I spoke in our Christmas Program at church and below is what I said.
Christmas Talk 2014
Good Morning Brothers and Sisters,
I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak to you this morning. The Bishopric didn’t waste any time getting another Milton up here to speak.
For Christmas fifty years ago one could expect a toy or two, an orange, a pair of socks maybe. What do you think those who lived 100 years ago would say of all the Christmas celebrating we do today?
What would they say of all of the gifts, rushing, spending, impressing, guessing, surprising, traveling, credit card debt, travel time and over time? From their vantage point it would probably seem pretty ridiculous and overdone.
What does Christmas mean to you? How do you choose to celebrate it?
For me, as a child, Christmas was my Mom’s favorite holiday. Growing up we had very limited means. My mom loved Christmas and wanted it to be special so she would plan and prepare and even though we had a very humble home we always had a wonderful Christmas filled with exciting food, lots of family and magical gifts from Santa.
Now, as an adult, I prepare for Christmas for my children so that they are able to enjoy it. I find it challenging at times to keep Christ in the center of our Christmas. While I spend time preparing for their Christmas, I find myself deep in thought reflecting on my blessings as well as those who are suffering.
Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year” as the song says, for most of us. For those who are experiencing job loss, divorce, mental illness, death of a loved one, cancer, family discord and other trials like these, Christmas can be a magnification of their suffering.
The Savior’s birth represents joy and peace that our Father in Heaven would have us experience every year at this time. It’s a time for reflection and recharge of the spirit.
President Thomas S Monson said: “Because He came to earth, we have a perfect example to follow. As we strive to become more like Him, we will have joy and happiness in our lives and peace each day of the year. It is His example which, if followed, stirs within us more kindness and love, more respect and concern for others.
“Because He came, there is meaning to our mortal existence.
“Because He came, we know how to reach out to those in trouble or distress, wherever they may be.
“Because He came, death has lost its sting, the grave its victory. We will live again because He came.
When we make Christ the focus of our Christmas, we feel more peace and the Holy Spirit offers us a respite from our every day cares. I asked my children this week how we could put more Christ in our Christmas. They all said, doing more acts of kindness for others.
In this month’s First Presidency message, President Uchdorf states that:
It doesn’t take expensive gifts to make Christmas meaningful.
He tells a story of Elder Glen L. Rudd, who served as a member of the Seventy.
Elder Rudd says that one day before Christmas a number of years ago, he learned about a needy family that had recently moved to the city. When he went to visit their small apartment, he discovered a young single mother with four children under age 10.
The family’s needs were so great that the mother could not buy treats or presents for her children that Christmas—she couldn’t even afford a tree. Brother Rudd talked with the family and learned that the three little girls would love a doll or a stuffed animal. When he asked the six-year-old son what he wanted, the hungry little boy replied, “I would like a bowl of oatmeal.”
Brother Rudd promised the little boy oatmeal and maybe something else. Then he went to the bishops’ storehouse and gathered food and other supplies to meet the immediate needs of the family.
That very morning a generous Latter-day Saint had given him 50 dollars “for someone in need.” Using that donation, Brother Rudd bundled up three of his own children and went Christmas shopping—his children selecting toys for the needy children.
After loading up the car with food, clothing, gifts, a Christmas tree, and some ornaments, the Rudds drove to the family’s apartment. There they helped the mother and her children set up the tree. Then they placed presents under it and presented the little boy with a large package of oatmeal.
The mother wept, the children rejoiced, and they all sang a Christmas song
Brothers and Sisters, I know that most of you have participated in something like this during your lifetime. As I mentioned before, we had very little means growing up because my dad was in professional school but when he graduated and started having more, he and my mother immediately used what they had to help other families who were suffering especially at Christmastime.
We know that it doesn’t take money to give a gift. We all can give something this Christmas season to help ourselves and others feel closer to the Savior and his infinite love. Our Father in Heaven gave us the greatest gift of all, His son who will save us from our sin and spiritual unnecessary suffering if we will let Him.
I have recently been able to realize like Elder Rudd in this story, the tremendous joy of being used as an instrument in the Lord’s hand at Christmas. A few years ago, right before Christmas my husband and I became aware of a situation where a child had lived their whole life without a Christmas tree or a gift. We discussed what to do. I felt panic because I felt that the child should spend Christmas morning with us and I was unprepared in every way. The one thing I was unwilling to do was to turn him away. I prayed for help and the next day someone rang my doorbell and gave me an envelope with the exact amount of money that I had spent on each one of my children’s Christmas. I cried and thanked them and I knew that the Lord had heard my prayer. That child had a wonderful Christmas and the material things were the least of importance.
For those who are carrying heavy burdens, the atonement of Jesus Christ heals hearts. The atonement is not just for sin, it is a healing balm for our spirits that can be found nowhere else. I have personally felt His healing power time and time again comforting me as I experience grief and heartache.
His message is hope. I challenge you, whatever you are struggling with to lay it at His feet and see if He won’t heal you. Day by day I am becoming more whole through His love for myself and for all of us.
President Thomas S Monson stated: There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus Christ.
It is the perfect time Brothers and Sisters to make the changes we need to focus on what matters most.
Doctrine and Covenants 14:7
And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.
I have a testimony of this Gospel. It is the Good News that we need, that our brothers and sisters need to be happy. I am so grateful for the knowledge I have that God lives and He loves each one of us. He is aware of you and I and of that child that spent Christmas with me and the family that was helped by Elder Rudd. Last week when Tallon was being confimed a member, during the prayer, it said “he is very aware of your circumstances.” I felt such truth when that was spoken. He is aware of us. I am so grateful for that knowledge. I am grateful for my family and for each one of you. I hope that you will take special care to keep Christ in your Christmas and in your hearts in this upcoming year.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.