At Christmastime we celebrate our Heavenly Father’s perfect gift of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. In token of this greatest of gifts, the Christmas season becomes for most of us a time of finding joy in giving to others. You and I have learned from experience how challenging that can be.
In 1970 I was the father of three young boys. Like many novice parents, I was working hard to provide for a growing family. Two days after Christmas I knew I needed to take a long business trip, leaving my wife, Kathleen, to entertain the boys during their holiday from school. Knowing that their happiness might well depend on having good Christmas gifts to play with, we chose our gifts carefully. To our oldest son, then seven, we gave a barometer, a device for forecasting the weather.
We discovered that some assembly was required. My son and I sat down to put together his beautiful new barometer. We laid out dozens of pieces and carefully studied the complex assembly instructions.
After a few hours, it became clear to me that even if we correctly assembled all of the pieces, something seemed to be wrong with the mechanism for making the barometer fluid go up and down. I tried to hide my doubts from my son, but late that night, after he had gone to bed, I was so frustrated that I used my journal to draft a complaint letter to the company that made the barometer. Here is part of that letter, which I’m glad I never sent:
“Our son is delighted with his barometer. He is seven and has faith that anything so handsome must surely work. I hope that the weather doesn’t change before we get your reply, since I don’t want to sneak upstairs to defraud him by setting it by hand, and I don’t want him to lose faith in your barometer. … Please tell me how to make it work. It’s not your credibility but mine that will suffer unless you help.”
Human help did not arrive in time for that Christmas gift to work. But our son, now a father himself, remembers the love we shared as we helped each other. And he still feels the faith we had in the unfailing order of God’s creation of earth and atmosphere that makes the art of weather forecasting possible. That faith was undiminished by our frantic efforts to get a barometer to work.
We learned from that what you know from your experiences: Success in giving joy at Christmas usually involves help from others. It is rarely found in solitary effort. Joining with others spreads the joy and makes it more lasting. And perhaps most important, invoking faith in the Savior, the Creator and source of all lasting happiness, invites the pure love of God, which is the greatest of all gifts and the sure source of enduring joy.
That reality was put deeper in our hearts during a Christmas season years after our adventure with the barometer.
I decided to design and build a wooden treasure chest for my wife. I needed the generous help of many others who had the tools and the skills I lacked. I worked with them for weeks. I also needed the help of the Holy Ghost to discover ways to convey love and faith in the gospel in that gift.
On the lid I carved our family monogram. On the front I placed two panels. On one panel I carved my initial, and my wife’s initial on the other. The box can only be unlocked by using two different keys, one to open the lock by my initial and the other the lock by my wife’s initial.
We now use that gift as a family treasure box. So on the Christmas when it was under the tree and on all the days since, seeing the box has filled our minds and hearts with love for each other and for the Savior’s sacrifice that makes eternal marriage and families possible. The box, now filled with family pictures and sheets of Christmas music, rests near the old piano in our living room. Creating that gift brought a feeling of love for family and the Master.
From time to time I still see and thank the people who helped me create that box. When I see them again, I can feel the joy we shared in creating a gift of love for a family and a token of the love we share for the Savior. I see joy in the smiles of my friends, as I did when we worked on the box together.
You know from your experiences during Christmas seasons that such shared joy can come from creating and offering even simple gifts of love. For instance, many of you have helped a child to take plates of cookies to those who feel especially alone at Christmas. To the person receiving this modest gift from a child, it can appear as precious as frankincense. And a child bringing such a gift can remind them of the Magi bringing gifts from the East to the Savior. Both giver and recipient can remember Christ and feel love and gratitude.
The young men and young women in the Church, together with their leaders, can offer gifts of love and testimony in the baptismal fonts of our temples. Having more temples closer to the young people makes that experience of giving possible for more and more of them, and more often. Wise bishops and leaders of youth help with their encouragement; some even join with the youth in temple service. They all share in offering the blessing of cleansing and purification made available by the Savior to those who were unable to receive that gift while they lived.
An increasing number of missionaries participate with the Savior and their companions to offer the gift of eternal life. With the change in age of eligibility for missionary service, many more will feel the joy of offering that priceless gift. Missionaries also offer the Book of Mormon to everyone they meet. It is a gift of love and a gift of testimony, created through God’s inspiration to faithful prophets over centuries. The Savior needed those prophets’ help to create gifts of testimony in the Book of Mormon, and He needs the missionaries’ help to share it.
Families also offer priceless gifts of love and testimony at Christmastime through music as well as words. As a young boy, I would gather with my family around our Winkler piano, now more than a hundred years old. That piano rests in our living room, near the treasure chest. The piano still is a precious heirloom because it was dear to my mother as a gift from her husband when they were poor. My parents had known poverty and so were frugal. The Christmas gifts we received were modest. But my mother had a rich soprano voice. She played her piano at Christmas as she led us in singing familiar carols and sacred hymns.
I don’t know if she thought of herself as inviting us to share in a lasting gift. But even as a young boy, I felt inexpressible joy in singing those songs. The music filled our small home with a spirit of peace. I could feel not only the love of my mother and father and two brothers, but of my Heavenly Father and the Savior Jesus Christ.
I sensed that the love I felt then was something I had experienced before this life in the spirit world. I wanted more than anything else to feel it someday in a home of my own. And I wanted to live so that I could return with a family of my own to our heavenly home, where I knew Heavenly Father and the Savior would be waiting. Now when I see the treasure box and that piano, memories of love with my family and love from the Savior flood back over me.
As we sing in choirs, families, and classes, and as we have listened together tonight, the carols of Christmas remind us of our shouts of joy when we learned that we could come to this world and be given a Savior to redeem us. Someday we will sing those songs with the hosts of heaven.
It is my prayer that the Spirit will bless us this Christmas and in the years to come with the power to offer other gifts of love and of the testimony of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. I know that the Spirit can lead each of us in many and simple ways to give love, faith, and joy to others at this season of rejoicing.
I testify that Jesus Christ was the literal Son of God and the Savior of the world. He was the perfect gift from our loving Father. At this and every season, our Savior invites us to join with Him and others to offer the priceless gift of joy. I pray that we will, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.