The Christmas season is here again, and I have been stressing out about decorating the house, finding gifts and keeping it all within our budget. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. When my children were younger, I loved seeing the magic and wonder through their little eyes. They were so excited to see the lights and the trees—and especially the gifts on Christmas morning. The excitement all December long was almost palpable. As they get older, I hope that their love of Christmas never fades. The answer, I believe, is found in what we are focusing on. President Thomas S. Monson said:
I … have witnessed … what has become over the years the annual commercialization of Christmas. I am saddened to see Christmas becoming less and less about Christ and more and more about marketing and sales, parties and presents.
And yet, Christmas is what we make of it. Despite all the distractions, we can see to it that Christ is at the center of our celebration.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my husband and I strive to follow the Savior and teach our children of Him. But it is too easy for the true meaning of Christmas to get lost in all of the tinsel and wrapping paper. President Boyd K. Packer said:
I love Christmas. There is a spirit at Christmastime. It descends upon the world—not just to members of the Church but across the world—a testimony and a witness that Jesus is the Christ.
Christmas is all about Christ. When we lose the true meaning of Christmas, we also lose the spirit of the season. President Monson said:
Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. 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. To catch the real meaning of the “spirit of Christmas,” we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the “Spirit of Christ.”
The magic and wonder of Christmas are not found in the lights, trees, ornaments, decorations or brightly wrapped gifts, they are found in the birth of the babe of Bethlehem and in the spirit that He brings to the world. Little children easily find the magic of the season because they exhibit the attributes of Christ. When we see things through their eyes, we can “become as little children” and find the magic and wonder of the season, too.
Without Guile or Hypocrisy
Children are without guile or hypocrisy, as was the Savior Himself. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said:
To be without guile is to be free of deceit, cunning, hypocrisy, and dishonesty in thought or action. To beguile is to deceive or lead astray…. A person without guile is a person of innocence, honest intent, and pure motives, whose life reflects the simple practice of conforming his daily actions to principles of integrity. …
As parents know, little children are, by their nature, without guile. They speak the thoughts of their minds without reservation or hesitance as we have learned as parents when they embarrass us at times. They do not deceive. They set an example of being without guile.
I learn much from my children about this. Coming home recently from a day at the ski hill, we passed a car that was stuck in a snowdrift on the side of the road. As we drove by, my kids said, “Mom! Why aren’t you stopping to help that guy?” Their first thought was to help out someone in need. I was thinking in more practical terms, and I didn’t know if I had a tow rope with me.
Children are inherently without guile or hypocrisy. They don’t look for ulterior motives in others, and they don’t have their own. This is just as the Savior is, and this is how the Savior would have us be. When we view Christmas through this lens, we can see the everyday miracles of those who do stop to help just because someone is in need. We see the goodness and beauty around us, and we can feel the spirit of the season.
Meek and Humble
Children are, inherently, meek and humble. These are also attributes of Jesus Christ. The Savior’s birth illustrates the depth of His humility and meekness. The Savior of the world was not born in a lavish home—He was not even born at home. Rather, Mary and Joseph were miles away from home, paying their taxes in a strange city where they could not even find a room in an inn. Of this holy scene, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said,
… They had to descend from human company to a stable, a grotto full of animals, there to bring forth the Son of God.
I wonder what emotions Joseph might have had as he cleared away the dung and debris. I wonder if he felt the sting of tears as he hurriedly tried to find the cleanest straw and hold the animals back. I wonder if he wondered: “Could there be a more unhealthy, a more disease-ridden, a more despicable circumstance in which a child could be born? Is this a place fit for a king? Should the mother of the Son of God be asked to enter the valley of the shadow of death in such a foul and unfamiliar place as this? Is it wrong to wish her some comfort? Is it right He should be born here?”
But I am certain Joseph did not mutter and Mary did not wail. They knew a great deal and did the best they could. …
I have wondered if this young woman, something of a child herself, here bearing her first baby, might have wished her mother, or an aunt, or her sister, or a friend, to be near her through the labor. Surely the birth of such a son as this should command the aid and attention of every midwife in Judea! … But it was not to be so. With only Joseph’s inexperienced assistance, [Mary] herself brought forth her firstborn son, wrapped him in the little clothes she had knowingly brought on her journey, and perhaps laid him on a pillow of hay.
But there is strength and power in the Savior’s humility. Elder Holland said,
Perhaps these parents knew even then that in the beginning of his mortal life, as well as in the end, this baby son born to them would have to descend beneath every human pain and disappointment. He would do so to help those who also felt they had been born without advantage. …
At this focal point of all human history, a point illuminated by a new star in the heavens revealed for just such a purpose, probably no other mortal watched—none but a poor young carpenter, a beautiful virgin mother, and silent stabled animals who had not the power to utter the sacredness they had seen.
