At this Christmas, there is a reason for much hope

"I wish that each of us will have a fuller, richer appreciation for all that the great gift of the Savior's birth, life and death means to us and our eternal happiness," said President James E. Faust during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional Dec. 3.

"Christmas is a season of hope," he declared.

"Christmas is such a wonderful time. Our relationships with family and friends are strengthened and revitalized. . . . All of us who have lived a long time think back on the happy Christmases of our childhood."

President Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, recalled that when he was a boy he got a "Flexible Flyer" sled one Christmas. He then read a story written by Sister Aney Chatterton of Idaho, who has since passed away, of an experience she had with a Flexible Flyer 68 years ago.

" 'The year was 1932 and the nation's economy was at an all-time low. . . . We were experiencing a time that was to become known as the Great Depression. . . . As Christmastime approached that year, we didn't feel the excitement that usually comes with the holiday season. We understood about the Depression and knew there would be very little for any of us.' "

Sister Chatterton recalled how every child, however, had one desire — to own a Flexible Flyer, the "Rolls-Royce of all sleds" that had just appeared on the market. One day after school, they all marched down to the hardware store to see the new sled. They asked the price and were told $4.98.

" 'Our hearts sank. But that didn't stop us from dreaming the impossible dream. I awoke early Christmas morning . . . and we all went to the living room where the tree was. There underneath the tree, with a big red ribbon tied around it, was a shiny new sled — a Flexible Flyer!

" 'I let out a startled cry and dropped to the floor, sliding my fingers along the satiny finish, moving the handlebars back and forth, and finally cradling the precious sled in my arms. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I looked up at my parents and asked, "Where did you get the money for it?" My mother wiped away a tear with the corner of her apron and replied, "Surely you believe in Santa Claus." ' "

Later that day, the little girl's father took her and her new sled to town where the entire community had turned out. To her surprise, it seemed every boy and girl had a Flexible Flyer. Main Street was roped off, and the excited children played until dark, going home hungry, cold, but happy.

A few days later, Sister Chatterton was in the barn when she noticed that Rosie was missing from her stall. She asked her dad where the animal was and he replied that he had to sell her because she had cut herself on a fence.

" 'Suddenly I knew. Rosie had been sold to buy my Flexible Flyer. She was the best and would bring more money; and my parents had given the best they had — for me. I had always understood that my parents treasured me dearly, but until that moment I had never known a love so great. . . .' "

The next day, she gathered with her friends, who related similar stories of sacrifices by their parents to get the children the new sleds.

" 'Then we began to realize how the entire community had united in one monumental effort of sharing, trading, peddling, extra working and, most of all, caring, to buy the Flexible Flyers. When school resumed and we marched into our classroom and stood by our desks waiting for the teacher to say those familiar words, "You may be seated," it seemed we all stood just a bit taller. . . . Inside we had all changed. It was as if we had all committed ourselves to be the best we could be, to make our parents and community proud of us. It was the only way we knew to say "thanks." ' "

As he concluded his remarks, President Faust said: "The angel who heralded the Savior's birth stated that His coming was to bring great joy to all people. The blessings which flow from the Atonement and the Resurrection are available to us each day and throughout all eternity. At this Christmas, I believe there is much reason for hope, for greater days ahead despite our personal challenges or difficulties, our worldwide problems, and we can take comfort in the knowledge that the Savior is leading this Church through our prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley."