For President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, memories of Christmas as a young child living in East Germany include a beautiful Christmas tree decorated with real candles.
The tree "radiated a beautiful light that filled our hearts with joyous feelings of hope, security and gratitude," said President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency. "Perhaps it is no wonder that I have always associated the Christmas season with light."
Speaking at the First Presidency Christmas devotional Dec. 7, President Uchtdorf said in this modern world many think of giving and receiving gifts when they think of Christmas.
"Although this can be a cherished tradition, it can also detract from the simple dignity of the season and distract us from celebrating the birth of our Savior in a meaningful way."
The economic challenges of this year may cause some to scale back their giving, he added. "I wonder if this may not be a blessing in disguise. I know from personal experience that the most memorable Christmases can be those that are the most humble. The presents of my childhood were certainly modest by today's standards."
He said it doesn't take expensive gifts to make Christmas meaningful.
"Think of the simple yet dignified way our Heavenly Father chose to honor the birth of His Son. On that holy night, angels appeared not to the rich but to shepherds. The Christ child was born not in a mansion but in a manger. The child was wrapped not in silk but in swaddling clothes.
"The simplicity of that first Christmas foreshadowed the life of the Savior. Though He had created the earth, though He had walked in realms of majesty and glory, though He had stood at the right hand of the Father, He came to this earth as a helpless child. His life was a model of modest nobility. He had no place to lay His head, and He walked ever among the poor, the sick, the downcast and the heavy laden."
Jesus Christ — who knew perfectly how to give — set the pattern for giving, said President Uchtdorf. "To those whose hearts are heavy with loneliness and sorrow, He brings compassion and comfort. To those whose bodies and minds are afflicted with illness and suffering, He brings love and healing. To those whose souls are burdened with sin, He offered hope, forgiveness and redemption."
President Uchtdorf said if the Savior were here today, "we would find Him where He always was — ministering to the meek, the downcast, the humble, the distressed and the poor in Spirit.
"As He gave to us, let us give to Him by loving as He loves."
President Uchtdorf noted that he began his talk by recalling that as a child he associated Christmas with light. "As I have grown in my understanding of the gospel, I am even more convinced that Christmas truly is about light.
"Let us enjoy the wonders of the season. Let us rejoice in the music, the festivities, and the meaningful gifts. But let us ever remember that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World."