In Defense of Homemade

When I reflect on my childhood Christmases, I remember the family parties with all the cousins, the smell of pine and candles, and the festive food. I honestly don’t remember any of the gifts—except the homemade ones.

Because my father was an excellent carpenter and my mother a fine seamstress, Christmas always meant homemade gifts. Why should it be the small cupboard, the dollhouse, the embroidered dress, and the doll clothes that stand out in my memory? Why do I still have all these gifts—even the embroidered dress? Perhaps I kept them all because, even as a child, I sensed that someone had spent hours lovingly making them just for me.

A homemade gift was, and still is, a true gift of self and an expression of love.Ruth N. Dickson, Salt Lake City, Utah

Gospel Light

I missed the lights. Lights weren’t part of the Christmas celebration in the country where I was serving my mission, and I yearned for home and family traditions. I thought of my family surrounded by light—firelight; colored lights on the streets, in the trees, and on the housetops; and candlelight on the table. I thought of them sitting around the fireplace near the Christmas tree and felt a wave of homesickness. My package from them hadn’t arrived yet, and it seemed that Christmas existed only in my mind.

In this condition, I welcomed an invitation to spend Christmas with a convert family and the companion with whom I had taught them, in a small town a short distance away. We obtained permission from the mission president to go together while our present companions stayed at the mission home. Greeting my former companion brought a spark of warmth to my heart, and we decided to spend the afternoon of Christmas Eve tracting on the way to our destination.

Behind the first door we knocked on was a minister. He listened patiently, but told us that though he led a congregation and professed a belief in God, he didn’t really have a conviction that God exists. Our attempts to share the gospel with him revealed his mind to be closed and locked.

We next met a serviceman who scoffed at our message. Only the immature, he said, believe in a life after death. He thought Christ was merely a myth.

Next we met a wealthy widow. She was apathetic about our message—“too old to change her ways.” She told us that we could live our way, and she would live hers. We left her home at dusk, feeling chilled—not just from the frosty temperature, but from the cold indifference of those with whom we had spoken. It was a thirty-mile ride to our converts’ home, and we rode in silence, too discouraged to talk.

As we trudged up the long path to the small, modest home, we felt sad. The afternoon had taken its toll. Before, we had always come to their door with joy and enthusiasm about our message. Somehow it seemed wrong for us to return weighted with loneliness and discouragement.

We knocked hesitantly. Then the door burst open and there was radiant light all around us—tiny white lights on a small artificial tree purchased especially for us in an American shop, candles burning on the table, and a flame in a little gas burner. But the most beautiful light in the room radiated from the faces of three wonderful convert families who had gathered together to welcome two lonely missionaries back “home”!

Tears blurred my vision and warmth flooded my heart as I realized that the light of Christmas is not found in bulbs or flames, but in the light of the gospel that warms the soul.Robert Neilson, Salt Lake City, Utah, as told to Sara Neilson, Sierra Madre, California

[illustrations] Illustrated by Brent Christison