Pres. Monson: Christmas illuminates soul's window

"Christmas is a wonderful time of year," declared President Thomas S. Monson in his address at the First Presidency Christmas Devotional Dec. 4. "It is a season when there are more smiles, more cheerful greetings, more acts of thoughtful kindness, more sweet remembrances of cherished friends and loved ones than are found through the rest of the entire year. In the troubled times in which we live, this is truly a miracle."

President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, said it is the Spirit of Christmas that brings such love into hearts and joy into lives. "To catch the real meaning of the Spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the Spirit of Christ," he said. "And one of the ways in which we obtain the Christmas spirit - the Christ spirit - is by willingly giving of ourselves to others."To illustrate the Spirit of Christmas, President Monson cited an account written by Melody Wright about her father, Gene, and a Christmas many years ago when he first felt the Spirit of Christmas. The story was set during World War II, when times were difficult and Gene was 10.

His mother worked in the potato fields in Jerome, Idaho, to make extra money so her children might have a Christmas in which each of her three children could be given one special gift. Every year in school, students drew names and exchanged gifts on the last day of school before Christmas. Gene drew the name of Charlotte, a girl who was not as cute as the other girls, and whose clothes were torn and dirty. All of the children tried to avoid her. Gene, fearing other children would tease him if they knew he had drawn Charlotte's name, decided he would not tell anyone, not even his mother, and no way was he going to get anything for Charlotte.

However, Gene eventually had to tell his mother he had drawn Charlotte's name. "How wonderful!," his mother replied. She knew everyone in Jerome and knew of Charlotte's family, who lived in a very humble home and had a difficult life. She knew also that Charlotte, as in years past, would have no Christmas at all that year. She knew as well that year after year, as the children at school drew her name, Charlotte never once received a present.

Gene knew that his mother worked extra hard to earn money to purchase a gift for Charlotte. Anger filled his heart as he saw the beautiful porcelain doll his mother had bought for Charlotte; even his sister had never received anything quite so special. He felt the gift was too good for Charlotte.

On the day gifts were to be exchanged at school, Gene went early to place his gift under the Christmas tree so no one would see that it was for Charlotte. At the appointed hour, all the children, except Charlotte, sat around the tree. Knowing, once again, she would receive no gift, she sat silently at her desk. Finally, when all the gifts but one had been distributed, the teacher picked up the last package with a red bow on top and called Charlotte's name. When she got no response, she handed it to Charlotte and said, "This is for you." The other children whispered, "Who had Charlotte's name?"

President Monson concluded the story, reciting: "As she carefully began to open the present, Charlotte's hands shook. All eyes were on her. As she reached into the box and carefully lifted out the doll, tears began to fall from her eyes. She held the beautiful porcelain doll to her heart and caressed it and rocked back and forth, back and forth. Charlotte felt loved! Gene had to choke back the tears, as did everyone else in the class that day. Each one felt the true Christmas spirit."

President Monson then said: "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. . . ."

"This joyful season brings to each of us a measure of happiness that corresponds to the degree in which we have turned our minds, our feelings and our actions to the Spirit of Christmas.

"President David O. McKay said: `True happiness comes only by making others happy. The Spirit of Christmas . . . makes our heart glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service. It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ.' "

President Monson added: "There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by the Savior. It is the time to love the Lord with all our heart and our neighbors as ourselves. We must make Christmas real. It isn't just tinsel and ribbon, unless we have made it so in our lives. Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing true values. It is peace because we have found peace in the Savior's teachings. It is the time we realize most deeply that the more love is expended, the more there is of it for others."

Concluding, President Monson said: "As the Christmas season envelopes us with all its glory, may we, as did the Wise Men, seek a bright, particular star to guide us to our Christmas opportunity in service of our fellowmen. May we all make the journey to Bethlehem in spirit, taking with us a tender, caring heart as our gift to the Savior."

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