Just a few weeks ago, President James E. Faust of the First Presidency asserted that the "good tidings of great joy" spoken of by the angels announcing Christ's birth must "be to all people." (See Church News, Dec. 8, 2001.)
That declaration struck a chord with at least one Latter-day Saint who reasoned that "all" must certainly include those who might sometimes seem "different."
And that made perfect sense when the man recalled spending six weeks in India some 20 years ago. He came home believing that some of the best "Christians" he'd ever met were. . . Hindus.
No, he didn't come home confused about doctrines, sects or congregations. Rather, he came home awakened to the universal truth that there are humans the world over of all religious preferences, ethnic heritages and national origins who are striving daily to be good neighbors, kind and loving family members, reputable and honorable citizens, faithful and virtuous adherents, and God-fearing residents of this earth.
Some, in fact most, do not yet know Christ as their Savior, but many very many do practice what Christ preached.
During his visit in India, the man had the good fortune of staying a few days with a middle-class Indian family. As he had found typical in India at the time, there were three generations of the family living in the same home. Grandfather had passed away, but Grandmother was there with her son, his wife and their children.
When he arrived, he was welcomed into the home and shown his sleeping quarters: a small bed in plain sight in the middle of the small living room. While he was smart enough to act appreciative, he wasn't smart enough to be appreciative. Rather, he silently groused to himself about how inconvenient it was to be sleeping in the living room where he had no privacy.
One night as he walked toward "his" bed in this "inconvenient" room, he glanced, through a slightly ajar door, into an adjoining room. There he saw Grandmother asleep on the floor.
It took only an instant for him to realize why.
Grandmother was sleeping on the floor in the son's and his wife's bedroom because he had been sleeping in Grandmother's bed.
Inconvenient for whom?
Sufficiently humbled, he immediately protested to his host.
"I am very, very sorry," he said. "Please let your mother return to her bed and I'll sleep on the floor."
"No," was the emphatic reply. "You are our guest and you will sleep in the bed."
And he did.
But that bed was no longer inconvenient; rather, it was a castle.
If the good tidings of Christ's birth and mission are to be to all people, then it lies with us to carry the good news by word and example.
President Gordon B. Hinckley counsels that good works are a good way to celebrate the Christmas season:
"It is not enough simply to read the New Testament accounts of Jesus Christ. It is so much more important to repeat in our own way the simple and wonderful lessons He taught.
"If there is to be a change in this quarrelsome old world it must begin with each of us.
"And so our prayer at this wondrous season of Christmas is that we will look inward to test our own hearts and look outward for an opportunity to reach down and lift someone who is in need." (See Church News, Dec. 8, 2001.)
As we celebrate the birth of the Savior of the World, may be live to bring peace and joy now and through eternity to all of His Father's children.