Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would “preach good tidings unto the meek [and] bind up the brokenhearted” (Isa. 61:1). There are many today in need of good tidings, including a wife whose husband lies ill, a missionary far from home, an elderly woman suffering with ill health, and those who are searching for the light of the gospel.
As we celebrate the Savior’s birth this Christmas season, stories like the following remind us of the many ways His life and Atonement bless our lives. The “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10), which the shepherds received more than 2,000 years ago, are unto “all of the sons and daughters of God of all generations of time,” says President Gordon B. Hinckley (see this issue, page 16). Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, lives! “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).
Christmas Bells through the Fog
Christmas dawned on a day as murky as my mood. A dense fog had crept into the Italian city where my husband’s military assignment had taken us. My two daughters were not very excited about the few gifts they had received. Their thoughts, like mine, were with their father, who was in a military hospital in Germany.
“It doesn’t seem like Christmas without Daddy here,” eight-year-old Diana commented. I nodded, thinking about all the seasonal cheer we were missing—decorations, family parties, holiday feasts.
“Well, at least some of us are together,” said 17-year-old Athena quietly.
When my husband called from the hospital in Germany, I talked to him briefly and then handed the phone to Diana. To my surprise, she refused to speak to him, even though she hadn’t seen or talked to him in weeks. Confused by her reaction, I ran the events of the past month through my mind.
Some weeks earlier my husband, Ed, began complaining of pain in his left forearm. In no time it swelled and became stiff. The doctors hospitalized him and gave him antibiotics intravenously. But his hand became useless.
I arranged for our oldest son to stay with his grandmother for Christmas instead of coming home from college. Our three other children tried to help me get ready for Christmas, but the spirit of the season could not penetrate my anxiety.
One night was especially bad. I couldn’t sleep, so at 3:30 A.M. I called the hospital. The nurse said Ed was in such pain he was pacing the floor. Suddenly I knew he needed a priesthood blessing. Since the hour was so early, I hesitated to call our home teacher, Bob DeWitt. But Bob arrived on his own at about 5:00 A.M. He called another priesthood holder and hurried to the hospital. Bob felt prompted to promise Ed he would eventually regain the full use of his hand.
Moments after the blessing, a group of doctors conferred around Ed’s bed. They couldn’t explain what was causing the damage to his arm. Although in pain, Ed commented that it was too bad the X ray couldn’t show more than just the bone in his arm; it would help if they could see the tissue as well. Ed’s words startled the doctors, and they decided to use an ultrasound machine to look at his arm in a manner not commonly used. The procedure was later written up in medical journals.
Using the ultrasound in this new way, they located a large pocket of infection deep within Ed’s forearm. They operated immediately.
“It’s lucky we located the abscess when we did,” the surgeon explained to me later. “Even a few more hours could have cost Ed the use of his arm completely. As it is, I doubt he will ever be able to use his fingers again.”
The doctors transferred Ed to a large hospital in Germany, and I accompanied him while friends took care of our children. Ed’s condition became worse; the bone became infected, and antibiotics were unexplainably ineffective.
Days went by in a blur as Ed underwent multiple surgeries. Ed insisted I fly home to be with the children for Christmas.
So here it was Christmas morning. I held my youngest daughter close, still not sure why she had refused to speak with her father. Finally she hesitantly took the phone, and within seconds, her face was wreathed in a smile.
“I thought Daddy was dying,” she explained later. “He was so sick when he left.”
Holding both daughters tightly, I smiled through my tears. Faintly, through the fog, the tolling of Christmas bells reached us. I reflected on the gift we commemorate each Christmas—our Savior, who redeemed us from eternal death and made eternal families possible. I realized that through the Lord’s Atonement and the ordinances of the temple, we could be together forever.
Ed spent nine months in hospitals—and three long, difficult years passed before he recovered completely. But we never questioned that his priesthood blessing would be fulfilled or that our greatest blessings came through the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I listened to the bells that Christmas morning in Italy, I finally welcomed Christmas into my heart.
Papá Noel in Perú
From the other side of the room, I could see the Bolívar Ward Primary presidency discussing something rather intently and occasionally glancing at Elder Megran and me. Soon, Sister Rojas, the Primary president, approached us. I thought perhaps a nonmember child had attended Primary that day, and the presidency had a referral for us.
“Elder, we were wondering if you would be Papá Noel at the stake Primary Christmas program,” she said.
“Sure,” I responded, before I could fully comprehend what was being asked of me. It was the last question I had expected.
A few days later I was wearing a red suit and hat, black boots, a fake beard, and a backpack stuffed with clothing and worn backward to give Santa some weight. After some of the other wards performed, the curtain opened to reveal the Bolívar Ward Primary children.
