Transcript of this address.
"Since last we met for the traditional Christmas devotional, much has happened in the world," President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, said Dec. 2. "The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, and the further threat of terrorism, have obscured for now that hoped-for blessing of peace on earth."
Speaking during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional held in the Conference Center, President Monson continued: "The price of freedom has ever been high. Our prayers go out to those whose families feel the absence of loved ones and who experience daily a concern for their well-being. We unite in an earnest prayer to our Father in Heaven that a pattern for peace may be found and that good will toward men may be our divinely bestowed blessing.
"On a brighter note, the good tidings of the gospel have penetrated many political borders which were sealed shut and have sounded in the hearts of those who knew no freedom and waited in darkness for the light of truth. The work of the Lord moves forward. The gospel of Jesus Christ blesses countless lives. To Almighty God we acknowledge His watchful care, His welcome guidance and His heaven-sent gifts, supreme among these the gift of His precious Son and our Redeemer, that we might have the gift of eternal life."
President Monson urged members to not let their lives be dominated by the commercial aspects of Christmas. " 'What did you get for Christmas?' This is the universal question among children for days following that most celebrated holiday of the year. The gifts so acquired are fleeting.
"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.'
"Is gratitude a part of our lives? Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas Spirit."
He added, "The Spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world's busy life and become more interested in people than things."
As President Monson spoke of the birth of Christ, paintings depicting the wondrous event were shown on large video screens in the Conference Center. Those paintings included the shepherds bowing to the light of the angels announcing the birth of the Christ Child and the Nativity.
"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," President Monson affirmed.
"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."
President Monson spoke of an event that transpired during his first year as a bishop, when he received a telephone call from a ward on a more affluent side of Salt Lake City. Representing the youth, the caller asked if there were any in his ward who needed a "Sub for Santa." The then-young Bishop Monson provided her with a family, complete with names, sizes, ages and needs of the children, as well as the parents. "I suggested that if each boy or girl could bring to the family on the appointed night a gift which meant a great deal to him or to her personally, then each would have a Christmas which would long be remembered."
On the appointed night, the ward parking lot filled with several expensive cars. The group then walked to the home on Fourth and Fifth South on Second West in Salt Lake City, singing carols along the way. They entered the home of the family, where one girl handed to one of the daughters a lovely doll she had cherished from childhood. One young man presented to a son a baseball glove bearing the Lou Gehrig signature.
"This choice German family, so recently come from war's deprivation, simply could not believe that all these gifts were for them. 'Danke, danke, danke,' each of them repeated; then in English, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.' Tears flowed; embraces followed.
"We returned to the ward, where we had a prayer together before our guests departed. You know, I don't recall the words of that prayer, but I will never forget the spirit of it. Nor will those young people. They expressed thanks for this most joyous Christmas."
President Monson then told of a father in the Great Depression who criticized his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of expensive gold foil paper while wrapping a box to put under the Christmas tree. "Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father Christmas morning and said, 'This is for you, Daddy.' "
The father, somewhat embarrassed, opened what turned out to be an empty box. " 'Don't you know that when you give someone a present, there's supposed to be something inside it?' The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, 'Daddy, it's not empty. I blew kisses into the box. All for you, Daddy.' The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged her forgiveness. It was said that the man kept that gold box by his bed for years."
President Monson said, "In a sense, each of us has been given a gold box filled with unconditional love from our children, friends, family and our Father in Heaven. There is no more precious possession.
"There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ. It is the time to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart — and our neighbors as ourselves. It is well to remember that he who gives money gives much; he who gives time gives more; but he who gives of himself gives all. Let this be a description of our Christmas gifts."