Shortly after Elder Ulisses Soares and his family moved from their home country of Brazil to Utah, they experienced a Christmas season they would never forget.
One of the biggest snowstorms Utah had seen in years hit the Bountiful area where they lived. When the snow started, his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, attempted to snow blow the driveway and sidewalk for the first time in her life. Elder Soares had slipped on ice a few days before and broke his wrist, which resulted in surgery and a large cast on his arm.
But Sister Soares didn’t know she could change the direction of the chute of the snow blower. “Back and forth she went, to no avail. What a mess!” said Elder Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as he recounted the story during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional on Sunday, Dec. 8.
Due to prolonged exposure to the cold, Sister Soares got a double-ear infection, which left her almost completely deaf for two months. Their 16-year-old son was bedridden from a back injury while sledding.
“So, there we were — one bedridden, one deaf, one in a cast, and all freezing. I’m sure we were quite a sight for our neighbors,” he said with a laugh.
At about 5 a.m. on one of those frigid mornings that followed, Elder Soares woke up to the sound of a snowblower. Looking out the window, he could see his neighbor, Blaine Williams, who was nearly 70 years old, cleaning up the Soares’ driveway and sidewalk.
Another neighbor, Daniel Almeida, offered to drive Elder Soares down to Salt Lake for work because he couldn’t drive with his cast.
“They kindly and quietly were there for me every morning until my family healed and we were again able to do things by ourselves,” Elder Soares said. “During that cold Christmas season of 2003, these angelic brothers were sent to us, just as the ministering angels were sent to the lowly shepherds of old. These two brothers followed our Savior’s example and thought of our needs before they thought of their own.”
Elder Soares promised Church members that if they will turn their hearts outward as the Savior did, they can better experience the true meaning of Christmas and find countless opportunities to serve.
As it tells the story of Christ’s birth, the Gospel of Luke shares several examples of comfort, peace and joy being provided to those in need. Among those instances are when angels visit the “socially isolated shepherds” and when the shepherds in turn visit Mary and Joseph “who were caring for a newborn baby far from their home in Galilee.”
“We see that our Heavenly Father was very much aware of and involved in every detail surrounding the birth of His Only Begotten Son,” Elder Soares said.
The appearance of the angelic host to the shepherds may have brought “the needed comfort that God was aware of them and saw value in them as the chosen first witnesses of the newborn Lamb of God.”
And the shepherds may have brought Mary and Joseph “much-needed comfort that others knew of the divine miracle that they were a part of.”
Elder Soares continued, “Certainly, among us are modern shepherds — men and women who labor late into the night and early morning to make a living,” including hospital and emergency personnel, news broadcasting teams, security guards and employees at all-night convenience stores and gas-stations. Some may feel isolated due to their work hours.
"As we follow the Savior’s footsteps, may we ever listen for the sound of sandaled feet and reach out for the Carpenter’s steady hand."
Modern Josephs and Marys include those who have moved from their homeland and are trying to adjust to a new life, just as the Soares family did.
“As we approach Christmas, I wonder if we could become more like the angelic host by visiting modern shepherds to provide the good news of Christ, peace and comfort,” he said. “And I wonder if we can become more like the shepherds by responding to the call to visit and minister to the modern Josephs and Marys in our neighborhoods and communities to provide reassurance that God loves them and is watching and caring for them.”
Taking time for others and giving quietly and kindly, individuals can come to know the Savior better and find “peace on earth and good will toward men.”
“As we follow the Savior’s footsteps, may we ever listen for the sound of sandaled feet and reach out for the Carpenter’s steady hand,” Elder Soares said. “As we search for the Savior in all we do, Christmas won’t be just a day or a season, but will be a condition of heart and mind, and the joy and love felt at Christmas will always be near.”