It’s three weeks before Christmas and the holiday rush is in full swing. You may ask yourself, “Where is the Savior in all of this?” The reason for the season can be forgotten. But as President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said:
“Christmas is what we make of it. Despite all the distractions, we can see to it that Christ is at the center of our celebration. If we have not already done so, we can establish Christmas traditions for ourselves and for our families which will help us capture and keep the spirit of Christmas.” (“Because He Came”, Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Christmas Devotional 2011).
Let’s take another detour from the holiday rush and put the Savior back into the season.
The Christmas box
I’d like to tell a story of Christmas from my own family. As my siblings and I married and they started having children, we began celebrating Christmas separately in our little families and we reserved Thanksgiving as a time to get together in my parents’ home with our extended family. It was nice to have all my nieces and nephews together for one day a year, but sad, too, that we didn’t see them all at Christmas time. Sending Christmas presents in the mail was never as much fun as watching children open them in front of you. I wanted a bit of that Christmas spirit to share with them when we were all together. What was to prevent me from inviting my family to feel the same way I did? All it would take was a simple plan to bring Christmas to them a little earlier.
Serving in the children’s organization and in the youth groups of my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, oftentimes called the Mormon Church, taught me how to teach the gospel to those who are young—young in age but also young in spirit. The wheels began turning in my own head as to how to use what I’d learned to bring Christmas to my nieces and nephews a little bit earlier in the season. I developed a new tradition in our family—the Christmas box. Every Thanksgiving I brought a large box wrapped in Christmas paper with a removable lid. I set the box on the living room table and told my nieces and nephews they had to wait till after dinner to find out what was in the box. Then when dinner was over and the dishes were washed, we gathered around the box. I told them there was a surprise in it for them, but they had to listen to a story first before they could open it. I then read them a story that had to do with the Savior in some way, either directly or indirectly. One year we read about the origin of the candy cane, which is symbolic of Jesus Christ. Another year we read about Christmas oranges and the virtues of sharing our gifts with others. I also read other stories with morals and values, like courage, acceptance of others, loving family members, etc. They were captivated with each one. After we finished, they opened the box and found a surprise inside related to the story, either a toy, or a trinket of some sort—something to remember the story. I also included a copy of the book for each of them to start a collection of their own.
This tradition lasted for many years. One of my nieces wrote about it in a school composition about her favorite memory of the Thanksgiving holiday. That meant the world to me, to realize it meant as much to her as it did to me. As children they may have seen this tradition as a simple test of patience or a fun activity with their aunt, but in time they will equate the spirit of the Savior with the tradition we shared. They will come to realize it was the Lord that touched their hearts all those years. Heavenly Father’s love was with us during those wonderful times. He allowed a family divided by religion to come together in His name.
Look for the Savior hidden amongst the clutter of the world
Some people may wonder why I would want to bring Christmas into our Thanksgiving celebration. To me, Christmas is not a time of year but a mindset of sorts. It is a feeling of goodness, forgiveness, salvation and hope. It is a way of life not a date on a calendar. Christ is the ultimate expression of healing—at Christmastime and throughout the year. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said this in a Christmas devotional:
“Of course, we do not need a Christmas holiday or Christmas traditions to remember Jesus Christ, our Savior. But the celebrations of Christmas can help remind us of Him. The hallowed Christmas season can be an opportunity to recommit to keep the fire of the Spirit and the glory of the Son of God burning in our hearts every day throughout the year.” (Of Curtains, Contentment, and Christmas, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, 2011 First Presidency Christmas Devotional
The Christmas box tradition taught me to look for the Savior in all things and at all times. I spent many hours searching for the right book that brought the perfect spirit. Some were religious in nature but many were not. Each one had values and morals that brought people closer to the Savior, and honestly, this was the point I had hoped to make with my family.
You can develop a similar tradition in your family. You can find children’s books and movies that emphasize Christ-like messages. Start a collection of stories and films that celebrate the birth of Christ. Add to it stories that teach values of courage, strength, hope, forgiveness, or any other Christ-like qualities you can find. They’re out there. Be the one to recognize His presence in the clutter of the world. Give Him center stage in your home. You can be like the wise men who sought out the Savior and you can help others to see Him—in the stories and traditions you bring into your own home. Jesus Christ is the one true light of the world—let that light shine brightly in your home. Your family will lean on it, long for it, and seek after it for years to come.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.