Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Gifts of Christmas

Today I Spoke in the 1st Ward. It was their Christmas Program. Today's Program was as follows:
  • Bishop to read Luke Chapter 2 Account of the Nativity.
  • My Speaking companion to deliver his talk
  • Musical number, a duet.
  • Additional musical number: "Silent Night", which featured two twelve-year olds playing the violin, and accompanied by piano.
  • An inspirational Christmas Story relating the first Christmas to take place in occupied Hiroshima, Japan after the atomic bombs were detonated. (You Can read this story here.)
  • I was scheduled to give the concluding remarks of the service.

Normally, when I have one of these speaking assignments, my companion and I will split the time, with an intermediary hymn being sung in between our talks. Usually I give my companion 10-15 minutes, and I usually am prepared with 15-20 minutes worth of material, but I usually have it organized in such a way that I can reduce the time, if necessary in order to end the meeting on time.

As you can see, with today's schedule, it would be perfectly understandable to think that there would not be the usual time allotted for our talks. Both my speaking companion and I assumed that with the extra speakers and musical numbers, we would each have 5 minutes in which to speak -- at the most.

The meeting progressed normally, with few announcements or ward business to take care of. Finally, the appointed time came when the program, as outlined above would proceed.

The Bishop got up and read excerpts from Luke Chapter 2. My speaking companion spoke for about 4 minutes, and sat down. Then the musical numbers began. The duet was sung by a tenor and an alto, with a lot of close and intertwining harmonies. It was very beautiful. They were followed by the two young people with the violins, accompanied by the piano. A sister in the ward then read the story of Christmas in Hiroshima.

At the conclusion of the story, I looked up at the clock on my way to the podium – there were still 20 minutes left in the meeting! I had prepared 5-10 minutes worth of material, and really only expected to have 3-5 minutes left after all of the other talks and musical numbers.

I had been praying for guidance as I had prepared my remarks, that it would be something that would be of help and inspiration to the members of the ward, and that it would be in harmony with God’s will.

As I prepared to go to the meeting this morning, I had several thoughts come into my mind as I was getting ready. I added the key concepts to these thoughts as margin notes on the talk that I had already prepared and printed out. I was glad that I had done so. Looking back, I feel that the Lord was helping me to be ready for the extra time that I would have to fill.

As I prepared my remarks, I reflected about the gifts that God, and his Son have given us. What would they want us to give them back in return?

In my research, I cam across a talk given by President Howard W Hunter, which was given at the First Presidency Christmas Devotional in December of 1994. As it would turn out, this would be President Hunter’s final public address before his death.

I have always felt that President Hunter was filled with a Christ-like love and charity toward others that few possess. As part of his talk that night, he gently implored us to do the following, as a gift we might give in return to Jesus, this Christmas:

“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.”

(Howard W. Hunter,“The Gifts of Christmas,” Ensign, Dec. 2002, 16) You
can read the full text of his talk here.

I can hear the kind and loving words of the Savior coming through in President Hunters words.
Through the help of the Lord, I was able to extend my talk to fill the time required. The meeting ended exactly on time after all! It was a testimony to me that the Lord will bless us and help us in our callings as we strive to serve him.

For me, this quote from President Hunter will become the theme of my Christmas this year. The attributes which President Hunter expresses here are the attributes of Christ. If we will do these things, then we will lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees. And we will find, that as we strive to lift and build others that, we too, will be transformed in the process. We will find that as we do His work, we will become more like Him, and will be filled with his love. Perhaps Moroni said it best when he said:

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." (Moroni 7:48 -- See the whole chapter here.)

What a change we would see in our world, if each of us were to heed the words of President Hunter, and take upon ourselves these Christ-like attributes. We would truly have a world filled with "Peace on earth", and "Good will Towards men." (Luke 2:14)


Anonymous said...

Hi There,

Thanks for showing me where this was. I enjoyed my reading and was wonderful! Great to see you again!!! You missed the private concert on my flute I gave to the 'half note.' You will have to ask her about it. Now my C note actually works (I had it fixed while you were hiking around getting the dog muddy) it would probably sound better.

Sister P said...

Thank you so much for the reference to this talk - it's lovely - just what I was looking for for FHE, VT and for our RS Pres Mtg !!
Thanks again.