Some Church leaders are remembered for speaking about certain themes. For example, President Ezra Taft Benson is known for speaking about the Constitution, warning of pride, and counseling to read the Book of Mormon. Elder M. Russell Ballard frequently encourages missionary work. Interestingly, the individual who most often spoke of the real spirit of Chrismas was President Thomas S. Monson. I found several talks by this great man reminding us to look to Christ to understand the true meaning of the Christmas spirit.
Thinking back on all the talks I've heard President Monson give, I recall the main thread running through them is his Christ-like love for people. How many stories has he told through the years about promptings to visit someone: A lonely and widowed sister, a former ward member in the hospital, an old acquaintence who had left the Church? Without a doubt, President Monson's life is an example of the real spirit of Christmas lived every day of the year.
May we all take a few moments to rediscover the Christmas spirit and recommit ourselves at the New Year to pray for it and live it daily. May our eyes be single to the glory of the Master whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.
The real spirit of Christmas lies in the life and mission of the Master. I continue with what the writer defines as the real spirit of Christmas:
'It is a desire to sacrifice for others, to render service and to possess a feeling of universal brotherhood. It consists of a willingness to forget what you have done for others, and to remember what others have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and think only of your duties in the middle distance, and your chance to do good and aid your fellow-men in the foreground--to see that your fellow-men are just as good as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts--to close your book of grievances against the universe, and look about you for a place to sow a few seeds of happiness, and go your way unobserved. [Clarence Baird, "The Spirit of Christmas," Improvement Era, 23:154 (December 1919)]'
“Why does peace come closer to reality at this season than at any other?” President Monson asked. “Why is it that more friends are remembered and more enemies forgiven at the Christmas season than at any other time? Why is it that more acts of kindness and service and generosity take place? It is the Christmas spirit.”
Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than things. To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable and it becomes the Spirit of Christ.
Temple Square in Salt Lake City is known throughout the world. It is particularly attractive at Christmastime, with its thousands of twinkling lights, traditional nativity scene, carolers singing those songs so dear to us all, and, of course, the lighted statue of the Christus, which seems to say to the world, “The spirit of Christmas is indeed the Christ spirit.”
As we seek Christ, as we find Him, as we follow Him, we shall have the Christmas spirit, not for one fleeting day each year, but as a companion always. We shall learn to forget ourselves. We shall turn our thoughts to the greater benefit of others.
President David O. McKay said: “True happiness comes only by making others happy—the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it. In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service.
“It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.” (Gospel Ideals (1953), 551)
What will you and I give for Christmas this year? Let us in our lives give to our Lord and Savior the gift of gratitude by living His teachings and following in His footsteps. It was said of Him that He “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38) As we do likewise, the Christmas spirit will be ours.
One who had a keen insight into the Christmas spirit wrote:
“I am the Christmas Spirit. I enter the home of poverty and cause palefaced children to open wide their eyes in pleased wonder. I cause the miser to release his clutched hand, thus painting a bright spot upon his soul.
“I cause the aged to remember their youth and to laugh in the glad old way. I bring romance to childhood and brighten dreams woven with magic.
“I cause eager feet to climb dark stairways with filled baskets, leaving behind hearts amazed at the goodness of the world.
“I cause the prodigal to pause in his wild and wasteful way and send to anxious love some little token which releases glad tears, washing away the hard lines of sorrow.
“I enter dark prison cells, causing scarred manhood to remember what might have been and pointing to better days yet to come.
“I enter the still white home of pain, and there lips that are too weak to speak just tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude.
“In a thousand ways I cause this weary old world to look up into the face of God and for a few moments forget everything that is small and wretched. You see, I am the Christmas Spirit.” (Author unknown.)
President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, said: “This is a glorious time of the year, simple in origin, deep in meaning, beautiful in tradition and custom, rich in memories, and charitable in spirit. … This joyful season brings to each of us a measure of happiness that corresponds to the degree in which we have turned our mind, feelings, and actions to the spirit of Christmas.”
Since the time of the wise men, President Monson said, “the spirit of giving gifts has been present in the mind of each Christian as he or she commemorates the Christmas season. Our Heavenly Father gave to us His Son, Jesus Christ. That precious Son gave to us His life, the Atonement, and victory over the grave.”
After giving four descriptions of Christmas—“Christmas is children,” “Christmas is remembering,” “Christmas is giving,” and “Christmas is prophecy fulfilled”—President Monson asked, “What will you and I give for Christmas this year? Let us in our lives give to our Lord and Savior the gift of gratitude by living His teachings and following in His footsteps. It was said of Him that He ‘went about doing good’ [Acts 10:38]. As we do likewise, the Christmas spirit will be ours.”
When we keep the spirit of Christmas, we keep the spirit of Christ, for the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit.
The supreme gift of eternal life should be remembered during this season of gift giving, urged President Thomas S. Monson during the annual First Presidency Devotional held December 6.... “The real spirit of Christmas lies in His assurance: ‘I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.’ (John 11:25–26.)”