to keep Christ at the center of my Christmas celebration is to fill my home with Nativity sets. I have heard that Nativity sets are difficult to find this year. I have not been looking for any new ones, but I have seen a beautiful, large Nativity set at Costco for approximately $100.00. I have also seen less expensive ones -- starting at about $15 -- advertised at Deseret Book Store. The large expensive ones are beautiful, but the less expensive ones can bring the same Spirit of Christ into your home.
A second way to focus on the Savior is to play Christmas hymns. Christmas carols such as “Silent Night” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem” do much to encourage the Spirit of Christ to abide in our homes.
Another way is to concentrate on what you are giving rather than what you are getting. There is not a single thing that money can buy that is more valuable than giving of ourselves. Millions of people in our world are starving for kindness and friendship. I encourage you to take a part of your Christmas funds and do something for someone less fortunate. Find someone who is lonely or having a difficult and invite them to spend Christmas with you in some way.
As a parent, I really appreciate all those who help my children in any way. I believe that our loving Heavenly Father feels the same way when we help His children. He loves and cares about each of His children, and He asks us to help each other in any way that we can. Give freely of your abundance – or your little – and you will be richly blessed.