Christmas was a very exciting time for my brothers and me! Our parents would take us to see the decorative lights in Cape Town which were always very impressive; there was always a Primary party celebrating Christmas and the birth of the Saviour – and our schools closed over the “Festive Season”, YEAH!
For weeks we would construct a letter to Father Christmas. We would write and rewrite the letter every time we saw something in the shops that we wanted. We would each state that we had been good boys and really needed the item we had put down for him to bring. We would give Dad the letter to mail, addressed to “Father Christmas, North Pole”. My dad worked in the Post Office, so we thought that if he posted it, it would get there much sooner.
We were chased to bed early on Christmas Eve as ‘Father Christmas will not visit us with presents’, Mom said, if we were still awake. But first, we had to put out something for him to drink and eat. It was amazing to me how there were no presents under the tree when we went to bed but when we awoke, the presents had magically appeared and of course, Mom and Dad knew nothing about it.
Over the years, I have seen a tremendous increase in the commercialization of Christmas. In the world it has become a time to party and to indulge. It has become a time for an increase in accidents resulting in death and broken families. For some, Christmas has become a time of tragedy and not celebration.
In spite of the commercialization of Christmas, the Spirit of Christmas – which is the Spirit of Christ – still appears to be alive amongst many Christians. They appear to have an appreciation of the importance of the birth of the Saviour as well as an appreciation for the purpose of His death, though the deeper meaning and consequences do not appear to be understood. I have been amazed at how the Spirit of Christmas affects people. I see more generosity, kindness and love expressed during this time than any other time of the year. As with others, my thoughts turn to my family in greater abundance during this time and my desire is for them to also feel the Spirit of Christmas.
I have come to realize that in my early life, in my mind, Christmas was all about me. Today it is more about others and family. Traditionally we have always gathered together as a family at our home over Christmas and enjoyed a braai, together with salads, ice cream, cool drinks and a swim. Those were great days for us. My nieces and nephews still remember those days with fondness.
As a family we felt we needed much more of a focus on the Saviour and started a tradition of having a special Family Home Evening on Christmas day – inviting the extended family into our home. We gather early and enjoy singing carols and listening to some talks from assigned family members after reading the Christmas story. They have become very special experiences for us as the Spirit has been present in great abundance. Those of our family who now reside elsewhere and are unable to attend still mention how they miss those times.
In my older years and as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I have come to understand more clearly the great significance of the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Without His birth there is no resurrection. Without His resurrection, no Plan of Exaltation. Without the Plan of Exaltation, we would be under the influence of Satan for ever and ever and would not be able to get back to the presence of our Father for we would not have a resurrected body.
When we think of His miraculous birth we cannot help but think of His miraculous resurrection which was preceded by an inhuman amount of suffering for our sins and anxieties, which caused Him, even God, to bleed at every pore. As we think of the mission that He served, how He taught and how He had to suffer through His mission in order to teach His Doctrine - which doctrine is to come unto Him through faith in Him, repentance, baptism by immersion, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end - we learn of His great love for us.
In Moses 1:39 we are taught that it is His work and His glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Furthermore, we are taught that part of our responsibility as members of His church is to help the Saviour bring this to pass. This we can do by sharing the gospel with those with whom we come into contact and by living the same way that He did. That means we would speak the words that He would speak, do the things that He would do, go to places that He would go to and serve our fellow men as He would do. We would lift up the arms that hang down, strengthen the feeble knees, mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. Said another way, we should live the principles of ministering as announced by our Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, at General Conference in April 2018. Our real joy will come when we make the Saviour the focus of the season and the focus of our celebrations. As we do this He will shower His tender mercies upon us. He has invited us to come to him in so many ways. He has said “come follow me” (Luke 18:22), “Learn of me” (Matthew 11:29), “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), “I have set an example for you” (3 Nephi 18:16), and “be even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27). My experience is that as we take time to ponder our lives and what that life is with the Saviour in it, we will see what He means to us and our love for him will grow. The Saviour said, “be still and know that I am God” (D&C 101:16)
I am so grateful for the Lord Jesus Christ. He lived for us and He died for us. He is now resurrected and stands at the right hand of our Father. I know that He is in every detail of our lives. He has given us so much. May we will give Him all that He asks, which is a broken heart and a contrite spirit.