Season of joy

Christmas is a time to count our many blessings, said President James E. Faust Dec. 7 during the annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional.

"Christmas is a special time," said President Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency. "The season seems to bring out the best in all of us."

Recalling the winter of 1948-49 in Salt Lake City, President Faust spoke of an incident that happened while he served as a counselor in a bishopric. That winter was especially cold.

"It snowed and snowed, and the wind blew and blew," he said. "Deep snow drifts covered the roads, even the tops of the fences. The roads were impassable. Those in our ward who lived down lanes and off the main road were snowbound for days."

Making matters worse, he said, water pipes froze and the storm knocked down power lines.

"As a bishopric we were concerned that many of our members might be getting short of food, might not have enough warm clothing or might not have sufficient wood or coal to keep the fireplace providing warmth. . . . So we borrowed a team of horses and a sleigh from one of our members."

They loaded up food from a store the bishop owned and set out.

"On one of our trips we went with a well-loaded sleigh to the home of a faithful convert family. The father had been out of work for some time because of the severe weather. We knew this family was suffering and in need, but they were also so proud and self-sufficient. They would never ask for help. . . .

"The family was happy to see us, but I shall never forget the discomfort of the father and the mother as we carried the turkey, a sack of flour, sugar and other staples into the kitchen. The children looked at the items on the table with eager anticipation. Their parents were grateful but also embarrassed to receive this help because they did not think of themselves as poor.

"The father protested and said, 'We are getting along all right. There are others who need this help more than we do.'

"It touched my heart deeply to think that those parents, whose family was in such need, were thinking of others whose situation was worse than theirs. Our caring bishop assured them that others in need would also be cared for. This good family weathered this challenge very well. They raised a noble family. They were totally faithful and committed all the days of their lives. Knowing them made me want to try harder and do much better."

President Faust said the family he visited so many years ago reminded him that Christmas is more enjoyable when people think of the needs of others before they think of their own.

"When the Savior sacrificed His life, He was thinking of all others who have ever lived or who will ever live on this earth. He was not thinking of Himself when He went to Gethsemane, endured Golgotha and triumphed over the tomb."

At this Christmas season, said President Faust, Church members celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ — just as he did with a horse and sleigh so many years ago.

"Christmas traditions change over time," he said. "However, it is always a season of joy and happiness. In all the busyness of the holidays, each of us should spend time in solitude reflecting upon the supernal gifts provided to us by the Savior's life and ministry. He was born for everyone. His death benefited everyone. He atoned for the sins of all mankind and, through His resurrection, liberated all mankind from death. Indeed 'his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.'"

Christmas is not only a celebration of a Father sending His Son to be born in a stable, but also a celebration of the Atonement and Resurrection, President Faust concluded.

"The challenge is not only for us to know about the Savior, but really come to know Him."