Simple, deep, beautiful and rich, Christmas draws hearts to it

In his address at the First Presidency Christmas Devotional Dec. 3, President Thomas S. Monson said this is a glorious time of year. "Simple in origin, deep in meaning, beautiful in tradition and custom, rich in memories and charitable in spirit, it has an attraction to which our hearts are readily drawn," said President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency.

"This joyful season brings to all of us a measure of happiness that corresponds to the degree to which we have turned our minds, feelings and actions to the spirit of Christmas."President Monson quoted an unknown author who personified "the Christmas spirit" as that which opens children's eyes wide in pleased wonder, relaxes the miser's clutched hand, renews in the aged youth and laughter, brightens sleep with dreams woven of magic, prompts giving to the needy and causes the prodigal to send to anxious loved ones some little token that releases tears which wash away sorrow. The Christmas spirit, President Monson continued the personification, enters dark prison cells, reminding scarred manhood of what might have been, and pointing forward to good days yet to come. It visits the home of pain where lips too weak to speak tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude. In a thousand ways, the Christmas spirit causes "the weary world to look up into the face of God and for a little moment forget the things that are small and wretched."

President Monson said, "I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year.

" What did you get for Christmas?' This is the universal question among children for days following that most blessed holiday of the year. A small girl might reply:I received a doll, a new dress, and a fun game.' A boy might respond: `I received a pocketknife, a basketball, and a truck with lights.' Newly acquired possessions are displayed and admired as Christmas day dawns, then departs.

"The gifts so acquired are fleeting. Dolls break, dresses wear out, and fun games become boring. Pocketknives are lost, basketballs lose their bounce, the trucks are abandoned when the batteries which power them dim and die.

"If we change but one word in our Christmas question, the outcome is vastly different. `What did you give for Christmas?' prompts stimulating thought, causes tender feelings to well up and memory's fires to glow ever brighter.

"Someone has appropriately said: `We make a living by what we get, but we build a life by what we give.' "

President Monson asked, "Is gratitude a part of our lives? Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. It illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world's busy life and become more interested in people than in things. To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas,' we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes theSpirit of Christ.' "

President Monson quoted Mosiah 3:5, 7- 8 and Luke 2:10-11, scriptures pertaining to the Savior's birth. He then said, "The shepherds with haste went to the manger to pay honor to the Christ child. Later wise men from the East journeyed with their precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and presented them to Him.

"With the birth of the babe in Bethlehem, there emerged a great endowment, a power stronger than weapons, a wealth more lasting than the coins of Caesar. This child was to be the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Promised Messiah, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

"Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, He came forth from Heaven to live on earth as mortal man and to establish the Kingdom of God. During His earthly ministry, He taught men the higher law. His glorious gospel reshaped the thinking of the world. He blessed the sick. He caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear. He even raised the dead to life.

"As we follow in His steps today, we, too, will have an opportunity to bless the lives of others. Jesus invites us to give of ourselves. `Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind.' " (D&C 64:34.)

President Monson said opportunities to give of self are limitless, but they are also perishable. "There are hearts to gladden. There are kind words to say. There are gifts to be given. There are deeds to be done. There are souls to be saved," he said.

He referred to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, in which the ghost of Jacob Marley appears to Ebenezer Scrooge. Marley's ghost is bound in chains he forged in life, link by link. He recognized too late that mankind, not money, was his business. He failed to see his fellow beings as he walked among them in mortality, with his eyes turned down, never raising them to look to the Star that led wise men to the Christ child.

"Fortunately, the privilege to render service to others can come to each of us," President Monson said. "If we but look, we too will see a bright, particular star which will guide us to our opportunity."