A Christmas Complete


Some were poor and homeless. Others were wealthy and powerful. Our gift to both groups was the same.

We met that Christmas day in Portugal with the other missionaries in our zone, exchanging gifts and enjoying the holiday together. Although the rain outside the Porto chapel hadn’t dampened our spirits, something did seem to be missing. My companion and I decided to visit our investigators and sing Christmas songs. Everyone else liked the idea, too, and soon we were all gathering our raincoats, umbrellas, scriptures, and hymnbooks.

The first group we visited lived close to the city center in an abandoned monastery. They were Portuguese families who had lived in Africa, but the civil wars had forced them to flee to Portugal. They had been wealthy in Africa but now had almost nothing.

We climbed the creaky stairs of the monastery as the roof leaked big drops of water on our heads. As we began to sing, the children, with bright eyes, came out first, followed shortly by their parents. Soon all the inhabitants of the monastery were listening to our Christmas songs. Some tried to sing along but didn’t know all the words. The rain seemed to accompany the songs as background music, and then our tears began mingling with the rain as the Spirit bore witness to us that we were all truly brothers and sisters.

We left some church pamphlets, encouraged our investigators to continue with the discussions, and invited all to attend our church meetings.

Our next stop was at the home of the American consul and his family, also our investigators. They were a wealthy family and lived in a large home in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the city. We went to the front door and began to sing the same songs we had just sung to the poor people in the monastery.

We had barely started the second verse of our first song when the door opened. Dozens of people came outside and started to sing with us. They were all diplomatic representatives of several countries who had gathered there to commemorate Christmas. We soon saw in their faces the same tears and smiles we had seen in the faces of the poor people living in that abandoned monastery.

When we finished singing, the wife of the consul said, “We were gathered here with everything to make us happy; nevertheless, we felt that something was missing. It was then that you came, bringing the Christmas spirit of Jesus Christ. Now our Christmas is complete.”

Our group consisted of more than 20 missionaries from several parts of the world—Brazil, Portugal, Angola, the United States, Canada, Paraguay, and Colombia. When we were invited in, each missionary bore testimony to the diplomats from his country. As in the monastery, we invited them to hear the discussions and attend church.

That Christmas night, we learned that sharing sacred songs and personal testimony was the best present that anyone, rich or poor, of any nation or faith, could receive. That night, those gifts without price brought the spirit of the Lord into our hearts—the most priceless gift of all.

[photo] Photography by Matt Reier; computer illustration by Pat Gerber