We each have our own favorite ways to celebrate Christmas – or not. There is something special about the Christmas season, something that is different than any other time of year; it is the Christmas spirit. I believe this special feeling is the spirit of Christ; I believe it is His love shedding forth on earth through those who love Him and follow Him.
This time of year is “simple in origin, deep in meaning, beautiful in tradition and custom, rich in memories, and charitable in spirit.” We are attracted to this wonderful time of year, and we receive a “measure of happiness that corresponds to the degree in which we have turned our mind, feelings, and actions to the spirit of Christmas.” Even though Christmas is a large part of who we are, do we really know what Christmas is?
President Thomas S. Monson, while serving as a counselor in the First Presidency, shared his thoughts about what Christmas is. He said that Christmas is 1) children, 2) remembering, 3) giving, 4) prophecy fulfilled. (“What Is Christmas? Ensign, Dec. 1998).
What would Christmas be without children, memories, and giving? I would miss those three ingredients in Christmas, but the most important part of Christmas is that it fulfills prophecy. President Monson is a master story teller, and he tells this story so well that I will use his words to do so.
“On the eve of His birth, the voice of the Lord came unto Nephi, saying, `Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets’ (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 1:13).
“What did the holy prophets of old declare? Isaiah, more than 700 years before the birth of Christ, prophesied, `Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
“On the American continent, King Benjamin said, `For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent … shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay. … He shall suffer temptations, and pain. … And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary” (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 3:5, 7-8).
“Then came that night of nights when the shepherds were abiding in the fields and the angel of the Lord appeared to them, announcing: `Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. … For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:10-11).
“The shepherds with haste went to the manger to pay honor to Christ the Lord. Later, wise men journeyed from the East to Jerusalem, saying, `Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. … When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh’ (Matthew 2:2, 10-11).
“Since that time, the spirit of giving gifts has been present in the mind of each Christian as he or she commemorates the Christmas season. Our Heavenly Father gave to us His Son, Jesus Christ. That precious Son gave to us His life, the Atonement, and victory over the grave. What will you and I give for Christmas this year? Let us in our lives give to our Lord and Savior the gift of gratitude by living His teachings and following in His footsteps. It was said of Him that He `went about doing good’ (Acts 10:38). As we do likewise, the Christmas spirit will be ours.”
We gain from the Christmas season the measure of happiness that fits the degree to which we have the spirit of Christmas. This Christmas spirit can be found in children, in our memories, in giving to others, and in studying the original Christmas story, a story of prophecy fulfilled. I hope we can all remember to be grateful to the Lord for all that He does for us and to show our gratitude by living His teachings, following in His footsteps, and doing good.