One of Elder Patrick Kearon’s favorite things to do during the holiday season is to sit by the Christmas tree, with all other lights turned off, and let his vision go blurry as he stares at the tree covered in tiny white lights and shiny red ornaments.
“As my eyes let the lights move in and out of focus on the tree, I am reminded once again of the divine mission of our Savior, which comes sharply into focus in these still moments,” said Elder Kearon during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional on Sunday, Dec. 8.
These quiet, reflective moments can be all too rare during the busy Christmas season. Schedules over the next two and a half weeks until Christmas Day will fill up with parties, concerts and gatherings, and sometimes “the expectations we impose upon ourselves actually take away from the joy of the season rather than magnify it,” he said.
Elder Kearon of the Presidency of the Seventy encouraged Church members to prayerfully renew their focus on the Savior Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the world, and seek to do His works during the Christmas season.
“We must be careful not to be so busy and tired from trying to do too much that we miss the focus of the season and are unable to figuratively kneel at the manger, worship the newborn King and bring our own personal gift to Him,” he said.
Joy has little to do with circumstances and everything to do with the focus of life, he said, quoting President Russell M. Nelson. “When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation … and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening — or not happening — in our lives.”
“What are your hopes for this Christmas season? What are your sincere desires for yourself and your loved ones as you gather together for this most holy of holy days?” President Kearon asked.
“Is your schedule too packed? Are certain cultural traditions and pressures causing you undue stress and preventing you from receiving and reflecting the joy of Christ’s birth? How might you simplify your calendar this Christmas and plan better for next?”
“As this Christmas approaches, let us do more of what matters and much less of what doesn’t.”
To young mothers and all, Elder Kearon said, “Perhaps this year you don’t send the Christmas cards, or you let go of some other media-inspired expectation you have of yourself. The cost in either time or money will take away some of your ability to focus on the Savior and feel His Christmas joy.”
To young fathers and all, he said, “Perhaps this year you have a simplified Christmas with more homemade gifts and gifts of service, because the pressure and cost of trying to buy it all is too great — and unnecessary — and it will take away some of your ability to focus on the Savior and feel His Christmas peace.”
He extended an invitation to all to consider temple service in place of another activity that “may not help you in your longing for Christmas stillness.”
“As this Christmas approaches, let us do more of what matters and much less of what doesn’t,” he said.
To those experiencing hardship this season, Elder Kearon said, “believe that there is a particular gift in this season for you. … Focus in on His great gift — the knowledge of who you truly are and the understanding that trials here are fleeting and that joy here is just the beginning of joy to come.”