“Who Needs Me at Christmas?”

Next to the Christmas tree was not the girl’s bike I’d wanted, but a secondhand boy’s bike my father had repainted. Trying to hold back the tears, I thought, “At least I’ll be able to tell the kids at school that I got something ‘big.’” As a child I never quite got beyond shame and self to the true meaning of Christmas.

Later, as a teenager, I sang with a group, and Christmas was our busiest time. We sang at company parties, church parties, club parties—and I loved the glamour and the compliments. “This,” I told myself, “is the real meaning and feeling of Christmas.” I was wrong again.

Then one Christmas we decided to sing at the hospital. Each of us bought an inexpensive gift for a patient, and we sang privately to individuals who hadn’t had any visitors. While we were singing, one of us would give the gift to that person.

All the patients seemed responsive except Edgar. He was an old man with tension, fear, and anxiety in his face. He wouldn’t look at us at first, but after we sang a couple of songs, he started watching out of the corner of his eye. When I took the little present to him, he broke down and sobbed so hard his whole body shook. Then he said softly, “You’re the only friend I have.” None of us sang the rest of the song, only hummed it in very broken tones.

Christmas was never the same after that. I forgot all about the presents I never received or the places I never went. I still remember and try to re-create the feeling of peace I felt that year. And I would like to help my children understand the true meaning of Christmas, to know the joy I felt when a special child of God, sick, frightened, and alone, said, “You’re the only friend I have.” Karen F. Church, Orem, Utah

[illustration] Illustrated by Fred Harrison

In Honor of the Lord

We had invited a special guest to join us for the home evening just prior to Christmas. We sat in our living room and I told her why she was there: “Marie, we have watched your actions and as a family have observed that you are one who loves the Savior. Since we could not invite him to join us in person as we celebrate his birth, we decided to invite someone who is striving to be like him. Marie, we chose you.”

Marie is a lovely single woman who, in spite of problems of her own, moves about quietly doing good for others. Tears welled up in her eyes as each of our children told her of the Christlike behavior he or she had observed in her.

But when it was our eight-year-old son’s turn his heart was so full he couldn’t speak. Earlier in the year he had needed extra tutoring in reading, and Marie had worked with him through the summer upgrading his phonics and comprehension skills—and she refused any payment for it. Now, several months later, he was finally finding success in school.

Everyone in the room sensed the deep feelings our son was trying to communicate. So sacred was this moment that it seemed as though Jesus had come to be with us after all.

The spiritual feeling we all experienced that Christmas helped us determine that each year thereafter we would invite a Christlike person or family into our home to honor the Savior at Christmastime. By so doing we have been inspired to strive more diligently to be like him every day of our lives. Joy Saunders Lundberg, Provo, Utah

Taking the Frenzy Out of Christmas

For many years, we tried to do too much at Christmastime. We gave too many gifts, attended too many parties, stayed up too late, and generally overcommitted ourselves in too many directions. But now we’ve simplified our routine—Christmas is much more casual and enjoyable for all.

For one thing, we follow the principle of selective neglect—we don’t plan to do everything every year. Some years we send cards; some years we don’t. Some years we have sent gifts to out-of-town relatives in February. (That’s two months late, not ten months early.)

Christmas is best when we try to show our love for each other. We make small gifts or goodies for teachers and neighbors—nothing spectacular. We consider such items indications of our love, not entries in a competition. And drawing names for special good deeds and gifts for family members has been more successful than giving myriads of unneeded (and often unappreciated) gifts as in the past.

One year we wanted to make a gingerbread house as we had done in other years. But when all the pieces were baked and the candy was ready for decorating, we decided to eat it right then—before it was assembled. My old self would have been outraged. My simplified self said, Why not? Surely the Savior would be more pleased with our family laughing and working together and eating its lopsided cookie pieces than he ever would be by a prize-winning gingerbread house, probably done entirely by mother so nothing would be askew. One of my Christmas goals is to never say or even feel that I will be relieved to have Christmas over with. If I feel that way, I have failed. Christmas must not be a dreaded obligation to be waded through somehow; it is an opportunity to remember and celebrate the birth of our Savior by following his example of love. Bonnie L. Goodliffe, Salt Lake City, Utah

Loving the Savior: Our Christmas Key

When I was searching for a way to teach our children more about the Savior as Christmas approached, I was touched by some of his own instructions on how to draw closer to him:

“For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

“Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:35–36, 40).

During family home evening, with our help, the children studied the scripture line by line and suggested people with the specific needs mentioned by the Savior: Four fatherless children received a lovingly constructed gingerbread house and fruit baskets. Their sick aunt, two months in a convalescent center, got cheerful drawings and a newsy visit.

Grammy and Grandpa in the mission field were sent copies of the Book of Mormon, each with a family picture and personal testimony for those “thirsting” after righteousness. An uncle the children had never met had just moved into the neighborhood. He stopped being a stranger with his first shared Sunday dinner.

Another aunt, retarded from birth, beamed through a shopping trip with us. A friend, imprisoned in loneliness and isolation by mental illness, found herself reaching out when four youngsters clamored for her lap and proudly handed her the loaf of bread they had mostly made themselves.

Line upon line, we learned to show love for others and felt the blessing of Christ’s love that Christmas. Esther Jane Ward, Salt Lake City, Utah

Our Christmas Eve Book

Although Christmas day in our family means excitement, surprises from Santa, visits, gifts, and goodies, we’ve always reserved Christmas Eve as a sacred time with the scriptures. When our children were very young, I realized I needed something to keep their interest, so I created a special Christmas Eve book of my own.

I began by choosing my favorite Christmas scriptures from Isaiah, Luke, and Matthew. Next, since my drawing ability is limited, I found the loveliest Christmas card I could for each section of scripture (about thirteen in all). I then chose a Christmas carol that related to each scripture. Finally, I mounted scripture, pictures, and songs on 8 1/2-by-11-inch pages, covered them with plastic, and put them in a three-ring binder.

The product is definitely “down-home” and folksy, but the combination of scripture, pictures, and carols seems to be the magic formula. Now the written sections, illustrated with pictures, are interrupted at just the right time by carols.

Our children are now eight and eleven, but our Christmas Eve book is still a special tradition. We often invite grandparents in to share a Christmas Eve dinner and our program. We pass the book and give each person a turn reading the scriptures. Marilyn M. Smolka, Salt Lake City, Utah