Part of my childhood was spent in a small mountain valley where on Sundays, special occasions, and Christmas, church bells rang out the glad news. Locked in my memories of Christmas mornings is one when the valley was covered with a thick layer of snow. The air was sharp with cold, and frost had turned the trees to fantasy sculptures. As I stood outside before entering the barn, I heard the bells. The sound carried from down in the valley creating one of those perfect moments of beauty that became a piece of what Christmas means to me.
Over the years my parents, my siblings, my husband and children, friends, teachers, co-workers, neighbors, ward or branch members, those who read my books, and even those I only know from mutual interest internet groups have woven their way into my Christmas feelings and memories. I've given and I've received. The secret Santas, the homemade gifts, the shopping binges, the parties, concerts, and school plays have taught me the joy of giving and gracious receiving.
A great musician learned by chance that I'm tone deaf and made it his mission to teach me to hear. Among the pieces he painstakingly helped me to differentiate the sounds from noise to music were the old Christmas carols. Years later, working in the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, the organist on the shift where I serve discovered that I can hear the melody of songs played on the chime setting of the temple organ. Since then she always adds the chimes anytime she plays the organ when I am present. Thus music has become a deeply appreciated part of Christmas for me.
When family or friends gather, food becomes one of those social mediums that brings us together. At no time is this more true than at Christmas. Most of us have a favorite food we associate with Christmas. My older brothers gave my sisters and me a box of cherry chocolates for Christmas each year when we were little. Without cherry chocolates would it still be Christmas? I grew up with a goose, not turkey or ham for Christmas dinner. Mama's carrot pudding, oranges, and raisin filled cookies all mean Christmas to me.
There are those who remind us Christ wasn't really born on December twenty-fifth. Others are adamant that the gift giving and parties distract from the true meaning of Christmas. Some make a big deal over wishing someone Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I don't think it matters what day we celebrate as Christ's birthday; the important point is to recognize that He came and the manner of greeting matters far less than the sincere heartfelt desire to wish another a message of caring. Giving gifts, providing comfort, warmth, and good meals for the homeless and poor, the gathering of families in love for one another are the very things He taught us. It's good to have a time to pause and reflect on our beliefs, acknowledge those who have helped us in life, join together in families and friendship, give the best gifts we can, and spread good will throughout the world. As for me, I choose to also make Christmas a time to worship and a time to ask God's blessings on all those who have touched my life for good. It's a time to remember Jesus is the greatest gift to mankind.
Christmas is a time to wish all of you a blessed Christmas. May this season bring you warmth, joy, peace, and the best of memories.