Monday, December 5, 2016

See Christmas through New Eyes...

Image result for christmasIt's Christmastime once again and with the season comes the hustle and bustle of rushing from store to store to find the perfect gift for that special someone.  I have been caught up in that trap and know it all too well.  But, over the years, I have discovered that there is more to Christmas than a few "token" gifts to make someone feel happy for a minute then the gift is put aside and forgotten.  Let's be honest here.  Can you remember what you received last year for Christmas?  Better yet, can you remember who gave you that gift?  I'm guessing that you can't really remember anything about last Christmas except for the credit card bill that got paid off in October - just in time to rack it up again for this year.  

Guess what?  IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY ANYMORE!!!  You don't have to go into debt (meaning you don't have to whip out your credit card when you see something cute that "so-and-so" just "has to have"!  Chances are "so-and-so" already has "such-and-such" and you'll just be adding to the mess of the their house).  

I used to feel like the Grinch at Christmastime.  There was just too much going on and people were hurrying to buy that latest and greatest "thing" and don't even get me started on the "sales".  CindyLou Who and I could be best friends!  I mean really!  What is Christmas all about anyway?  

I thought it was about a little boy born under the most humblest of circumstances without anything, not even a proper bed, to call his own.  There was no fanfare.  There were no flashy wrapped gifts.  There were no cookies to be exchanged.  There was no Santa!  All these "things" came years later.  As the years have progressed we have lost sight of why we really celebrate Christmas.

I was recently reminded that Christmas is made up of 4 things: 
1- Children
2- Remembering
3 - Giving
4 - Prophecy Fulfilled

Let's briefly explore each one:

First: Christmas is Children:

How many of you can remember waking up super early on Christmas day, before the sun poked it's bright head above the mountains, just because you were too excited to sleep anymore?  You ran to your older siblings room and shook them until they woke up to share in the excitement of the day.  Then together you ran to your parents room to tell them the news that Santa had been there.  

Christmas is a time of joy, excitement and wonder for all children.  They want to experience it all!  What are we teaching our children about Christmas?  Are we teaching them that it is a time when if they are "good boys and girls" Santa will bring them the toys they ask for?  Or are we teaching them the true reason we have Christmas.

My hubby and I started a tradition of giving service to families that might be in need of a little "pick-me-up" for the holidays.  We don't always pick a family who is struggling financially either.  We tend to look for a family that is really trying to pull their own weight to make things work for themselves and not just looking for a handout.  Sometimes it is a close friend while other times it is someone we barely know.  What I love most about this tradition is how my children LOVE to wrap the packages, place them on the doorstep of our unsuspecting candidate, ring the doorbell then run like crazy!  Oftentimes we will hide in nearby bushes and watch as the family piles out of the house to stand on their front porch wondering where all this Christmas spirit came from.  

That is what I love most about Christmas.  The magic of making someone feel loved and getting my children to focus on other people and not just themselves.

Second: Christmas is Remembering:

We all have family that lived in the "olden" days (as my oldest likes to call the time before 1900).  Do we know how they spent their Christmas's?  There is a story about a woman named Mrs. Rebecca Riter who came across the plains in a wagon.  

Her diary entry is dated December 25, 1847, we read: “The winter was cold. Christmas came and the children were hungry. I had brought a peck of wheat across the plains and hid it under a pile of wood. I thought I would cook a handful of wheat for the baby. Then I thought how we would need wheat for seed in the spring, so I left it alone.”

Do we know the stories of our ancestors well enough to share them with our children?  I will be the first to admit that I don't, but I will also be the first to admit that I am eager to learn so I can!

Third: Christmas is for Giving: 
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the poet, wrote: “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only [true] gift is a portion of thyself.”

President David O. McKay said: “True happiness comes only by making others happy—the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it. In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service.

“It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.” 

My hubby and I have decided to scale back the gift getting aspect of our young family.  We used to go "all out" on gifts for our children.  It got to the point that there were more gifts in our front room than sitting places to open it all up.  At the end of the gift-opening session, the children couldn't even remember what they got from who.  So, it was time to scale it all back.  
We started to look around our humble home and decided the children already had enough toys and we didn't need to create anymore messes by adding to the craziness of toys that don't get cleaned up.  We decided to instead get them ONE toy they could play with, something to wear (usually pjs), something to read (everyone loves a good book), something to eat (yum! chocolate) and something from their sibling (got to teach them how to give to others).  

The one thing we have most recently done is get them an experience.  I know this sounds really weird, especially if you don't understand.  We give them an experience by going on an outing with them.  It is a time when we go to the aquarium, zoo, museum or wherever to let them experience time with mom and dad.  Just the kids and parents.  No extras like grandparents or aunts, uncles or cousins.  Just them.  It gives them the feeling of being loved above all else.  I guarantee that they will never remember that great-aunt so-and-so gave them a set of legos, but they WILL remember the time they saw a sea turtle the size of a car at the aquarium.  

There are still the gifts from grandparents and aunts who like to spoil the children, so they most definitely don't suffer from lack of gifts.  When grandma-great gives them money we purchase a small gift for them, then take the rest to the bank and put it into their accounts to accumulate for when they get older.  All in all my children don't feel slighted in any way.  

It is all in how you present it to your children.  I once asked my 18 year old if she felt like we didn't give her enough when she was growing up.  She said, without hesitation, "Nope.  You gave me all I ever needed."  I love my children and I hope that the traditions we have started with them will teach them we really do love them and that you don't need to have "things" to make memories.

Fourth: Christmas is Prophecy Fulfilled:

Image result for nativity
Pres. Monson reminds us that "On the eve of His birth, the voice of the Lord came unto Nephi, saying, “Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.” 

What did the holy prophets of old declare? Isaiah, more than 700 years before the birth of Christ, prophesied, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” 

On the American continent, King Benjamin said: “For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent … shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay. … He shall suffer temptations, and pain. … And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.” 

Then came that night of nights when the shepherds were abiding in the fields and the angel of the Lord appeared to them, announcing: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. … For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” 

I would like to add my heartfelt wishes to that of Pres. Uchtdorf when he warns that "if we look for what is wrong with the Christmas season, we can surely find it. Like the Grinch, we can grumble and complain, becoming cold and cynical about what we see around us. Nevertheless, if we look for the good, we can see this time of year with new eyes—perhaps even with the eyes of a child. 

The Grinch saw the good in Christmas when he learned to look past its worldly trappings. If we do the same, we can, with the Grinch, proclaim: “Maybe Christmas . . . doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more!”
Our heart may not grow three sizes as the Grinch’s did, but our heart will change. Our eyes will open to the miracles all around us—at Christmastime and throughout the year. 

I pray that during this season and always, we will see the purity of the story of the Savior’s birth and feel sincere gratitude for His life, teachings, and saving sacrifice for us. May this gratitude cause us to renew our determination to follow Him. May it also lead us to draw closer to our family, our church, and our fellowmen. And may we look steadfastly forward to that blessed day when the resurrected Christ will walk the earth again as our Lord, our King, and our blessed Savior.

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