It seems that each year, no matter how hard I try to simplify and plan ahead, I end up a bit like a chicken with its head cut off as I try to get ready for Christmas. My calendar always ends up more packed than I thought it would. My errands end up taking longer than I expected. And I always, always end up putting off the gift wrapping until too late (although I have started!).
In all of the craziness, it’s all too easy for me to forget what this season is all about. We are, of course, celebrating the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. I like to celebrate and remember His life and example as well. After all, His whole life was about love, about service, about sacrifice, about giving — about all which should be motivating me during this season and always.
Last week, the theme in our Sacrament Meeting (the weekly congregational meeting where we partake of bread and water, the sacrament, and where members of our congregations speak on an assigned topic) was, interestingly enough, forgiveness. I can’t recall a time in the past when the chosen theme at the holiday time was something like this. But it helped me reflect on the kinds of gifts that really are of most lasting value. And I remembered a quote that has long been a favorite of mine for this time of year (all quotes below come from this talk by President Howard W. Hunter). I shared it with my family last week for our scripture study, and wanted to share it here.
This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.
President Hunter also shared this:
Give to your enemy forgiveness,
To your opponent tolerance,
To your friend your heart,
To all men charity, for the hands that help
are holier than lips that pray,
To every child a good example,
and to yourself—respect.
While I’m frantically trying to wrap all of my presents, I am also working to do more to unwrap my heart — to be more kind, more patient, more loving, more compassionate, more forgiving.
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would give Him a lamb,
If I were a Wise Man,
I would do my part,—
But what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.
I’ve included a video below that is a beautiful reminder of the power of forgiveness, featuring President James E. Faust’s last General Conference address before he passed away.
What quotes, stories, music, thoughts, or other things help you focus on the true meaning of Christmas?
The most poignant part of this for me is where he acknowledges that it may take time to forgive, but pleads with us to not consciously put it off. I think that when the depth of the wound is vast, anger can sometimes be a necessary phase of the forgiveness process, so long as it doesn’t turn to hatred. In the end, one must acknowledge the hand of the Lord in all things, and turn the wounds over to Him for healing.
We are His sheep, and He will care for us. We must, as He did, overcome the worldly desires of justice and retribution. In His own words: “Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me; And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost.” (D&C 50:41-42)
“Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.” (D&C 64:9-11)
It is a hard principle—to forgive when one hurts so much—but it is necessary to cultivate humility until it is possible to forgive in order to be comforted by the Spirit.