“First Presidency Christmas Devotional,” Ensign, Feb. 1999, 73
“At this Christmas season we gather together to sing His praises and speak our words of faith and gratitude and love,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley at the annual First Presidency Christmas devotional, held 6 December 1998 in the Tabernacle on Temple Square and broadcast via the Church’s satellite system and rebroadcast via KBYU-TV.
“It is His influence in our lives that stirs within us a little more of kindness, a little more of respect, a little more of love, a little more of concern,” President Hinckley continued. “It is because of Him and His teachings that we reach out to those in trouble, distress, and need, wherever they may be.”
President Hinckley then told the story of a two-year-old girl who survived Hurricane Mitch in La Lima, Honduras, to illustrate his hope that “the overpowering spirit of Christmas may come into the lives of men and women and children throughout the world that their hearts may be opened and their hands extended to help the needy.” While trying to save the girl, her father had suffered a stroke and died. “No one knew anything of her until a young man, two days later, happened to look up in that abandoned house and saw her still alive,” President Hinckley related. “I would hope that at this Christmas season, when there will be no gift-giving among these devastated people, this small orphan girl might receive perhaps a little taste of candy, something sweet and delicious.”
President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, said: “There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ. It is the time to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves.”
President Monson shared examples of “true giving learned by me from the experiences of the three most recent Presidents of the Church, with whom I have had the privilege to serve as a counselor.” He described President Ezra Taft Benson’s efforts to help members in Europe after World War II: “Through the God-inspired welfare program, he literally fed the hungry, comforted the weeping, and lifted closer to heaven all with whom he met.” Then, of an experience reviewing “a tragic and difficult case” with President Howard W. Hunter, President Monson said, “The gift of forgiveness, the gift of compassion, the gift of encouragement were freely given … by this saintly leader.” President Monson also spoke of President Hinckley’s recent visit to uplift members devastated by Hurricane Mitch: “President Hinckley gave them encouragement and assurances of additional assistance, but more than this he gave to them himself. We express thanks to our Heavenly Father for such a prophet.”
President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said: “Christmas is such a wonderful time. No doubt it is all Christendom’s favorite season. Child and adult alike look forward to this time, a time when our best self shines through. What makes it so special? Certainly it is our love for family and friends. But at the heart of it all is remembering the birth of the Savior.”
President Faust told the story of “a sailor who emulated the Christ, reaching out one Christmas Eve as one who would be Santa.” In a restaurant in Nice, France, on Christmas Eve, the sailor spread cheer by purchasing corsages from a despondent flower woman and sharing them with other patrons. “‘Christmas exploded throughout the restaurant like a bomb,’” President Faust said, quoting the original storyteller. “‘A few hours earlier 18 persons had been spending a miserable evening. It ended up being the happiest, the very best Christmas Eve they had ever experienced.’” President Faust also said, “The love of Christ, which we are to emulate, is the distinguishing characteristic of Christmas.”