Let me preface this with the backstory. Christmas fell on a Monday which is P-day for the missionaries. Christmas along with Mother’s Day are the two holidays that the missionaries are allowed to call home. With all of that going on, Elder Summers did not send an email this week. He and I talked and wanted to provide an update on something meaningful. This is my gift to him, I wrote the message this week and hope you find something uplifting within this text.
Christmas is my favorite time of the season. There is just something magical about this time of year. It brings out the best in people. So often you see people so focused on their own lives that the don’t stop to look around or think of others. That all changes around Christmas.
Where once people fought over right-of-way at an intersection or were oblivious to someone coming through the doorway after them; things change. I see others offer to let some poor shopper through a busy intersection or hold the door open for someone entering. And they seem to do these with a smile on their faces and a brighter countenance.
Oh sure, there are dark times like when people are attacking a display on Black Friday for a highly sought-after toy or “great deal” but those are the exceptions rather than the rule. And during this holiday season it’s easier to overlook those exceptions rather than point them out.
Christmas helps to remind us that gifts and service are important parts of our existence. Neither require vast amounts of money or time but become the foundation of memories we will cherish throughout our lives. Thinking back, the gifts that meant the most to those I love were not the lavish electronics or expensive items the stores suggest would make someone happy. It was those things I gave from the heart whether it be a coupon book good for serving my mom around the house or an item that made an emotional connection to a memory we had shared.
As I grew into becoming a parent it was important to me to make each Christmas extra special for my family. At first, I probably overdid it making sure that every square inch of house and yard were decorated or having a multitude of gifts under the tree for each person. From a worldly perspective, this seemed like how Christmas should be. The kids loved it. They had all the coolest toys or most recent fashion items.
But after the last piece of wrapping paper fell to the floor there seemed to be an emptiness. The anticipation was gone and while each person’s pile of gifts stood as a monument to the material things of this life it just didn’t seem to be enough.
After many years of feeling like this we pared down Christmas slightly and focused more on what was truly important. This is not to say we eliminated Christmas. There is still an annual discussion between Trina and I where I have to face the judgement seat and explain why I spent so much money on gifts.
When we first had kids, we started a tradition. It was very simple but seems to have had a profound effect on them. Each Christmas there are the typical gifts wrapped and placed under the tree from mom and dad, siblings, friends etc. But to the side, typically near Trina’s nativity set there is one small gift for each person in the family simply wrapped in white.
Normally at the end of Christmas in the evening before bed we will gather as a family and talk about Christmas and what it means. We then bring out these simple gifts that are referred to as Spiritual Gifts. These are normally something that remind us that the reason for this holiday is not commercialism but to celebrate the birth of our Savior.
Sometimes the gift is a spiritual quote or a book to help learn some aspect of our Savior. In the case of this year it was a challenge coin. On the front it says CTR for Choose the Right. On the back is a scripture reference to remind us that we should be following the Savior’s example and make the right decisions not only for us but also for those around us.
I honestly thought this little tradition would be discounted by the kids and soon forgotten but it has remained a strong part of our family. Now that several of the kids are grown and starting families of their own it is great to see it continue.
Dakota is serving his mission in Georgia and Christmas has been different these past two years. There are fewer gifts since the cost of postage adds up and he really doesn’t need more things to have to carry around each transfer. So, each thing given had special meaning.
But the one thing that was not missed was the “Spiritual Gift”. In fact, talking to him on Christmas it was one of the things he shares the most with the people of Georgia when they ask him how he celebrated at home.
I hope this simple concept catches on and that the “Spiritual Gifts” we give and receive remind us of the magic of Christmas and that it doesn’t have to be bounded by dates on a calendar. We should give each other these gifts throughout the year so that we keep these feelings alive and make the world a better place.