This year will be my 25th Christmas; my GOLDEN Christmas! 25 years of giving and receiving gifts, singing Christmas songs, and experiencing the magic of Christmas morning with my brothers and sisters. As I get older, I find that what I love most are the feelings of sweet peace and joy only Jesus Christ can bring. I find as I turn outward and give my best to those around me and to God, my heart is filled in ways that “getting” just can’t provide.
In this spirit of giving, I’m so excited to share with you what our family is doing together this year! Our church launched a program to encourage us to “Light the World” in 25 ways over 25 days throughout the month of December. They created short videos and a list of suggested ways to serve in our neighborhoods and communities for each day leading up to Christmas and they are WONDERFUL! This program was introduced last year and I look forward every day to watching the videos with my husband and talking about what we can do that day to serve those around us. It not only brings us closer to each other, but also to Christ as we increase our efforts to serve selflessly, as He did. Visit the site HERE.
For a long time, I believed that in order to make a difference I needed to offer some kind of profound, life-changing service to people who were suffering in ways that I would never fully understand. Bonnie L. Oscarson, a leader of the Young Women’s organization in our church, said in our conference in October, “We are touched when we see the suffering and great needs of those halfway around the world, but we may fail to see there is a person who needs our friendship sitting right next to us in class.” Though my family has had incredible experiences travelling to far places to give service, I totally agree with Sister Oscarson and I’m learning that what Christ asks us to do is much more simple!
Matthew 22:37-39 reads: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Christmas is the perfect time to reach out to our neighbors! Everyone is our neighbor, but sometimes I think we forget that it is our closest neighbors, friends and family members who may be the most in need of the service only we can give them.
I’ll never forget an experience I had on my sixteenth birthday where I was on the receiving end of service. We had just moved across the country from our home in North Carolina to California to pursue our music career, and my birthday was my first day at my new high school. Two words, people: Mia Thermopolis. It was truly the most unfortunate day! No one tried to talk to me or was friendly, and I felt overwhelmed and totally invisible (later on in the semester I actually got sat on by someone who said, “Oh sorry, I didn’t see you there”. Hence the Princess Diaries reference). It was so rough that when I came home from school I went straight to my room and cried. Not quite the sweet sixteen I had hoped for! I hadn’t been home long when there was a knock at the door. I was so surprised to see two girls from the neighborhood, who were in my church youth group, on the porch with a birthday cake they’d baked for me. I didn’t know them very well and they didn’t know me, but they had known it was my birthday and took the time to make me feel noticed and cared for. My feelings of insignificance were gone as I hugged those two sweet girls who thought to take care of their neighbor: me! Little did they know how much that gesture meant to me, and still does. As wonderful as perfect gifts may be, I think there’s much more value in giving gifts of quality time and using our own talents to create something unique and special for those we love.
Bonnie Oscarson said, “What good does it do to save the world if we neglect the needs of those closest to us and those whom we love the most? How much value is there in fixing the world if the people around us are falling apart and we don’t notice? Heavenly Father may have placed those who need us closest to us, knowing that we are best suited to meet their needs.”
I know that as we make an effort to take care of our neighbors and show our love through small acts of service, this beautiful Christmas season can hold great joy for us. Jesus Christ is the reason for my greatest joy, and I love getting to celebrate Him by trying to follow His example.
Merry Christmas to all of you! I wish you all the happiest of holidays!