Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Keeping Christmas

I was supposed to give a talk in Sacrament meeting today, but church has been cancelled because of the snow, again. As you read this we are attempting to drive to Montana. Merry Christmas.

Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year. It is so wonderful to sings songs, decorate , remember Christ's birth, eat treats, give gifts to loved ones and reunite with our friends and family. In fact as soon as Sacrament meeting is over today our family is driving over the river and through the woods to visit our families in Montana.

On my husband's iPod is a playlist of Christmas songs to listen to as we drive as well as a reading of my favorite Christmas book “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

Near the end of the story Ebeneezer Scrooge a previously mean and selfish man pleads with the Spirit of Christmas Future saying “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The spirits of all three will live within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”(1)
I wonder, how can we keep Christmas all year long as Scrooge pledges?

In the Dec 2008 Ensign President Monson quotes President David O'McKay
“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.”
President Monson continues:
“Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than things. To catch the real meaning of the “spirit of Christmas,” we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the “Spirit of Christ.”' (2)
The Spirit of Christ.
We have covenanted to be like Christ, to stand as a witness for him and to do the Lord's work here on Earth. When we serve others we are serving the Lord.
Matthew 25 :40 tells us
“Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

To Keep the Spirit of Christmas all year long I propose that we must serve one another all year long.
Why should we serve? How can we serve?
We serve not only to help the Lord answer the prayers and bless the lives of others but serving changes us.
In the April General Conference of this year Carlos H. Amado spoke at length how service changes us and I hope you will bear with me as I read his words concerning the matter
“Service makes us strong in our faith and useful in His kingdom. Service gives us purpose and courage in life. It brings us closer to God and helps us refine our divine nature. It teaches us to love and understand our fellowmen, and it helps us forget about our personal desires, eliminating selfishness, pride, and ingratitude. It teaches us to think of the needs of others, which allows us to develop the virtues that the Savior possesses.
Kindness, love, patience, understanding, and unity will increase as we serve, while intolerance, jealousy, envy, greed, and selfishness decrease or disappear. The more we give of ourselves, the more our capacity to serve, understand, and love will grow.
Those who serve will always seek to please God and live in harmony with Him. They will be full of peace; they will have a cheerful countenance and a spirit of kindness.
Those who serve will strive to ennoble, build, and lift their fellowmen; therefore, they will find the good in others, and they will not find reason or have time to become offended. They develop the virtue of praying for those who criticize. They don’t expect recognition or reward. They possess the love of Christ.
Those who serve will always be willing to share what they possess and what they know at all times, in all places, and with all people.
Those who serve even in adversity will maintain a living hope of a better future. They will continue to be firm in the midst of a crisis because their hope is in Christ....
With divine inspiration, King Benjamin declared, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). Those who serve will have greater understanding of the personality and attributes of God.” (4)
What a wonderful, description of the many ways service perfects us.
In my home you will find untidy piles of paper everywhere. From time to time I will find tucked here and there in corners and drawers “thank you” notes. These notes are from many people whom I have served in some way. I don't keep them around or mention them to say “Look at all the service I have done.” I keep them because each note reminds me of a time when I looked beyond myself and did something for someone else. With every act of service I have learned a lesson and grown a little bit. It is nice when I am rummaging around for a coupon, or a shopping list, or that plastic part to something I saved 3 years ago and find a little card that reminds me of these lesson I learned.

Service takes us out of ourselves for a a time. We take time to think of some one else to remember that they are a child of God as well. When we return to ourselves we are more able to appreciate our blessings, strengths and relationship with the Lord.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf reminds us
“When we reach out to bless the lives of others, our lives are blessed as well. Service and sacrifice open the windows of heaven, allowing choice blessings to descend upon us. Surely our beloved Heavenly Father smiles upon those who care for the least of His children.
As we lift others, we rise a little higher ourselves. President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “The more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls.”9...
As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.
President Lorenzo Snow expressed a similar thought: “When you find yourselves a little gloomy, look around you and find somebody that is in a worse plight than yourself; go to him and find out what the trouble is, then try to remove it with the wisdom which the Lord bestows upon you; and the first thing you know, your gloom is gone, you feel light, the Spirit of the Lord is upon you, and everything seems illuminated.”(5)

Since hearing those words from President Uchtdorf. I have been trying to seek out opportunities to serve. Now instead of waiting to be asked, I call sister Jones and say “I need to bring a meal to Sister ---. When can I do it?” I teach, I give advice, a hug, a listening ear, moral support, love, food and sometimes handmade gifts. Sometimes I just take time to talk on the phone about whatever.

