President* David O. McKay (1873–1970) declared: “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.”
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.
My friend Carolyn has two traditions in her family. One is to find a family in need and then she spends the exact amount on that family as she does on her own. There is no difference to her. She also places beautifully wrapped gifts under her tree as they come into the house. There to be admired and wondered about as the weeks progress towards Christmas. Each gift has a tag with a name. The week before Christmas she has a family night, and at the end of the lesson, each person goes to the tree, chooses a gift, and gives it to the Salvation Army. The idea was, that because they had no idea what they were choosing to give away, they wouldn't miss it. Carolyn told me one year that even she winces a bit, because she does know what they are giving away, and sometimes it is the gift she wished to give them most. But she reminds me, someone else may need it much more than her family, who have warmth and food and shelter beyond what is considered "need". She is an amazing example to me.
Not too long ago, we hadn't had work for over two years and money was tight. Fewer presents would be under the tree, and the dinner, well it wasn't going to be gourmet, but we weren't eating "holiday hot dogs" as I had as a child!
Our family was young, our kids had always had what they needed but had never been indulged with every toy they wanted, so this particular year wouldn't be much of a change. Toys, a few, and maybe some needed clothes from Santa. We also had set a bit aside to help another "someone" who, we felt, needed our help. We hopped in the car full of anticipation and secrets and made our midnight run with a car full of little elves too young to leave on their own. Everyone was singing silly Christmas songs and searching the skies for Rudolph's red nose blinking in the dark until we arrived at our determined place and then, as stealthily as we could, we placed our meager offerings on the porch of our intended family and with a quick rap on the door - we left, unnoticed.
By the time we got home all the kids were completely asleep. We began to carry them into the house when, to our surprise, someone had played "Secret Santa" with our family! Both Thor and I were completely surprised! Who knew we were "the family" in need? The porch was filled with small cars for the boys, a couple of dolls for the girls, a bolt (yes a complete bolt) of fabric, a large plug in push button telephone (I am still wondering about that one, but hey, someone was being thoughtful!),a bottle of perfume that was about a third gone (someone was sacrificing their perfume so that I would have some! ) and a recycled tie for Thor, among other gifts that I have forgotten over the years. Our Christmas was added upon and we felt both humbled and blessed by the generous offerings.
As a little girl I remember being the kid who had less than the neighbors, yet always, always, mom made sure we found someone who had even less than we. I am grateful for that lesson. I look back on our runs to "Mars Family Discount" with the money we had earned from neighborhood chores, recycling pop bottles, or squirreling away over the year. We would choose small toys and items we wanted and knew they would be fun for the other kid we were trying to help. It was a yearly tradition that has lasted a life time.
This year, as we are fast approaching the day of days, the celebration of our Lord's birth, let us become as the Wise Men of old, let us bring our gifts to the Saviour and become His hands as we serve and give to those around us. May we find someone who needs our love, our hope, our forgiveness, and our substance.
* President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints