For me, Christmas just has this air of magic and mystery about it. I am that guy that can never sleep the night before Christmas, because I am just too excited. I remember one year where I thought there was a chance that my brother and I would get this video game called Super Metroid—a kid at school would talk on and on about the different abilities you could get. One ability, called the “moon jump,” allowed you to keep jumping… forever! It was every video gamer’s dream – to be completely unencumbered by earthly limitations and explore the world 100% freely!
I remember the anticipation to get that game was so great that the very second 6am rolled around, I was the first one up, trying to wake everyone else up, and, sure enough, that year we got that game. And we did have fun playing it.
But then we passed the game, and it lost most of its magic, and we moved on to other things. For as much built-up excitement as I had for that present, it wasn’t even close to the Christmas that I remember loving the best.
At the Christmas I remember best, one of us siblings had the idea to clean the entire house from top to bottom before we opened presents at our traditional time. So we got up at midnight and began to clean the living, dining, and family rooms, reorganize some of the cupboards, clean our rooms, even mop the kitchen floor! We didn’t vacuum because we were being as silent as possible. My oldest sister kept reminding us that “we had to be as quiet as Christmas mice!”
We actually didn’t succeed. My dad got up in the middle of the night to go to the restroom and caught us in the middle of our elfish endeavor. But the shock and the surprise and the deep-seeded gratitude that we saw in his eyes… was something that a little boy like me did not soon forget.
He was going through a rough time in his work at the time, and he told me later that instead of waking up with anxiety and muttering how much he hated his work every morning, after that Christmas he would wake up saying, “my life is hard, but I have the best family in the entire world.”
Christmases have come and gone, and to be honest, I can barely remember most of the gifts I received in any really meaningful way. But that memory of my dad saying that to me has come back to me again and again and again in my life and, especially at the time, helped me feel closer to God than I can express.
Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Christmas means giving. The Father gave his Son, and the Son gave his life. Without giving there is no true Christmas” 1
Just as “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), I believe that Christmas and Christmastime was given for us for a specific purpose. I have pondered this for many years, and perhaps the question is best answered differently by each person, but for me, Christmastime is the time of year to really explore and reexamine the extent to which I desire to give to others meaningfully. 2 I believe that the extent to which we really ponder this question, and adjust our lives accordingly, is one of the greatest influences on our happiness.
I have concluded this from observing the best people I have been blessed to know personally. But I have also extrapolated this conclusion from studying the life of Thomas S. Monson. Who can find a better example of happiness than our prophet? From his funny stories about the army or wiggling his ears, to losing snakes and pigeons, 3 to having that genuine grin, or looking at his marvelous marriage, I think we all can agree that he has at least something figured out about happiness. John W. Gallivan, a publisher and member of the Roman Catholic Church in Utah says about him: “If he’s ever met you, Tom Monson is your friend. This warm, genuine, gregarious man doesn’t love his neighbor because that is the mandate; Tom Monson is your friend because he loves mankind. That’s his nature.” 4
Every year Tom Monson deliberately examines how he is living his life, and adjusts accordingly. As part of his goal, he rereads two short stories in the month of December: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke. Both of these stories tell of people who had mighty changes of hearts toward their fellowmen, and is one of the reasons, I believe, why it is so natural for our prophet to serve others: To leave in the middle of meetings because someone in a hospital is on his mind, to take a long detour to the house of an old friend, and to take weeks of his personal vacation days to minister to the needs of 85 widows until the end of their lives, including attending all 85 of their funerals. He has sought an understanding about the spirit of Christmas, and has found what it means to him personally. After so many years of diligent effort, that spirit has become a part of him. And his abundance of happiness is born from the fruits of that effort.
Said the prophet: “To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man. Service to others is akin to duty—the fulfillment of which brings true joy.” 5
This Christmas season, I have complete faith that each of us, unlike my childhood videogame-focused self, are consciously seeking to give gifts to others this holiday season. The question I would like to posit, though, is “to what extent will you commit to becoming a giving person?” (again, in the true, giving-of-yourself sense).
How do we do this?
I’d be lying if I said I had figured this part out yet. Again, it is probably best answered differently by each individual person. The best I can come up with in my case are shortcuts that remind me how I think I should be thinking and behaving, because my actual soul, my actual character is far from the type that thinks of others and serves others so naturally.
One of the things I try to keep on my mind is something President Monson said in 2005, quoting Harold B. Lee:
“You see, when one becomes a [member of the church], he becomes an agent of the Lord. He should think of [living] his [life] as though he were on the Lord’s errand.” 6
Can you imagine that? You wake up every morning saying, “I am an agent of the Lord’s love. It is my mission—my purpose—to seek ways to contribute to the happiness of those around me today.” When I think of this, it instantly conjures up an image of the person I aspire to be. The type that calls someone for no other reason than to tell them that they were on your mind, the type that brings someone baked goods just to tell them you think they are awesome, or the type that makes a house call just because you feel that everyone could use a little more love and validation in their lives. I personally testify and promise supernal blessings and a monumental increase in the amount of peace and joy in your life as you think of such ways to accomplish such a mission.
So this holiday season, as we examine our giving lists, don’t forget to put Jesus Christ on the list. Lucky for us, He has sent messengers to us in the form of prophets and apostles to tell us exactly what He wants:
Elder D. Todd Christofferson said:
“Is there something in you or in your life that is impure or unworthy? When you get rid of it, that is a gift to the Savior. Is there a good habit or quality that is lacking in your life? When you adopt it and make it part of your character, you are giving a gift to the Lord. Sometimes this is hard to do, but would your gifts of repentance and obedience be worthy gifts if they cost you nothing? (2 Sam. 24:24) Don’t be afraid of the effort required. And remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Jesus Christ will help you make of yourself a worthy gift. His grace will make you clean, even holy. Eventually, you will become like Him, ‘perfect in Christ.’ (See Moro. 10:32–33. ) ” 7
I testify that God is aware of us, that He is in the details of our lives, that He loves us, that He anxiously hopes that we will see and respond to that love, and that He has given us the tools to be supremely happy in this life, and that, through the process of time, actually be as happy as the scriptures promise and as President Monson is. That is the spirit of Christmas, which, as the prophet reminds us, is really the spirit of Christ. 8
- Gordon B. Hinckley, “What Shall I Do Then with Jesus Which Is Called Christ?” Ensign, Dec. 1983, 3 ↩
- I think Ralph Waldo Emerson had the right idea about what giving meaningfully could mean. Said he, “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself to others.” ↩
- http://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/11/peace-be-still ↩
- See this article. ↩
- “Messages of Inspiration from President Monson,” Church News, July 5, 2008, 2 ↩
- As quoted by Thomas S. Monson, “The Sacred Call of Service,” Ensign, May 2005, 54 ↩
- D. Todd Christofferson, “When Thou Art Converted,” Ensign, May 2004, 11 ↩
- See this article. ↩
Originally Published at http://www.thereturnedmissionary.com/be-the-lords-agent-for-christmas-our-gift-to-him/