“The Christmas Man,” Ensign, Dec. 2010, 50–51
As missionaries in Germany a few years after World War II, my companion and I sat on the edge of our beds one December evening opening Christmas cards sent by family and friends from home. In each we found a few dollars. Over and over in our minds, we thought of things that we would like to buy for ourselves with our gift money.
We used the cards to decorate the small Christmas tree we had purchased. Reading the cards had made us feel homesick; as Christmas neared, it seemed that everyone we spoke to turned us away, reminding us that Christmas was a family time, so we were not to bother them.
My companion sensed my discouragement. He tried to lift my spirits by asking me which Christmas had been my most memorable. I shared with him the account my father had written of when he and a friend, while stationed in Germany after World War I, had provided a surprise Christmas to four German children.
My companion and I thought that in like manner we might be able to use the money we had received in our Christmas cards to provide a surprise Christmas to a poor family in our branch with three small children. Jobs were scarce and transportation expensive, and the family had been forced to get along on scant government welfare. They lived in a run-down cabin in the woods.
In some parts of Germany, the Christmas Man (der Weihnachtsmann), tall and slender, delivers the gifts on Christmas Eve. My companion was tall and slender, so we rented clothing to make him look like the Christmas Man. We used the gift money we had received from our families and friends to buy toys, candy, clothing, and oranges (a hard-to-get treat in Germany) for the family.
We wore several layers of clothing to keep us warm on that cold Christmas Eve. The snow was deep, and we had to push our bikes through the snow in order to reach the family in the woods. My companion knocked on the door of the dark house. When the door slowly opened, my companion saw a room nearly bare of furniture. The family shared a mattress on the floor because there was no bed, and it helped them stay warm. Instantly the family was awake as they eagerly greeted the Christmas Man and received his gifts.
As we walked home, the only sound was the crunching made by our feet in the snow, each of us deep in thought. The surprise, gratitude, and love we felt from the family were well worth anything we had given up, and we realized that by forgetting ourselves and loving others, we had lost our homesickness and found the true love of God.
As we entered our room, our eyes fell on our little Christmas tree with its Christmas card ornaments. The exchange between the angel and Nephi came into my mind: “Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? And I answered him saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is most desirable above all things” (1 Nephi 11:21–22).