Center Stage: Christmas memories: Gospel surpasses tradition

Years ago, when our two older sons, Horacio and Ignacio, were very young, ages 6 and 5, they began to question the long-held cultural and secular traditions of Christmas.

My husband, Horacio, and I decided that we did not want to extend their illusion any further. Our response about Santa Claus was immensely disappointing to the boys. Ignacio, the younger, looked at us with incredulous eyes, not wanting to accept this new truth. Horacio, who was also upset, began at this moment to think differently of these things. Each with a child in our arms, my husband and I consoled them that Christmas Eve. But the season did not have the magic of previous years. Christmas for our family changed and was never the same afterwards.

The years passed and we were blessed with two additional sons, and the Lord sent missionaries to our home. Then came the Christmas when we went to the temple for the first time as a family and were sealed for time and all eternity.

We traveled by automobile across Ecuador to Chile (before the Peru temple was completed), and Christmas Eve found us in a hotel in Arica, located in northern Chile. In our hotel room, we did not have the slightest hint of any kind of gifts according to the traditions of the world. Despite this, as we stayed in that hotel, a new and beautiful feeling and understanding grew within us. That night, we read the scriptures about the birth of Jesus. This night was so spiritual that we have since read the scriptures each and every Christmas.

As that Christmas Day arrived, we viewed the commotion of the world as agitated people rushed about in search of gifts that they hoped would bring happiness to their loved ones. We saw how, under the illusion of tradition, they were trying to convert a dream into reality.

Each Christmas afterward has brought its own memories. One year we had a son in the mission field, and the next, two sons in the mission field. That Christmas we felt a perfect joy as we were able to hug and hold our two younger sons and feel their love. The following Christmas was a difficult one, and we experienced a most profound sadness as our Nicholas, the youngest, was gone from our lives. How grateful we are for our temple sealing.

Now, Christmas after Christmas, we remember those we love, and we again read the scriptures about Jesus coming to earth and of the immense power that will emanate from the heavens to comfort us when He comes again.

Knowing the truth of the gospel has freed us from the tradition of seeking joy through obligatory gifts. In our home, we find the joy of knowing that Jesus Christ lives. Each Christmas, we gather at home — we are a family with small children — and we again read of the birth of the Savior. Each Christmas we reflect on our many blessings and we feel grateful for each one, and for the beauty of the earth and heavens. On Christmas we do not become overwhelmed by the things of the world because we have our hands full with the good things of the heavens.

Blackie Araya is the director of public affairs for the South America North Area. Her husband, Horacio, is an Area Authority Seventy.

Illustration by John Clark.

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