Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Is Christ

Last night I visited a home of friends surprised to find them in the middle of reenacting the Nativity—as if they were celebrating Christmas Eve. As it turns out they were celebrating Christmas Eve on Christmas Day (and Christmas Day today); two of the children had been sick the day before and so they decided to postpone the festivities.

Christ's commandment to remember Him knows no holiday
One of my friends taught me a powerful lesson as he explained to his family that it doesn't matter when we celebrate the Savior's birth (the Savior wasn't born on December 25, after all). What does matter is that we celebrate His life by following His example. Perfect worship is emulation, and Christ didn't ask for a band of casual cronies to pay homage to Him once a year. He said, "Follow thou me" in word and in deed (see John 21:22; 2 Nephi 31:10; James 1:22). That commandment doesn't take a holiday.

When we set tinsel and toys, shopping and snow, music and mania aside we remember Christmas really is Christ. We celebrate His birth because He is the greatest gift God ever gave to mankind. We commemorate His sacrifice by giving and sharing, singing and smiling. We would do well to keep the Christmas spirit—the Spirit of Christ—with us all year long.

Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer. He lived and died for us, and He lives again. My greatest hopes and dreams are reachable because of His Atonement. I trust Him. I love Him. And I can't wait to see Him again someday. This hymn describes what I feel in my heart.

These are your thoughts about the Savior—
  • Ryan: He is God. Ord of all. Pre-eternal and the only sacrifice that can satisfy God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1)
  • Karen: He is my one true Lord and Savior, the blessed hope of the world, the Holy Messiah!
  • Paul: One word. He talked about it more than anything—Love 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Is Family

I love this statement from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time.
Spending time with family is what Christmas is all about. How can I forget my many Christmas Eves at Grandma Barton's house? Reenacting the Nativity. Singing Christmas carols. Enjoying scrumptious food and hot wassail. Opening gifts from grandma and cousins. Reminiscing on Christmases past. Playing board games with my brothers, father and uncles.

I thought Christmas was all about the lights. Now I've learned it's all about the Light of the World.

Those memories are as much a part of me as snow is part of a white Christmas.

But last year and next week I made and will make different Christmas memories in Tennessee. I'm far away from my family in Utah. But they are always in my heart.

Most years I spend Christmas with my Barton family. This year I'll spend Christmas with my ward family.

Most years I spend Christmas wondering what I'll get. This year I'll spend Christmas searching for opportunities to give.

Most years I spend Christmas thinking about the Savior. This year I'll spend Christmas living for the Savior.

When I return to Utah I'll regain and retain the wonderful traditions given me by my family. And I'll be able to add to those traditions something I couldn't have gained without serving a mission—my testimony; my appetite for service; my understanding that true happiness comes from following the Savior, not my own selfish interests.

These are traditions money cannot buy. I asked you, friends, what some of your family traditions are. Here are your responses—
  • Salvador: Okay, you know I am Mexican so we have posadas, piƱatas, we sing La Rama, etc.
  • Charlie: On Christmas Eve we watch Doctor Who Christmas marathons, then we open one gift (which always happens to be pajamas), then we make cookies and watch more Doctor Who
  • Chelsea: On Christmas Eve we go shopping and then we watch Joy to the World. On Christmas Day we spend time with family and friends. For Christmas dinner we have the missionaries over for Family Home Evening

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Is Love

The other day somebody pointed out that the happy, joyful spirit we feel at Christmastime does not come from trees and tinsel. It is not produced by flashing lights or fancy gifts. The spirit of Christmas is the Spirit of Christ. Feelings of love toward our fellowmen are created within us by the Love of God, even the Savior Jesus Christ.

