Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit, said President Thomas S. Monson Dec. 7.
"Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed," said President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency. "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 in things."
Speaking during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, President Monson said that to catch the real meaning of the "Spirit of Christmas," one needs only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the "Spirit of Christ."
"When we have the spirit of Christmas, we remember Him whose birth we commemorate at this season of the year," he said. "We contemplate that first Christmas day."
Times change, years speed by, but Christmas continues sacred, said President Monson.
"In this marvelous dispensation of the fulness of times, our opportunities to give of ourselves are indeed 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."
President Monson then recounted the experience of Margaret and Nellie Kisilevich during a special Christmas in the 1930s when they gave a Christmas gift to their neighbors, the Kozicki family.
Margaret and her sister lived in Two Hills, Alberta, Canada — a farming community populated largely by Ukrainian and Polish immigrants who generally had large families but who were very poor. It was the Great Depression.
Margaret's family consisted of her parents and 15 children. Because her mother was industrious and her father enterprising, their home was always warm; despite their humble circumstances, they were never hungry.
Alberta winters were cold, long and hard and the Kisilevich girls noticed the poverty of their neighbors, the Kozicki family.
"Margaret and Nellie decided to invite the Kozicki family, by way of the children, for Christmas dinner. They also decided not to tell anyone in their family of the invitation.
"Christmas morning dawned, and everyone in Margaret's family was busy with the preparations for the midday feast. . . . Margaret and Nellie were in charge of getting the fresh vegetables ready, and their mother asked them why they were peeling so many potatoes, carrots and beets. But they just kept peeling.
"Their father was the first to notice a team of horses and a sleigh packed with 13 people coming down their lane. . . . He asked his wife, 'Why are the Kozicki's coming here?' Her response to him was, 'I don't know.' "
Margaret's father helped Mr. Kozicki stable the horses. Mrs. Kozicki embraced Margaret's mother and thanked her for the Christmas invitation.
"It was a glorious feast, made better by the sharing of it. After everyone had eaten, they sang Christmas carols together, and then the adults settled down for another chat."
Margaret and Nellie took the children into the bedroom and pulled out boxes filled with hand-me-downs they had been given by their mother's merchant friends. "It was heavenly chaos, with an instant fashion show and everyone picking whatever clothes and footwear he or she wanted. . . . Early in the afternoon, before it got too cold and dark with the setting sun, Margaret's family bid farewell to their friends, who left well-fed, well-clothed and well-shod."
President Monson said Margaret and Nellie didn't tell anyone about their invitation, until Margaret Kisilevich Wright's 77th Christmas when she shared the story with her family in 1998.
"She said it was her very best Christmas ever," said President Monson. "If we are to have the very best Christmas ever, we must listen for the sound of sandaled feet. We must reach out for the Carpenter's hand. . . .
"One line of holy writ contains a fitting tribute to our Lord and Savior, of whom it was said, 'He went about doing good . . . for God was with him.' May we follow in His footsteps.