Christmas with a Minister
It was 1967, and I was serving as a missionary in Hildesheim, Germany. Christmas was fast approaching, and I was excited because Christmas Eve was a Sunday, and a wonderful meeting and other appropriate and special celebrations were planned.
Two weeks before Christmas, however, I received a transfer to Rendsburg. My companion, Elder Fadel, and I would be new there, and I wondered what the members would be like and how we would celebrate Christmas.
We soon came to know that the Rendsburg Branch had few members and little was being planned for Christmas Eve other than a special sacrament meeting. Our landlady, a Church member, invited us to join her for dinner on Christmas Day. I thought that would be the extent of my Christmas. But things soon changed.
The preceding missionaries had left us a tracting book including the names of several people who said they would like the missionaries to call back. Because people were so busy, finding new contacts at Christmastime was not very successful, so we thought these names might be a good place to start. We began visiting people on the list. When we visited the home of Frau Lübbert, we were greeted by a wonderful, cheery lady. She invited us in, and we learned that she was the widow of a Lutheran minister, who had passed away earlier that year. Her son was also a minister. He would be home for Christmas, and it would be just the two of them sharing their first Christmas without their husband and father. Then, with a sparkle in her eyes, she asked if we would join them for Christmas Eve. Having no other plans, we consented.
Christmas Eve arrived, and we had a lovely sacrament meeting in which we talked about the Savior and listened to the Christmas story. As my companion and I helped administer the sacrament, we pondered on the life the Savior had given for us.
After the meeting we were to meet the Lübberts at the Lutheran church. As we walked through the park, the snow was just beginning to fall, and we stopped to watch children and parents skating on a frozen pond. We saw Christmas lights here and there and heard church bells announcing the Christmas Eve service.
The Lübberts were waiting for us at their church. We enjoyed a wonderful spirit as we listened to the minister and as we sang Christmas carols in a church older than some of the carols. Singing “Silent Night” in its original language made the occasion even more special.
After the service, we got into Reverend Lübbert’s car and drove to their home. Frau Lübbert had prepared a goose for dinner, and as she put the finishing touches on the meal, my companion and I sat with Reverend Lübbert and asked him about his ministry. He talked of how he was active in a movement trying to bring Christian churches together. Many shared that dream, but others were antagonistic and fought the movement.
We then talked about our ministry. We told him of the Book of Mormon and how the Church had been restored. We told him of living prophets, and we talked about Jesus Christ and bore witness of Him as our Savior. No animosity existed among us. There was no belittling of one another’s beliefs. As I think upon it now, the words of 2 Nephi 25:26 [2 Ne. 25:26] come to mind. We literally “talk[ed] of Christ, we rejoice[d] in Christ” on that Christmas Eve. He was the center of our attention. He was the purpose of our being together.
As we bowed our heads for a prayer on the food, Reverend Lübbert asked a blessing on his fellow servants in Christ, that we would be led to those who sought Jesus. The meal was wonderful—roasted goose with all the trimmings and special German desserts.
German tradition is for parents to retire to a separate room where the tree has been newly decorated and to light the candles on the tree. The children are then allowed to enter and see the tree and their presents. So Frau Lübbert retired to the living room and closed the large sliding doors. In a moment she opened the doors and invited her “sons” to come in.
As we entered the room, where the only light was the soft light coming from the candles on the Christmas tree, Frau Lübbert handed my companion and me our gifts: some candies and a souvenir book about Rendsburg. She then gave her son his presents, and they paused a moment to remember their husband and father. We then opened the Bible to Luke and read the Christmas story. The Spirit touched each of us and witnessed again of the divine message in those verses. As we sang Christmas carols, the words bore testimony to each of us of the love we shared for Jesus Christ, His life, His teachings, and the most precious of gifts—His atoning sacrifice.
I don’t believe my feet touched the ground that night as we made our way to the bus stop. Santa Claus hadn’t come. I hadn’t been rushing around buying presents. I hadn’t attended any concerts or seen the traditional Christmas movies. My family was far away, and my packages from home were delayed because of the transfer. But I was the happiest I had ever been on Christmas Eve. For the first time in my life, Christmas had been totally focused on Christ. And the only gift I had given was my witness of Him.