President Thomas S. Monson noted
True love is a reflection of the Savior’s love. In December of each year we call it the Christmas spirit. You can hear it. You can see it. You can feel it.
An especially poignant manifestation of this spirit is the too-often-unexpressed virtue of gratitude. Recently I asked my friends what Christmas means to them. Their responses reveal faith in Jesus Christ and gratitude for family relationships—
  •  Debbie: When I was a teenager I had lots of nieces and nephews who were little and we always had a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Eve and the little kids sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. Good memories
  • Carrie Lynn: Giving a helping hand to those in need brings me the greatest joy. What a blessing it is to share of one's meager abundance to help those in need and actually appreciate it, even the simplest gifts. And all are blessed
  • Nathan: Presents!
  • Wiley: The Spirit of Christ—giving, love, joy, peace, forgiveness!
  • Debra: It is a time of God showing His great love for us. It can be a time of healing and renewed strength. You see, Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born. His birth brought great joy to the world. Shepherds, wise men, and angels all shared in the excitement of knowing about this great event. They knew this was no ordinary baby. The prophets had told of His coming hundreds of years before. The star stopped over Bethlehem just to mark the way for those who were looking for this special child
  • Salvador: Love and service
  • Brent: A reason for the family to get together
  • Jordann: Christmas is the small but great miracles of healing the broken-hearted and the effects of sin
  • Marissa: Celebrating the birth of Christ and the life He lived by emulating His selfless qualities through giving to others. He has given us everything and we become more like Him as we sacrifice for others
  • Jessica: Along with focusing on Christ, my grandpa's birthday is very close to Christmas, so I have always associated the season with visiting my extended family and enjoying the happiness of eternal families
For me, Christmas means spending time with family and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Healthy amounts of wassail and scripture-reading are a must. This year I'll spend Christmas away from my family. But my service as a missionary allows me to teach others how, through God's plan, they can spend eternity with their own families. Nothing could bring me greater joy!

I invite you to join in the Christmas conversation by visiting the website link embedded in the picture above. Learn about the babe born in Bethlehem. Request a free copy of the Holy Bible or a visit from missionaries. Share inspiring Christmas music. Leave a comment or two.

Christmas Is Love, President Thomas S. Monson
The Perfect Gift, President Henry B. Eyring
The Good and Grateful Receiver, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What Are You Thankful For?

I love sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ online, but I've always been a little bothered by the pessimistic flavor I find on Facebook. It's so easy to gripe, whine, complain and stir the pot, especially when you're hiding behind a computer screen. But the Savior wasn't a griper, whiner, complainer or pot-stirrer, and He never suggested we ought to be. In fact, He taught us to be perfect "even as my Father which is in heaven is perfect", "even as I am." (Matthew 5:48, 3 Nephi 27:27)

A living apostle noted
Yes, life has its problems, and yes, there are negative things to face, but please accept one of Elder Holland's maxims for living—no misfortune is so bad that whining about it won't make it worse.
Which is why I was so happy when the Thanksgiving season rolled around. Nary a negative status update or comment. Complaints were few and accusations rare. I relished in this temporary online utopia but regretted that it must soon come to an end.

God has granted each of us a cornucopia of blessings

Gratitude is a cardinal Christian virtue, one we ought to carry in our hearts all the time and not just on the fourth Thursday in November. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught
When you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism; you walk with a spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives.
Thankfully I have thankful friends, and out of desire to bask in the sunlight of their gratitude I posted this prompt on Facebook: What are you thankful for? Here are your responses—

  • Maer: A lot! My life and my family; friends for loving me for who I am :)
  • Kimberlee: I am thankful for answers to prayers!
  • Nancy: You! And all the missionaries!
  • Jessica: I am really thankful for doctors and medicine right now cause I have been sick all week!
  • Angie: I'm thankful for my Lord and Savior! I'm stoked to celebrate his birthday again!
  • Salvador: My family
  • Aimee: I was just sitting here marveling how sometimes my Heavenly Father answers prayers that haven't become prayers yet...just worries and concerns. I am thankful he knows me so well!
  • Melinda: I'm grateful for the Holy Ghost
  • Jessica: I am thankful for beds
  • Alicia: I am thankful for Christmas...without the birth of our Savior there would be no atonement, no resurrection, no New Testament, no Book of Mormon, no Doctrine and Covenants, no modern-day prophets, no LDS chapels and temples, no missionaries, and I would never have met you! MERRY CHRISTMAS!
  • Blair: I am thankful for my family and the support that they give me continually