One year we had a snowy jaunt through the forest while searching for the perfect Christmas tree. It took a while because we each had a distinctly different idea on what the best tree should look like, but we finally agreed on one. The tree, so beautiful and just the right size in the forest, was too tall for our small home and needed far too much trimming. It never stood straight underneath our eight-foot ceiling after that, but leaned just a little to the left.
I remember decorating our tree each year with the same colored lights and our traditional ornaments, and hanging long strings of silver tinsel until it shone like a disco ball. When we were done, I’d sneak behind it and play with my Barbies—but I remember so few of the gifts that Santa brought on Christmas morning.
In our home, there was always hot chocolate to warm our insides, homemade cookies to satisfy our sweet tooth, and carols to bring the Christmas spirit. These are the things I remember with fondness. While it’s true that I don’t remember many of my gifts, I shamefully remember the childish yearning for gifts that I never obtained—things so important to a girl’s happiness for only a moment, and then forgotten.
Now that I’m a parent, I understand. Sometimes the object my child wants more than anything else isn’t something that will hold his interest. Even still, I can’t stand to see the longing in his eyes, and I give in to his pleading. Then true to my intuition, a month after Christmas morning the toy is stuffed to the back of the closet and seldom looked at again.
In our world of commercialism, the television often dictates what we, or our children want—the newest, the brightest, and the most technologically advanced. Wouldn’t it be great if the gifts we asked for at Christmastime were really the things we needed? Today I realize that the gifts I received as a child are not remembered because they weren’t needed. They were unimportant to the spirit of Christmas and unimportant to my life.
Each year, Santa is there wearing his red suit and drawing children to him with his bags of peppermint candy. He’s known around the world and instantly recognized by his full, white beard. Why, he’s the man who makes Christmas fun. Naughty or nice, he brings children gifts, and his smiling, friendly eyes reassure them as they stand in long lines while waiting to sit on his lap—but he isn’t real.
However, there is someone else robed in red whose gifts we recognize at Christmas. He is also bearded with friendly eyes—and yes, he is real. His garments, crimson from the blood of the Atonement, brought us the gift of eternal life. Naughty or nice, he came bearing gifts for us all.
On the cold nights of my despair when all seems hopeless, the gift of prayer warms my troubled soul. His unconditional love takes my breath away and fills me with wonder.
When I am tempted to be petty and unforgiving, I need never lean to the left or right, but only to follow his example which helps me stand straight and walk the narrow path.
His holy word lights my mind and teaches me the way. It is through the scriptures that I am taught things that I wouldn’t otherwise know. A favorite hymn brings his spirit during times of hardship and reminds me that he is always near.
When my childish soul fills with yearning, the gifts that are the Savior’s to give are mine for the asking. I need not be wealthy or famous to enjoy, for his gospel is obtainable to even the lowliest of heart. His offering is momentous and remembered throughout all eternity.
“Come unto me.” The Savior pleads for us to follow. With his arms outstretched, he’s desirous that we partake of his bread and his water. He brings us his gospel, his spirit, his sacrifice. They are free to all who want them because he has already paid the price; and the Savior’s gifts, once accepted, bring a lifetime of happiness.
May we each remember the reason for the season as we celebrate it.