Childlike essence

For an adult, one of the more joyous aspects of Christmas might be to see the wonder and anticipation it brings to children. By watching their little ones, parents can relive vicariously the warmth and thrill they experienced during their own childhood Christmases.

That Christmas brings such happiness to children is more than appropriate, since the holiday observes the birth of a child: the Son of God who took on mortality so He could redeem mankind.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given," the prophet Isaiah wrote of the then-future event, "and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).

In his beloved tale A Christmas Carol, 19th-century author Charles Dickens created a memorable character in Tiny Tim, the little lame boy whose words during his family's yuletide celebration, "God bless us, everyone," have been associated with Christmas in the minds of generations of readers over the past century-and-a-half.

An idealized, archetypal character, Tim is instructive to readers in that he embodies all that is good, virtuous and exemplary about little children. Coming home with his father, Bob Cratchit, from a Christmas church service, Tim remarks that he hopes worshippers noticed him, because "it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day who it was that made lame beggars walk and blind men see."

Through the agency of the ghost of Christmases yet to come, Bob Cratchit's miserly employer, Ebenezer Scrooge, is allowed to peer into the future to see how things will be if he, Scrooge, continues his present course.

Standing unseen with the ghost at the Cratchit home, Scrooge observes the family's grief at the recent death of their beloved Tim. Gathering his surviving family members around him, Bob says: "However and whenever we part from one another, I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim — shall we — or this first parting that there was among us.

"… And … I know, my dears, that when we recollect how patient and how mild he was; although he was a little, little child; we shall not quarrel easily among ourselves, and forget poor Tiny Tim in doing it."

Then, Dickens as narrator remarks, "Spirit of Tiny Tim, thy childish essence was from God."

Earlier in the scene, while the family awaits the homecoming of their father, eldest son Peter reads from the gospel of Mark: "And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them" (Mark 9:36). The passage, of course, is from the account wherein Jesus told his disciples they must become as little children to enter into the kingdom of heaven (see JST Mark 9:34-35; see also Matthew 18:3).

The risen Lord taught the same message when He visited the Nephites, telling them, "Ye must repent and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God" (3 Nephi 11:38).

Later, after blessing their children one by one, the Savior commanded the multitude: "Behold your little ones" (3 Nephi 17:23). As if in symbolic illustration of the purity of children, angels descended from heaven, encircled the little ones with fire and ministered to them.

One who has very recently parted from us, and who, though a wise teacher, exhibited the childlike virtues of gentleness, humility and kindness was Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve.

In his "Christmas memory" published in the Church News Nov. 29, he quoted a Book of Mormon passage, one that he as a young missionary selected as a guide to his life: "And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.

"And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works" (Alma 7:23-24).

As we remember his example, surely we will be inspired to emulate the qualities of this godly man.

Dickens spoke well: Such childlike essence is truly divine. This Christmas season, as we observe the virtues of the little ones around us, may our thoughts be directed to the Babe in Bethlehem, and may we be inspired thereby to love and bless one another.

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