“Christmas Devotional with First Presidency,” Ensign, Feb. 1998, 74–75
“It is the season of the winter solstice,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley at the First Presidency Christmas Devotional held Sunday, 7 December 1997, in the Tabernacle on Temple Square. “In a few days comes the promise that spring will come again and summer will return, as it has through all the millennia that men have been upon the earth. It is no wonder that in ancient times Christmas, commemorating the birth of the Christ child, was celebrated at this solstice season. Men had no knowledge of the time of His birth, and so they came to bond the celebration of Christmas with the celebration of the return of the sun. While we now know through revelation the time of the Savior’s birth [April 6], we observe the 25th of December with the rest of the Christian world.”
Speaking of modern society’s celebration of Christmas, President Hinckley said: “We offer presents one to another in a shoddy similitude of His great gift to all mankind. We empty the stores of vast inventories of merchandise. It almost becomes a travesty of the true spirit of Christmas. But possibly the effort is not all lost. At least there comes into our lives a touch of generosity toward others. Our hearts are opened, our thoughts are lifted as at no other season of the year. We greatly overdo it, but perhaps it is not all bad. We think of others, and what a blessing that is.”
In his devotional address, President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, said: “Christmas is many things to many people—from the eager, materialistic grasping of a child for a present to the deep spiritual thankfulness of the mature heart for the gift of a Savior. If there is one common denominator, perhaps it is this: Christmas is love. Christmas is the time when the bonds of family love transcend distance and inconvenience. It is a time when love of neighbor rises above petty day-to-day irritations and doors swing open to give and receive expressions of appreciation and affection.”
President Monson related a Christmas story set in 1927 in the town of Hillspring, Alberta, Canada. Mary and Leland Jeppson and their six young children had experienced hard times, and oldest daughter Ellen, age 10, was particularly cynical about prospects for the family’s Christmas. Family members in Idaho had learned of their plight and promised to send some basics, but Christmas Eve arrived with no relief in sight. In the middle of the night, the postman arrived with 10 crates that had arrived late the previous afternoon. “Ellen, the very last to get up, rubbed her eyes in disbelief as she looked at the spot where her stocking was supposed to have been hung the night before and saw hanging there a beautiful red Christmas dress, trimmed with white and green satin ribbons. … That morning, with the Christmas dress for Ellen, a childhood had been brought back, a childhood of hopes and dreams and Santas and the miracle of Christmas.”
President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said: “Love brings joy, the sense of belonging to one’s family and to God’s family. Indeed, watching our children grow in faith and testimony brings great joy. Some have had children who have strayed. To those of you who suffer the pain of an empty chair, be assured that the Savior knows and understands your sorrow. The Good Shepherd is watching over them, and they will return, either in this life or in the life to come. During his ministry he gave us the parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the prodigal son. He said, ‘Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth’ [Luke 15:7]. We feel a particular kind of joy when a child that has been lost, for whatever reason, is found and restored.”
President Faust then told the story of a pioneer baby who was thought to be dead. With no time to dig a grave, her parents wrapped her body in a blanket and left her under a bush. But the mother did not feel right about it, and in the middle of the night she went back. In the early dawn she returned with the tiny girl in her arms—and the child was alive.
No greater tidings could have come to the couple, President Faust said. “A precious child was presumed to be dead, and yet she was saved by the unrelenting efforts of an inspired parent. Other beloved children, presumed to be spiritually dead, can be reclaimed through the same loving effort.”