I was asked to give a talk this last Sunday on the true meaning of Christmas. With a lot of prayer and research, I wrote the following talk. I decided that instead of just putting it away and letting it collect dust after giving the talk, I would post it here on my blog. I hope all of you will get a little edification from this.
I’ll be honest with all of you. Before I prepared this talk, I could honestly say that I didn’t like Christmas, ba humbug. It’s all about crowded malls, with people spending money that they don’t have on video games, name brand clothes, perfumes, colognes, jewelry, and other treasures of this world. It’s about indulging ourselves. Getting fatter. Not surprisingly, it’s a time of increased crime and a time of marital discord. Thinking back to when I was growing up, I can’t remember a single Christmas season where my parents didn’t have a significant argument about money.
How can a holiday celebrating the birth of our King, the Prince of Peace, bring so many bad things? This has always been a tough and perplexing problem for me and something I could never understand. As a new latter day saint, I am wondering how should my family celebrate Christmas. Thank God that we have prophets to guide us in this day and age.
As I looked through many different articles on lds.org, many things began to clear up. We all know the story of the first Christmas and how the three wise men gave gifts to Jesus. As I pondered that, I had an epiphany. Christmas has always been about giving gifts to Jesus Christ. Maybe that is what we need to do to celebrate Christmas?
This became even more clear when I read part of an article entitled the Gifts of Christmas by Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Council of the Twelve.
“Christmas gifts should be in memory of the divine gift, the life of Jesus Christ. His gift gave us eternal life; our gifts should enliven with joy those who receive. His gift was the sacrifice of his earthly life; our gifts should represent personal sacrifices on our part.
It is easy to give to our own, those whom we love. Their gladness becomes our joy. We are not quite so ready to give to others, even if they are in need, for their happiness does not seem so necessary to our happiness. It appears yet more difficult to give to the Lord, for we are prone to believe that he must give and ask nothing in return.
We have foolishly reversed the proper order. Our first gift at Christmas should be to the Lord; next to the friend or stranger by our gate; then, surcharged with the effulgence from such giving, we would enhance the value of our gifts to our very own. A selfish gift leaves a scar upon the soul, and it is but half a gift.”
I started to ponder how we can give gifts to Jesus Christ and then I remembered some verses in Matthew. Jesus told us in Matthew 25:34-40 that:
” 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, 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.”
As gifts, these are “the gift of peace, the gift of love, the gift of service, the gift of self, and the gift of faith” in the words of Elder James E Faust.
I’d like to read just one more paragraph from Elder Widtsoe’s article:
“The desire and the effort to give to the Lord, born of the surrender of man to the plan of salvation, stamp every Christmas gift with genuine value. They who identify themselves with the plan, who do not resist it, who earnestly seek to tread the path of the plan, are true givers to the Lord, and their gifts to men come with the flavor of heaven. The Lord and his plan must have a place in our Christmas celebration.”
This Christmas is the first Christmas where I am going to truly celebrate Christmas. I will celebrate it as a latter day saint. Through the promises of Heavenly Father, I know that this will truly be a joyous Christmas and my gifts truly will have the flavor of heaven.
I leave all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.