“Partaking of the Fruit,” Ensign, Dec. 1997, 53–55
As I polished the Nativity figurines on Thanksgiving morning, disturbing comments I’d heard about the upcoming holidays echoed in my mind:
—“You have put out your Christmas stuff already! I dread the thought of Christmas coming. The parade of television specials seems longer every year, with 12 minutes of commercials for every 18 minutes of show.”
—“Commercialism has ruined Christmas. You wouldn’t believe the hours I’ve spent running through crowded stores hoping to save a few pennies on the latest mechanical toys or fashions my children promise will make them happy. My feet ache just thinking about it.”
—“Every three days my children change their minds about what they’ve just got to have. I make a list just to cross it out twice.”
—“No matter how hard you try, Christmas is just a disappointment. You’d better leave these decorations in their boxes until at least the 18th of December.”
I tried to brush these voices from my mind as I placed baby Jesus in the center of the scene.
I’ve always loved Christmas; it brings sweet reminders of earthly and heavenly love. I wanted feelings of gratitude for Christ to be our family’s focus, just as each figurine in our Nativity turned toward the tiny baby Jesus.
But these “voices of experience” made me wary, and I was haunted by the prospect that our efforts to create a spiritual celebration were like trees scattered about a wintery mountainside—fragile and unprotected from an avalanche of worldliness that buries spirituality in its path.
I left the peaceful Nativity scene and expressed my concerns to my husband. We knelt in a plea for divine help. Surely Heavenly Father knew how our family could keep a testimony of the truth at the center of our holidays.
Our prayers for help were quickly answered during our morning study of the Book of Mormon as Lehi related his vision:
“And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.
“And … I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.
“And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit” (1 Ne. 8:10–12).
As we read, the Christmas tree we would soon decorate became, for us, the tree of life. Our tiny white lights would add a special brilliance to white ornaments representing the desirable fruit that we, too, hoped our family would taste.
We excitedly skipped to Nephi’s vision and read of an angel who showed Nephi a vision: “A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins, … bearing a child in her arms” (1 Ne. 11:14–20).
Our new tradition came to life when we put up our tree and made sugar cookies for family home evening a few days later.
A lighted angel atop our tree was surrounded by garland ribbons, on which I wrote these words:
“Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father. Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
“Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things” (1 Ne. 11:21–22).
Each night before family prayer, we placed one cookie for every family member in the branches of our Christmas tree. We gazed at the Nativity scene nestled beneath our “tree of life,” and before “partaking of the fruit”—the sugar cookies—we each shared how we felt the love of God in our life.
Gathering to “partake of the fruit” each night before family prayer, we felt deepening appreciation for this beautiful world and for the plan of salvation. Our understanding of the scriptures and the fulness of the gospel expanded. Our gratitude for God and temple ordinances deepened. Our desires to be together and hold fast to the iron rod were fortified. Our testimonies and our love flourished.
Our children looked forward to this quiet time, more for the warm feelings we shared than for the cookies we ate. A beautiful spirit filled our home, bringing us a sweet peace when, just before Christmas, we learned of my grandmother’s death. That evening as we gazed upon the tree, our hearts overflowed with the realization that families can be together forever. Because of the precious gifts of Christ’s Atonement and the principles of repentance, we can become clean and pure—prepared to live together in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
On New Year’s Eve, after the last cookie had been eaten and the last words of gratitude had been expressed, we tucked our children into bed. Slipping back to our tree of life, I switched on its lights once more. The voices of doubt about the Christmas season had been quieted.
The inspiration of heaven had been heard. Our holiday had been focused on the Lord, just as each Nativity figurine looked on him.
My husband and I knelt in a tearful prayer of gratitude for the Savior, the scriptures, and his help in centering our celebration on Christ.
Now I can hardly wait till next Thanksgiving, when it’s time to bring the Christmas stuff out again.