I’ve been gathering Christmas stories of the prophets for a unit study for this year’s Christmas school “Christmas with the Prophets.” (You can download it at that link.) One consistent theme running throughout their celebrations is charity. Many of the prophets had very little in their youth. Yet they gave anyway. One example is shown in the video below. There are no words. Just music and great animation. Can cartoons make you cry? This one about Heber J. Grant as a boy sure made me cry.
For those that don’t know Heber J. Grant’s background. His father died when he was nine days old. It was just Heber and his mother and they were destitute for most of his childhood. And yet Heber learned charity from his mother. Because of the circumstances of his youth he vowed to always help others, especially those who were widowed and fatherless. President Grant passed that trait on to his family. When leaders of the church suggested Primary children forget about Christmas presents and give the money to the temple, Pres. Grant’s children and grandchildren were more than happy to do it. Here are memories from Pres. Grant’s daughter, Lucy:
“The Salt Lake Temple was nearing completion, and as a project for all Sunday School and Primary children, it was suggested that they forget their Christmas presents and give the money to the temple. Our family was enthusiastic about the idea, so we immediately told Father that we wanted the equivalent of our Christmas gifts in money to pay on the temple. Father gave each of us $100.00, which, of course, was far in excess of the usual Christmas check, and how proudly little Heber (Pres. Grant’s grandson) handed his to the bishop! Some years later, just a week or so before his passing, the bishop was in, and Heber felt under his pillow for his purse and handed the bishop $8.00 which he had saved to add to other gifts for the temple.”
“An artist came to sell him a picture,” his daughter related. “Father did not have space on his walls to hang a picture, but the artist needed the money, so Father told him he had always been very sorry he let him sell his last picture so cheap, so he gave him an extra $50.00 for the previous picture and suggested that the artist sell the picture he had to someone else.”
She continued: “It was a few days before Christmas, and I was preparing some little gifts for a needy family. Father walked in, and I showed him the things, telling him about the family, as I had gathered the story from the mother, and I mentioned that I must get my temple clothes ready as I was lending them to the woman to use the next morning. The next day when she came to return my clothing, she told me that when she went to the temple gate, Father was there waiting. He had never seen her before, only knowing her by my description. He stopped her and handed her an envelope as he wished the family a happy Christmas. The envelope contained $20.00.” (Bryant S. Hinckley, Heber J. Grant: Highlights in the Life of a Great Leader [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1951], 207.)
The following video also tells of a small act of charity. It is a story Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley was told as a child by his father to teach him and his siblings about honesty and kindness.
Christmas is not about the getting. It is about the giving. The gift of The One who came as a babe, who would willingly die for us all. At this time of year our hearts are more tender towards those who have less. The feeling of brotherly love usually drives us to action. How to capture that feeling to last all year?
Joy. Joy. JOY.
My parents sent me this quote the other day. It teaches how a gift should truly be given through sacrifice and love.
Christmas gifts should be in memory of the divine gift, the life of Jesus Christ. His gift gave us eternal life; our gifts should enliven with joy those who receive. His gift was the sacrifice of his earthly life; our gifts should represent personal sacrifices on our part.
It is easy to give to our own, those whom we love. Their gladness becomes our joy. We are not quite so ready to give to others, even if they are in need, for their happiness does not seem so necessary to our happiness. It appears yet more difficult to give to the Lord, for we are prone to believe that he must give and ask nothing in return.
We have foolishly reversed the proper order. Our first gift at Christmas should be to the Lord; next to the friend or stranger by our gate; then, surcharged with the effulgence from such giving, we would enhance the value of our gifts to our very own. A selfish gift leaves a scar upon the soul, and it is but half a gift.
How can we give to the Lord? What shall we give to him? Every kind word to our own, every help given them, is as a gift to God, whose chief concern is the welfare of his children. Every gentle deed to our neighbor, every kindness to the poor and suffering, is a gift to the Lord, before whom all mankind are equal. Every conformity to the Lord’s plan of salvation—and this is of first importance—is a direct gift to God, for thereby we fit ourselves more nearly for our divinely planned destiny.
The desire and the effort to give to the Lord, born of the surrender of man to the plan of salvation, stamp every Christmas gift with genuine value. They who identify themselves with the plan, who do not resist it, who earnestly seek to tread the path of the plan, are true givers to the Lord, and their gifts to men come with the flavor of heaven. The Lord and his plan must have place in our Christmas celebration.
Do we give intelligent obedience to the laws of the gospel obedience based upon sober study and trial of the practices of the Church? If our giving is without such obedience, it is away from the Lord, not toward him. Do we stand ready to sacrifice for the cause of the Lord in the unpaid services of the Church? That is, are our time, talents, and means at the disposal of those who administer the Lord’s work? Great is the gift from such a hand.
Do we look upon the progress of the purposes of the Lord, by feeble human instruments, through eyes of love? Love looks deep into the soul, beyond superficialities; the loving husband does not sense that age is stealing upon the sweetheart of his youth; the member who loves the Church dwells upon the likeness of man to God, forgets human imperfections, and does not find fault. These are tests of the higher, richer giving at Christmas. Obedience, sacrifice, love—once these tests have been met, the gifts of Christmas, small or great, become more pleasing to the Lord, by a subtle, spiritual sense, more acceptable to the recipient, and leave permanent joy with the giver.
Would it not be well this Christmas to give first to the Lord, directly through obedience, sacrifice, and love, and then to give to him indirectly through gifts to friends and those in need as well as to our own? Should we do this, perhaps many of us would discover a new Christmas joy. (John A. Widtsoe, The Improvement Era, vol. 38 , p. 752. republished “The Gifts of Christmas,” Ensign, Dec. 1972, 4)
Capture that joy, here and now. It will, it should take sacrifice. It will mean less – less of whatever for your family, less “stuff” for you, to find charity, the pure love of Christ.
There’s more about the unit study on my post at Latter-day Homeschooling, as well as a giveaway for the book, Christmas With the Prophets by Laura F. Willes. The book is NOT a homeschooling book so don’t let that hold you back from entering the giveaway!
© 2007-2011 Chocolate on my Cranium, LLC all rights reserved