'He was always the giver, seldom the recipient'

There is no better time than the Christmas season to rededicate ourselves to the principles Christ taught, said President Thomas S. Monson at the First Presidency Christmas Devotional Dec. 5.

"[Christmas] is the time to love the Lord our God with all our heart and our neighbors as ourselves," declared President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency. "It is well to remember that he who gives money gives much, he who gives time gives more, but he who gives of himself gives all."

President Monson still has the small black cane he used as a boy in his ward's Christmas pageant. The cane, he said, doubled as a staff to complete his costume as one of the Three Wise Men searching for the baby Jesus.

"I don't recall all of the words in that pageant, but I do remember vividly the feelings of my heart as the three of us 'Wise Men' looked upward and saw the star, journeyed across the stage, found Mary with the young child Jesus and then fell down and worshiped Him and opened our treasures and presented gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh."

Years have passed since that pageant — but President Monson said the cane still holds a special place in his home and heart, reflecting a continuing commitment to Christ.

President Monson enlisted the words of President Spencer W. Kimball: "Though we make an effort to follow the pattern of gift giving [at Christmas], sometimes our program becomes an exchange — gift giving for gift expected. Never did the Savior give in expectation. . . . He was always the giver, seldom the recipient."

President Monson shared the account of a family in Provo, Utah, that endured difficult financial circumstances several years ago. The father and mother of that family decided they could afford only two Christmas presents for each of their children — a toy and a more practical gift.

Later, the parents told their children that a poor family who would have no Christmas presents had moved into their neighborhood. "As a family, they decided to share what little they had," President Monson said.

As Christmas approached, the family's bishop asked the father if he would deliver Christmas packages in the family station wagon to the poor in the ward. The father gladly agreed and, on the appointed evening, drove the station wagon to the chapel so other ward members could contribute gifts and foods. Soon the car was filled.

"When his car was ready to go, the bishop handed the delivery list to the father. On the list he read only one name — his own," President Monson said.

He closed with a few words from President Harold B. Lee: "Life is God's gift to man. What we do with our life is our gift to God."

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