A chorus of angels dressed in white gowns and halos, Wise Men, shepherds with their sheep, and of course José and María sang “Angels We Have Heard on High” (Hymns, number 203). Each child required at least three breaths to get through each “gloria.” Baby Jesus lying in the manger was the center of it all.
Then, with a little shove from Sister Rojas, I grabbed the reins and ushered my two little “reindeer” onto the stage. Amazingly, I managed to remember all the words I was supposed to say—“Feliz Navidad! Ho, Ho, Ho!” The audience cheered and applauded. What the audience didn’t see, after the curtain closed, was all 25 children tackling me and piling upon me, thanking me for being part of their Christmas.
Hearing these children sing praises to the Christ child, I thought of that wonderful scene almost 2,000 years before when the resurrected Christ gathered the children and took them “one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. And when he had done this he wept. … And they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; … and the angels did minister unto them” (3 Ne. 17:21–24).
These children helped me understand to a fuller extent why the Lord wept when He was with those little ones. They showed me what King Benjamin meant when he said we ought to become “submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit … even as a child” (Mosiah 3:19).
Santa Claus is well known in Perú because of North American movies and television specials. But it is the Savior who makes these children’s holiday a holy day. He is the reason for the season. Indeed, He is the reason for all seasons. He makes Himself available year round, offering us His gifts of faith, of love, of hope in the Resurrection and eternal life.
Twelve Days of Christmas
Something special happened when our stake in Santiago, Chile, assigned the young women and their leaders in La Florida Third Ward to participate in a “12 days of Christmas” activity. Each day for 12 days we went to visit Sister Brigida, a sister in our ward who is more than 80 years old and can no longer come to church. Each time we went, we took her and her young granddaughters something different. To prepare for our visits, the young women and their mothers baked bread or cookies and made or purchased small gifts.
Sister Brigida’s home did not have many of life’s comforts, but it was full of love. The warmth and kindness she extended to us was touching, and it made a strong impression on the girls. They still remember how beautiful Christmas was and how good they felt as they gave of their time.
Even though I hadn’t asked the young women to bring a gift for our visit on Christmas Eve, I saw with great joy that each one had prepared a small, personal gift for Sister Brigida and each of her granddaughters. Many of the young women cried that night as they embraced Sister Brigida. The gratitude and love on her face was her gift to us.
That Christmas Eve, we forgot about presents and shopping and found the real meaning of Christmas. We discovered that service to others is a celebration of love and life—the way the Savior lived His life.
My Awakening to Truth
I was born in 1964 near Paris to parents who helped me gain a basic understanding of Christianity. I remember one Sunday in particular when I was seven. On our way to church, my mother talked to me about Jesus Christ. As she described Him, I felt I had known Him for a long time. That was the beginning of my testimony—although it lay dormant for a time.
As the years passed, my parents stopped practicing their religion, and I became an atheist. I thought it beneath me to believe in God.
One day when I was 17, I was sitting alone, looking out the window. For some reason, I suddenly began to believe in God again. At the time I was not interested in religion, but there came into my heart a conviction that God did actually exist.
A week later my family moved to Clermont-Ferrand in central France. I began asking myself some difficult questions: What is Jesus like? What is my relationship to Him? One afternoon some young men gave me a paper that read: “Who is Jesus? Come to the Christian pub to discuss this question with other young people.” I told the young men that I had been asking myself that very question. I said I would stop by soon.
The next day I decided to go to the Christian pub. But as I walked up to it, I couldn’t bring myself to enter. In the days that followed, I went back several times, but for some reason I was afraid to go inside.
My inability to enter the pub left me feeling sad. I didn’t know what to do. But after I came home from one of my uncompleted trips, the thought came to me that Jesus Christ organized His Church almost 2,000 years ago; therefore that Church must exist today. As soon as the idea entered my mind, the doorbell rang. I opened the door and saw two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints standing there. I was surprised—not by their sudden appearance at my door, but by my reaction. I felt as though I had been waiting for them.
Because my room was in disorder, I felt embarrassed to have the missionaries come in, so I asked where they held meetings. The following Sunday I attended church at the address they gave me. What I learned of Jesus Christ and of my relationship to Him felt right. I was soon baptized. I have always believed the Spirit converted me to the gospel before the missionaries ever contacted me.
About a year after my baptism, I became less active for a while as I served in the French army, but I never lost my testimony. After leaving the army, I became active again and obtained my patriarchal blessing. I received the Melchizedek Priesthood, served a full-time mission to New Caledonia, and later married.
I continue to have difficulties in my life. But I find the strength to endure by remembering how the Lord prepared me to hear the truth and how, at age seven, I received my first testimony through the power of the Holy Ghost. I’ve been amazed and grateful ever since for the many confirmations I’ve received of that first witness of the Spirit.