For this first day of a brand new year, I want to discuss how families are strengthened when they keep the Christmas spirit alive in their hearts and in their homes for the entire year. There are various ways to keep the Christmas feelings alive in our hearts, but the most effective way is to remember that Jesus Christ is the reason why we have the Christmas season. We can best remember Him by studying about Him in the scriptures, by praying to Heavenly Father in His name, and by trying to live as He lived. As we keep this spirit in our hearts, it will radiate out to all around us.
We can remember that the Christmas spirit “is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things” (1 Nephi 11:22). The spirit of love is available to all mankind throughout the year, but we must soften our hearts in order for this spirit to come in and bless our lives. “Christmas is … the love of the Son of God for all mankind. It reaches out beyond our power to comprehend. It is magnificent and beautiful” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Stand A Little Taller, 371).
We can also remember that the Christmas spirit reminds us of the love of Heavenly Father for all His children: “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son….” (St. John 3:16). We have Christmas and the season of giving because Heavenly Father gave His Son, and Jesus Christ gave His life. Without Their gifts and sacrifices, there would be no Christmas. The Christmas spirit is the love of God for mankind.
Another way to keep the Christmas spirit alive is to remember and to learn from the experiences of Ebenezer Scrooge as told by Charles Dickens in his story called A Christmas Carol. Dickens wrote this story nearly 200 years ago, but its message is still relevant and popular today. You may recall that Scrooge was a man who was filled with hate. Even though he was still walking around, eating, sleeping, working, etc, his heart was stone cold and his life was filled with darkness. He was paranoid, and distrusted everyone. He didn't like anyone, not even himself.
One night Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by the ghost of his late partner, Marley. He noticed that Marley was dragging a heavy chain made of "cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds and heavy purses wrought in steel." Marley told Scrooge, "I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it." I have often wondered what my chain is made of and what is hanging from it.
Scrooge questioned, "Why do spirits walk the earth?" Marley answered, "It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world … and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness."
Scrooge stated that Marley "was always a good man of business." To this, Marley cried, "Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business."
After the ghost of Marley departed, Scrooge was visited by three spirits. The first spirit referred to himself as the Ghost of Christmas Past. This spirit took Scrooge back through his childhood, youth, and young adulthood. He saw the kindness of his younger sister and the pretty young woman that he had once loved but lost because he was too interested in money.
The second spirit referred to himself as the Ghost of Christmas Present. This spirit showed Scrooge the citizens of his area. They were living in less than pleasant circumstances but were happy. He saw people preparing to observe Christmas with faith, food, family and friends. Scrooge saw the family of Bob Cratchit, particularly crippled Tiny Tim. This family was very poor but happy and full of love. Bob worked for Scrooge, but Scrooge didn't pay him enough to support his family. Scrooge saw his nephew who was trying to be kind to Scrooge and include him in his life, but Scrooge thought his nephew wanted only his money and wouldn't have anything to do with him.
The third spirit was the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. This spirit showed Scrooge as a dead man who was as unloved and alone in death just as he was in life. It also showed the Cratchit family in a state of deep mourning for Tiny Tim.
When Scrooge returned from the last visit, he realized that he was still alive and understood that he could change the future by changing the present. He became friendly with his nephew, raised the salary of Bob Cratchit and helped the struggling Cratchit family. He made mankind his business and became a good friend, a good employer, and a good man.
Christmas is a season when a peaceful, calm feeling of love is in the very air. It is a time when most of us are a little more tolerant of the bad behavior of other people and a little more helpful to the poor and needy. It is a time when we dig a little deeper in our pockets, wallets, and purses to purchase gifts for those we love and to help other people, even strangers, to have a happier Christmas. The spirit of Christmas is the Spirit of Christ. The feeling in the air is love. It is through the love of Christ for us that we have the ability to love other people. This spirit of love comes from Christ and is something that we can keep with us all the time.
When we put away our Christmas decorations, it is important that we don’t put away the Christmas spirit with them. I keep a couple of my Nativity sets out to remind me of the reason we celebrate Christmas. This reason is not because a Baby was born but because the Son of God came to earth and atoned for the sins of everyone who will obey His commandments. I know that we can strengthen our families by remembering the Christ Child as well as the Resurrected Christ.
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