Once I started looking I have found countless opportunities for service. I simply make it a goal to do more service. More sometimes it is a little, sometimes it is a lot but I shoot for “more.”

One of the greatest opportunities to serve that I have been blessed with is being a visiting teacher. Time and again I have come to love, really love the sisters I was assigned to serve. I enjoy the responsibility of looking after them and being their friend.

Sometimes it is hard for us to serve. Service does not have to be a big, grand gesture. The little things are often the most helpful. I remember one time when I had a particularly trying day and I returned home to find a gift on the doorstep. The gift was wonderful but what meant the most to me and completely changed my attitude about the day was a note inside that said “I'm so glad we have become friends.”

Thomas S. Monson said
You are, ... surrounded by opportunities for service. Often small acts of service are all that is required to lift and bless another: a question concerning a person’s family, quick words of encouragement, a sincere compliment, a small note of thanks, a brief telephone call. If we are observant and aware, and if we act on the promptings which come to us, we can accomplish much good. (6)
We can do service in quiet simple ways. My father reminds me to do every little thing you think of to help someone because it can't hurt and you never know what will make a difference to some one. Sometimes service can be done secretly. One of my fondest memories is of taking a big box of toys, clothes and food and secretly leaving it on the porch on Christmas Eve. I may never know how that event affected the recipients but I know how it changed me.

We can also use our talents to serve, singing a song, or mending clothes. Doing something for someone that they can not do. One of the most fulfilling acts of service is teaching someone to do something that you know how to do.

When I was preparing for this talk I found a short article in the Dec 2003, Ensign
When new neighbors moved into a house up the street, I was mindful of the hardships faced by the previous family who had lived there and regretted the missed opportunity to serve them. I yearned to help,.... but I felt inadequate and uncomfortable reaching out to someone I did not know well.
Now, with a new family moving in, I determined to become friends. They were warm and loving, and the friendship grew easily. Soon after their arrival, however, a tragedy occurred—the couple’s baby died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Remembering my hesitancy to reach out during the previous sister’s time of need, I wondered what to do—anything, even something small. How could I express my heartfelt sorrow to this family? I knew their hearts were broken, and this time I determined not to be afraid to reach out.
“I can make rolls,” I thought. “They have to eat sometime, and rolls are easy to make.” I knew that baking rolls would not compensate for the loss of a child, but it was something I could do to show my love and concern. When I went to their home with my humble offering, I realized that my visit offered a small bit of consolation—the rolls were not necessary, but they had given me a reason to visit.
Since this experience, I have realized how often my fears have prevented me from serving as the Savior taught. It is important to show we care—through visiting teaching, home teaching, or visiting during a time of need. At first, we may wonder what to say, but the Spirit of the Lord will guide us if we put aside our fears and reach out to others" (7)
I liked this story and chose to share it because I often feel like what I have to offer is not good enough, “What will people think of me if I do this for them? Will they be offended? Will I be intruding? This person wouldn't appreciate all the time I put into this.” I often hesitate to serve because of fear. I am reminded that fear is not of the Lord.
If we are afraid , are too shy, or don't know how, if we can't find a place to serve we can always pray for opportunities to serve and for inspiration on how to best serve.

We can never predict what the Lord has in store for us, whose prayers he will have us answer, whose life we will bless.

It is easy to serve our friends and family, the people we know. Sometimes we need to look outside and serve people we do not know or find it difficult to love.
President Thomas S. Monson has remarked
Along the pathway of life you will observe that you are not the only traveler. There are others who need your help. There are feet to steady, hands to grasp, minds to encourage, hearts to inspire, and souls to save.” (8)

Scrooge did keep his promise and learned to be joyful and serve his fellow man In the final paragraph of A Christmas Carol it is remarked “...And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”

After the lights and tinsel are packed away, when the gifts have been given and used I pray that we can remember the Spirit of Christmas as the Spirit of Christ and find ways to serve our fellow men and in so doing serve the Lord. Perhaps our service will bring sunshine to the gloomy Oregon rains, more joy in the spring, more friendship in the summer and warmth as winter approaches again. Let the gift of service the year round be our gift to the Lord this year.

1 comment:

Gardners Glad Tidings said...

Merry Christmas....that was a wonderful talk! You are such a good example of service and I count you one of the few things I like about Oregon...I have so much to learn from you. I was wondering if you guys were still going to brave the weather to go home. Be careful and I hope you had the Merriest Christmas this side of the Mississippi!