Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In Search of the Christmas Spirit - President Thomas S. Monson

“Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.” (Essays: The Poet.) -Ralph Waldo Emerson

An unknown author wrote:
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 glad old 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 them 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 come. 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.

Marley added: “Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!” (In The Best Short Stories of Charles Dickens, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1947, p. 435.)
We can learn a treasured lesson from the pen of Dickens and from the example of Christ. As we lift our eyes heavenward and then remember to look outward into the lives of others, as we remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive, we, during this Christmas season, will come to see a bright, particular star that will guide us to our precious opportunity.

Such was the experience of a Sunday School class some years ago when a wise teacher placed aside the manual one Sunday morning as Christmas approached. With her class members listening in, she telephoned me. I was serving then as the bishop of a large ward situated in the central part of Salt Lake City. The teacher inquired, “Are there any poor in your ward—people who need a sub for Santa?” She then described her own neighborhood as one of affluence and mentioned that she wanted her class to remember this particular Christmas. I responded that our members had the necessities of life but mentioned a family that would welcome a special experience—one that would also greatly benefit her young class members.
The family I had in mind had recently emigrated from war-torn Germany and had rented a humble, older home in our area. The children were new to America, and, while they were learning to speak our language, they were shy and reluctant to mingle with others. Their personal possessions were few; they had lost so much during the war.
In a private telephone conversation with the teacher, I suggested an appropriate evening when her class could accompany her to our ward meetinghouse and together we would journey to the home where the Mueller family lived. Again the teacher stated that she wanted her choice class to remember the true meaning of Christmas. I responded, “Could I suggest, then, that each child bring with him or her a gift that has a special meaning to the individual; a gift the person treasures and would rather keep for himself.”
Just four days before Christmas, the class journeyed to our ward. Several adults brought them in large, expensive automobiles. Such an array of wealth had never before graced the parking area. We then walked to the Mueller home, singing carols along the way. The laughter of the children and the hurried pace of their steps reflected the anticipation of Christmas.
It was at the Mueller home, however, that the frills of Christmas became the spirit of Christmas. I watched as one girl looked into the eyes of one of the Mueller children, a girl about her age, then tenderly handed her a beautiful doll she had received on her own birthday, a gift she herself loved. She anxiously told her newly found friend how to dress the doll and hold it ever so tenderly in cradled arms. I observed a normally rowdy boy take from his left hand his genuine leather baseball glove, which bore the replica signature of Joe DiMaggio, and place the glove on the left hand of a German-speaking boy who had never seen, far less worn, a baseball glove. He then explained how to catch the baseball in the special pocket of the glove, which he had hand prepared hour after hour with a particular oil. Such was the experience of each child with each gift.
As we left the Mueller home and walked back to the meetinghouse, not a word was spoken. One could hear the crunch of the newly fallen snow as young feet, guided by happy hearts, made the two-block journey. We entered the building, there to have donuts and apple cider. In the blessing that was asked upon the food, a beautiful girl, her voice choked with emotion, described the feelings of all as she prayed, “Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for the best Christmas we have ever had.” That night, as children who had found the real spirit of Christmas filled the automobiles, left the parking lot, and disappeared into the darkness, I recalled the meaningful words from the hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem”:
How silently, how silently The wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts The blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming; But in this world of sin, Where meek souls will receive him, still The dear Christ enters in. (Hymns, 1985, no. 208.)

No comments:

Post a Comment