The Gifts of ChristmasBy Elder John A. Widtsoe Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Improvement Era – December, 1935
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.
How can we give to the Lord? What shall we give to him? Every kind word to our own, every help given them, is as a gift to God, whose chief concern is the welfare of his children. Every gentle deed to our neighbor, every kindness to the poor and suffering, is a gift to the Lord, before whom all mankind are equal. Every conformity to the Lord’s plan of salvation—and this is of first importance—is a direct gift to God, for thereby we fit ourselves more nearly for our divinely planned destiny.
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 place in our Christmas celebration.
Do we give intelligent obedience to the laws of the gospel obedience based upon sober study and trial of the practices of the Church? If our giving is without such obedience, it is away from the Lord, not toward him. Do we stand ready to sacrifice for the cause of the Lord in the unpaid services of the Church? That is, are our time, talents, and means at the disposal of those who administer the Lord’s work? Great is the gift from such a hand.
Do we look upon the progress of the purposes of the Lord, by feeble human instruments, through eyes of love? Love looks deep into the soul, beyond superficialities; the loving husband does not sense that age is stealing upon the sweetheart of his youth; the member who loves the Church dwells upon the likeness of man to God, forgets human imperfections, and does not find fault. These are tests of the higher, richer giving at Christmas. Obedience, sacrifice, love—once these tests have been met, the gifts of Christmas, small or great, become more pleasing to the Lord, by a subtle, spiritual sense, more acceptable to the recipient, and leave permanent joy with the giver.
Would it not be well this Christmas to give first to the Lord, directly through obedience, sacrifice, and love, and then to give to him indirectly through gifts to friends and those in need as well as to our own? Should we do this, perhaps many of us would discover a new Christmas joy.