I love seeing children’s excitement and anticipation throughout the Christmas season! I remember my own anticipation as a Primary child growing up in Argentina. One year, our Primary teachers asked us to clean our old toys, wash our dolls’ hair, and repair their dresses so we could donate them to little boys and girls who had to spend Christmas day in the hospital.
During the week as I was cleaning my old dolls, my mom asked me what I was doing with them. I explained what our Primary teachers had asked us to do, and she replied, “You should also give one of your nice toys to the children.”
To that I responded, “Why would I do that?”
Then she said something that has remained with me all these years. She said, “Cris, it is really good to give something that we truly like, something that’s hard to give because we are fond of it, something that would be a sacrifice. That is what our Heavenly Father’s gift for us was. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ—not just any son. He sent His Beloved and perfect Son so we can go back to live with Him once again.”
That year, as I gave one of my favorite toys, I understood a little better our Heavenly Father’s gift to us—His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, who lovingly and selflessly gave His life for us.
Every year, as part of our Christmas celebration, my dad would read out of the scriptures the beautiful account of Luke:
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. …
“And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; …
“To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”1
Brothers and sisters, how can we today enjoy this same peace and good will toward men?
As I have pondered this question for the last several weeks, having in mind that Christmas is the season to give, three actions—actually three gifts we can each give—came to mind. We, of course, give these gifts throughout the year, but at the wonderful season of Christmas, we remember the Father’s gift of His Son and consider how we might follow Their example as we increase in our individual ability and desire to give.
1. Christmas is the season to give love.
Our Father in Heaven and our Savior, Jesus Christ, are the greatest example of love. A beloved scripture teaches, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”2
Our Savior taught us by example to love everyone. He also taught us to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Elder John A. Widtsoe explained:
“The full and essential nature of love we may not understand, but there are tests by which it may be recognized.
“Love is always founded in truth. … Lies and deceit, or any other violation of the moral law, are proofs of love’s absence. Love perishes in the midst of untruth. … Thus, … [he] who falsifies to his loved one, or offers her any act contrary to truth, does not really love her.
“Further, love does not offend or hurt or injure the loved one. … Cruelty is as absent from love … as truth is from untruth. …
“Love is a positive active force. It helps the loved one. If there is need, love tries to supply it. If there is weakness, love supplants it with strength. … Love that does not help is a faked or transient love.
“Good as these tests are, there is a greater one. True love sacrifices for the loved one. … That is the final test. Christ gave of Himself, gave His life, for us, and thereby proclaimed the reality of his love for his mortal brethren and sisters.”3
2. Christmas is the season to give service.
Our Lord and Savior ministered personally to the people, lifting the oppressed, giving hope to the discouraged, and seeking out the lost. He gave sight to the blind, healed the sick and the lame so they could walk, and raised the dead.
At Christmastime, I think of the missionaries—elders, sisters, senior missionaries, and mission presidents throughout the world—who, as representatives of Jesus Christ, give freely of their time and service to all mankind. I think of all the brothers and sisters who spend many hours serving faithfully in their callings. Also at this time, I think of all the men and women serving in the military to ensure our safety. Thank you for your service!
But even if we are not serving the Lord or our country in full-time service, our opportunities to serve are limitless. Kind words and deeds can lift burdens and cheer up hearts! Our Father in Heaven invites us all to give service. And when we do, “the King shall answer and say unto [us], Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”6
3. Christmas is the season to give forgiveness.
Forgiving others brings peace and joy to our lives. President Heber J. Grant taught: “There is nothing that will bring us more of the Spirit of God than to … be kind, considerate, charitable, long-suffering and forgiving. There is nothing that will bring more joy to us than to be ready and willing to forgive the trespasses of our neighbors against us, and there is nothing that will bring more condemnation to us than to harden our hearts and to be bitter and vindictive in our feelings towards those by whom we are surrounded.”7
In order to receive forgiveness for our sins, we need to forgive others.
Forgiving others allows us to overcome feelings of anger, bitterness, or revenge. And who wants to feel those feelings at Christmas? Forgiveness can also heal spiritual wounds and bring the peace and love that only God can give.
Our Father in Heaven wants us to repent and forgive everyone—including ourselves. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said: “However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.”8
Brothers and sisters, at this Christmas season, let us all give the best gifts. Let us sacrifice with grateful hearts our favorite toys—not the ones we’ve worn out. And let us give the gift of love, the gift of service to those around us, and the true gift of forgiveness. For as we repent, the Holy One of Israel forgives us. I testify that He lives. He is the King of kings, the Prince of Peace, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Friend. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.