As this week's edition of the Church News goes to press, the Christmas season is winding down. The date of this publication is Dec. 24, indicating that Christmas is only hours away and will soon be over.
Or will it?
In reality, Christmas — or the spirit of Christmas — is never-ending. Anciently, prophets foretold of the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Isaiah prophesied: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). And: "For unto us a child is born, ... and his name shall be called ... The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
A prophet in the new world spoke of the time that would come when "the Lord Omnipotent ... shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay. ... shall suffer temptations, and pain, ... And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mosiah 3:5, 7-8).
Then Luke tells of the night when an angel of the Lord spoke to shepherds in the fields: "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. ... For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11).
The Lord's prophet today, President Thomas S. Monson, said, "A wise Christian once urged, 'Let us not spend Christmas ... but let us keep Christmas in our hearts and in our lives' " (Peter Marshall, 80th Congress, 1st session, Congressional Record 19 Dec. 1947, pt. 9:11673).
In the First Presidency Christmas Devotional earlier this month, President Monson said, "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. It will block out all the distractions around us which can diminish Christmas and swallow up its true meaning."
During the Christmas season, the spirit of giving increases. People perform charitable acts as they reach out to serve others, provide gifts for children who might otherwise go without, visit the lonely and downhearted in their homes, care centers and hospitals.
If we follow the example of President Monson, we will realize that the Christmas season lasts for more than a few weeks or days in December. Whether it's on a cold day in January or a warm day in July — or just about any day of any month — he constantly looks for ways to serve, help and lift others. President Monson is one of those fortunate souls who enjoys the spirit of Christmas every day of the year.
In one of his classic and eloquent addresses when he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, he related the following essay by an unknown author:
"I am the Christmas Spirit. I enter the home of poverty and cause pale-faced children to open wide their eyes in pleased wonder. I cause the miser to release his clutched hand, thus painting a bright spot upon his soul.
"I cause the aged to remember their youth and to laugh in the glad old way. I bring romance to childhood and brighten dreams woven with magic.
"I cause eager feet to climb dark stairways with filled baskets, leaving behind hearts amazed at the goodness of the world.
"I cause the prodigal to pause in his wild and wasteful way and send to anxious love some little token which releases glad tears, washing away the hard lines of sorrow.
"I enter dark prison cells, causing scarred manhood to remember what might have been and pointing to better days yet to come.
"I enter the still white home of pain, and there lips that are too weak to speak just tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude.
"In a thousand ways I cause this weary old world to look up into the face of God and for a few moments forget everything that is small and wretched. You see, I am the Christmas Spirit" ("The Spirit of Christmas," New Era, December 1974).
In many addresses he has given in conferences, devotional assemblies and other meetings and in many messages he has written for publication, President Monson has encouraged us to have this kind of spirit for, as he has said, when we have the spirit of Christmas we remember Him whose birth we commemorate at this season of the year.