“Read Your Patriarchal Blessing!”
In our home we have a Christmas tradition of decorating the house by the end of October or the beginning of November so that the spirit of Christmas comes sooner and remains longer. But in 1993 it certainly didn’t work this way.
In October I discovered I was pregnant. I already had two children—a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son—and we were experiencing a very difficult financial situation. “How will we support another baby?” I wondered. When the beginning-of-pregnancy nausea started, I found myself arguing with the Lord, complaining, murmuring, and failing to pray. I didn’t decorate the house as in other years. I didn’t want to remember the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. For me there wouldn’t be Christmas that year.
Every year my mother holds a special banquet on 25 December to bring the family together. But that year as I sat down at the table with everyone else, I couldn’t eat. Everything made me sick. I was so sad and filled with such bitterness that I hardly participated in the family conversations, and I soon returned home.
Some hours later my brother ran to my house to tell me my father was feeling sick. I hurried to my parents’ house and saw that my dad could hardly breathe; he had a tingling in his arm and a horrible pain in his chest. It was a heart attack! I urged my brother to take my father to the emergency room.
I went back home and asked my husband to pray that my father would not die. He told me I was the one who should pray. But I had not prayed for many, many days and felt Heavenly Father would not hear my prayer. Wisely, my husband told me it was time for me to ask His forgiveness.
I knelt, weeping bitterly. My father was dying on his way to the hospital, and I implored our Father in Heaven not to let him die that Christmas. In desperation I implored the Lord for forgiveness, and a voice whispered in my ear, “Read your patriarchal blessing!” How could I think about my patriarchal blessing at a time like this? But the prompting continued, strongly urging me to read the blessing.
I stood up, found a copy of my patriarchal blessing, and began to read it. And then something amazing happened. I realized that several times the blessing mentioned that I am a beloved daughter of Heavenly Father and of my earthly parents and that if I honor my parents on earth, He will prolong their lives, they will have the opportunity to see my children grow, and they will rejoice with me in our posterity.
As I read, an understanding came to me. My father hadn’t yet seen my unborn child, neither had he seen this child grow. He wouldn’t die at that moment, I realized. My blessing was my answer that day. I knelt once again, this time thanking our Father in Heaven for the very special child—my son Guilherme—I was carrying.
Sometimes we are so blind, so selfish! And Heavenly Father, in His kindness and love, allows us to learn and grow from our trials. I thank Him for each day He allows me to live with my family—with my three dear children, my husband, and my parents. I know that God lives, that Jesus Christ lives, and that They love me and have great patience with me.
The Trucker’s Gift
I don’t have to work on Christmas this year,” my husband, Ken, said. He was a truck driver, and for many years the children and I had partial Christmases and some late Christmases because of his work. But now all the children were married, and we had encouraged them to spend this Christmas at their own homes as we had done when we had a young family.
It took only a minute for me to think of a father who would have to work on Christmas, so I told Ken, “Remember how it was when you couldn’t be with us for Christmas? I’ll be all right if you work and let some father who has small children stay home with his family for Christmas.”
“Are you sure? You’ll be all alone.”
“I’ll be fine.”
Ken told the dispatcher he would work Christmas so a young father could be at home. Another truck driver standing nearby overheard the conversation. “If you’re going to do that,” he said, “I will too. I don’t have any children at home.”
So it was arranged. Then another driver heard about it and volunteered to work on Christmas also. So three veteran truck drivers worked for three days in some of the worst weather our area had seen, and three fathers of young children were able to stay home with their families.
As for me, I watched the snow fall and knew that although Ken didn’t have to be out in that cold weather, he had made the choice to be. And I thought of our 10 children and of the Christmases we had had together—especially the ones when we didn’t have their daddy with us.
So for three days, I read, sewed, watched Christmas programs on television, ate my solitary meals, looked at the unwrapped gifts, and spent a peaceful and happy Christmas—grateful for my husband and his gift of Christmas to someone else.