The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love, generosity and goodness, said President Thomas S. Monson in his address during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional Dec. 3.
"This is a time for families. It is a time for remembering. It is a time for gratitude," said President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency.
"To Almighty God we acknowledge His watchful care, His welcome guidance and His heaven-sent gifts, supreme among these the gift of His precious Son and our Redeemer, that we might have the gift of eternal life. With glad hearts, we commemorate His birth....
"The spirit of Christmas is something I hope all of us would have within our hearts and within our lives, not only at this particular season, but throughout the years."
President Monson said "a wise Christian once urged, 'Let us not spend Christmas ... but let us keep Christmas in our hearts and in our lives.' This is my plea tonight; because when we keep the spirit of Christmas, we keep the spirit of Christ, for the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit."
President Monson said that when he served as bishop many years ago, he would take a week of vacation from his employment each December and personally visit the 87 widows who lived in his ward.
One widow, Elizabeth Keachie, was a Scottish immigrant who was a perfectionist. "Her home was always immaculately clean, with everything in its place.... Each year Lizzie baked a large, delicious shortbread cake for me. When I would make my Christmas visit to her small home, she would present me with this perfect, beautifully formed and baked shortbread delicacy."
However, one year, as she greeted President Monson, he could sense something was amiss. When he asked if something was wrong, she started to cry. "She explained that she had just completed baking my shortbread gift and had discovered, on removing it from the oven, that it had a large crack running through it. To a perfectionist such as Lizzie, this was an enormous catastrophe."
President Monson assured his friend that the cracked shortbread would taste just as good as if it were perfect, but she was still unhappy. In an effort to make her feel better, he asked her to pour two glasses of milk and they sat down right then and enjoyed the shortbread.
"That began a cherished tradition. Every Christmas afterward, as I would call at Elizabeth Keachie's home, she had two shortbread treats waiting for me. One would be perfect in every respect, wrapped carefully so that I could take it home with me. The other would be purposely cracked, that we might eat it then and there with a cold glass of milk."
President Monson said that the Christmases remembered best "usually have little to do with worldly goods but a lot to do with a spirit of caring, a spirit of love and a spirit of compassion."
President Monson said one penetrating lesson taught at Christmastime is from the lament of the Lord: "The Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20). That salutation, 'No room,' was not only heard by Joseph and Mary before the birth of Jesus but was also endured by Him on frequent occasions in His ministry.
"I would guess that all of us can find some application of that in our own lives. In our homes today we have rooms for eating, rooms for sleeping, rooms for recreation. Do we have room for Christ? We have time for movies, time for golf, time for activities which are part of our daily lives. Do we have time for Christ?"
Concluding, President Monson quoted the words of Christina Georgina Rossetti: "'What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part. Yet, what can I give Him? Give my heart.' When we do so, the spirit of Christmas will be our gift. May we earn this precious gift and share it willingly is my humble prayer."
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