The story of the Christ child’s birth is profound and beautiful not from all the trappings and bows, but from the lack of it. The scene full of such abject poverty radiates the light of the Son of God. Young children find the joy and wonder of this simple, yet profound, scene.
The Spirit of Unconditional Giving
I have to admit that my favorite part of Christmas is the giving of gifts. I send my kids to school with tokens of appreciation for their teachers and the front office staff. Some of my kids are shy about approaching these adults, but they all feel the spirit in the giving. Children love to spread this joy of giving at Christmastime. My Christmas tree is full of homemade ornaments that my kids were so excited for us to unwrap. This spirit of unconditional giving is the spirit of Christ. President Howard W. Hunter said,
Never did the Savior give in expectation of receiving. He gave freely and lovingly, and His gifts were of inestimable value. He gave eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf, and legs to the lame; cleanliness to the unclean, wholeness to the infirm, and breath to the lifeless. His gifts were opportunity to the downtrodden, freedom to the oppressed, forgiveness to the repentant, hope to the despairing, and light in the darkness. He gave us His love, His service, and His life. And most important, He gave us and all mortals resurrection, salvation, and eternal life.
We should strive to give as He gave. To give of oneself is a holy gift. We give as a remembrance of all the Savior has given.
We can never match the gifts of the Savior, and that’s OK. The important thing is that we give. The greatest gifts are those that come from the heart. I love the age when my children discover the joy of giving. My youngest is still at the stage where he wraps up his toys and gives them out as gifts to me and others in our family. His eyes light up when we unwrap one of his treasures. It is his way of showing his love for his family members. Each of my children has passed through this stage, and I love it. As President Hunter said,
Christmas is a celebration, and there is no celebration that compares with the realization of its true meaning—with the sudden stirring of the heart that has extended itself unselfishly in the things that matter most.
The things that matter most are the gifts of oneself. Freely forgiving another. Showing compassion and love to those in need. Extending a hand of friendship to someone who is struggling. These are the greatest gifts because they are the gifts of Christ.
Spirit of Christ in the Magic of Christmas
The true magic and wonder of Christmas are found in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said:
Think of the simple yet dignified way our Heavenly Father chose to honor the birth of His Son. On that holy night, angels appeared not to the rich but to shepherds. The Christ child was born not in a mansion but in a manger. He was wrapped not in silk but in swaddling clothes.
The simplicity of that first Christmas foreshadowed the life of the Savior. Though He had created the earth, walked in realms of majesty and glory, and stood at the right hand of the Father, He came to earth as a helpless child. His life was a model of modest nobility, and He walked among the poor, the sick, the downcast, and the heavy laden.
Though He was a king, He cared neither for the honors nor the riches of men. His life, His words, and His daily activities were monuments of simple yet profound dignity.
Humility, meekness, forgiveness, love unfeigned and without guile are the gifts of a King. They are His attributes, and emulating them will bring us closer to Him. The Savior taught that the best way to do this is to become as a little child. (See Matthew 18:2-5.) We can learn so much from children—especially during the Christmas season. Sister Rosemary M. Wixom said:
… Children invite the magic of Christmas into our hearts. We miss something if we don’t see Christmas through a child’s eyes, for children see the lights, they hear the music, and they smell the fragrance of Christmas trees and candy canes with real anticipation. We see their rosy cheeks and little noses pressed against the glass of store windows as they dream of Christmas morning, and their tiny fingers count the days until December 25. Parents also count the days until December 25. They dream of being ready for Christmas morning as they plan and create surprises for their children.
Christmas only lasts for a day, and children are only young for a few short years. But it’s important for us to remember that the magic of Christmas doesn’t end on December 26, nor does it end with the teen years. Sister Wixon said,
The wonder and awe of Christmas is just a beginning. Christmas reminds us that the babe born in Bethlehem has given us purpose for living, and what happens next to us largely depends on how we embrace our Savior, Jesus Christ, and follow Him. Every day we invite His Spirit into our lives. We see light in others; we hear the joy of children’s voices that bring hope and anticipation for the future. We look for reasons to gather, to include, to serve, and to lift, while we learn what it really means to know our Savior, Jesus Christ. We find ourselves counting the days until the events in our lives when we more intently feel His influence—for example, the birth of a baby, a child’s baptism, a missionary departing, a marriage solemnized in the temple, and partaking of the sacrament each week. Through Christlike and childlike faith we seek Him and we feel His influence.
When we see through the eyes of a child, we can see the wonder and magic in the Christmas season. And if we continue to humble ourselves, we can keep the spirit of Christmas—which is the spirit of Christ—with us throughout the year and through the years.