Christmas was yesterday, so yes, it’s technically over. But reflecting on my experience this year leaves me wanting something of the essence of Christmas to linger and continue into the coming year.
This past Sunday my bishop shared a few remarks at the end of the ward Christmas program. He recognized some in the congregation were friends of other faiths, and he spoke for a moment specifically to them. He acknowledged some recent changes in the Church, particularly the new meeting schedule starting next year. And then he promised that those who would faithfully attend our worship services each Sunday would find peace for at least that one hour.
In reflecting upon his words, I realize what many of us really want in our lives is peace. We want to get away from the fighting that fills our communities. We want to escape the turbulence troubled times give to us and those we love most. We want to remove the frustrating circumstances life can provide. We all want peace.
As a popular song teaches, let there be peace, and let it begin with me. When we take the proper action inside ourselves first and then promote peace in others, we can have peace in our lives, regardless of our circumstances or what is happening in the world around us.
Follow after peace
I’ve long spoken both on this program and in the blog about how singles can feel peace in a family-centered culture while not having the marker of belonging in that culture. Your focus determines your reality, so when you change your focus, you change your realty. When you change the way you think, you change your life.
That principle applies to everyone, not just singles. All of us can create a reality of peace in our lives when we focus on what brings peace. And the ultimate source of peace is the Prince of Peace. He suffered our pains and troubles so that He would know how to be compassionate in our hour of need. He died so that we could live.
That life Christ gives isn’t just eternal life in the realm beyond the veil. He gives life here and now in mortality. He can lighten our load and light the way before us. He can lift us when we are low. He can give hope amidst despair.
The Christmas spirit of peace can continue on in us when we increase our discipleship to the Prince of Peace. It’s when we ignore His teachings or forget our covenants that we bring ourselves the opposite of peace. Aligning ourselves with His teachings and our covenants with Him brings a harmony with truth that makes a natural home for peace.
Once we have peace within ourselves, we can then spread peace to others around us. Our continued walk after the Prince of Peace can inspire others to follow His enlightened example. Once they align themselves with truth, others can have the same peace in their lives.
But deep, lasting peace comes from more than just keeping the standards. Just as true happiness comes from giving yourself to all the right things for you, deep, lasting peace comes when you align yourself with all the right things for you. By all means, strive to keep the commandments and your covenants. Those things are right for everyone. But beyond the standards reside what’s right for each of us individually — goodness related to your personal ministry and the contribution only you can make in the lives of others.
When you give yourself to those right things that only you can do, you promote peace. You become a city shining on a hill giving goodness, light, and love to an increasingly darkened world desperately in need. And that peace you bring to others can come to you as well.
It all starts where the song says it starts. Let there be peace. And let it begin with me.
Let each of us align ourselves with truth. Let each of us keep the commandments. Let each of us be true to our covenants. Let each of us embrace our own personal ministry and contribute what only we can give. Let each of us feel the peace that comes from following more completely the Prince of Peace.
Then let us all go forward and share that peace with others. Let us light their lives. Let us give them hope. Let us lighten their load. Let there be peace. And let it begin with me and you. We will find a peace we have never before known if we promote peace within our own hearts and the hearts of others like we have never before done. And when we do that, we’ll have more joy in our journey.
Christmas is right around the corner, and as long-time members of the audience know, Christmas is my favorite holiday. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And we know why. There’s the time with family and friends, the food, the presents, the lights everywhere, and the general feeling of goodwill, just to name a few.
In addition, many of us will have our own slight adjustments to that list because we each have our own traditions for celebrating the season. Those traditions create memories that can last a lifetime. We can reflect back and relive the goodness of those moments, an experience bringing us joy again and again.
Yet we truly treasure those old memories when we allow them to motivate us in creating new memories to treasure and recording them in some way that allows us to bring these memories to future generations. By creating new memories as well as the means to share those memories with those coming after us, we truly treasure our memories of the season.
Relive past memories
We can all capture joy by reflecting back on treasured memories of past Christmases, particularly those that involve family traditions. Some of my most treasured memories of Christmas as I grew up involved two special traditions: Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning breakfast.
Dinner on Christmas Eve was a huge smorgasbord. We would list everything we wanted to eat — pizza, sandwiches, fried chicken, Chinese, whatever. We’d intentionally get more than we could possibly eat in one setting so we’d have leftovers over the next 2-3 days and my mother wouldn’t have to cook. It was my father’s annual present to my mother.
But we needed to have Christmas breakfast before getting to that point, and that was also a feast in its own right. We’d have waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns — pretty much anything you’d want for a big breakfast. And just like the night before we’d have leftovers to eat the next couple of days.
What make these memories so treasured for me is that they required us to work together. Our Christmas Eve smorgasbord usually required 2-3 of us each traveling a different route to secure a portion of the whole feast. And we’d each take turns helping to fix parts of Christmas breakfast so each of us could shower and dress to get ready for it all. By the time we were all dressed and ready, so was breakfast.
Share past memories
Of course, treasured memories will die with us unless we create a channel to transmit them across the generations. It’s great that my treasured memories bring goodness into my life whenever I relive them. But how much more goodness can I bring into the world by recording my memories so that future generations can share in my joy?
Modern technology provides many options for all of us to record the memories we make each Christmas season. I’m something of an old school fan here; I prefer handwritten journals. But there’s plenty of other options. You can record audio conversations with family members, or take photos of family being together, or record video of family members participating in family traditions. Modern technology makes it really easy to capture the moments that make great memories.
And you don’t have to settle on just one channel for preserving and transmitting memories. Again, modern technology makes it super easy to utilize multiple channels. Some careful planning can maximize your readiness to capture the memory making moments you don’t anticipate as well the ones you do.
Don’t miss the opportunity
However you choose to proceed, don’t miss the opportunity to make the most of your moments. The memories that bring us joy from years past and the memories that will bring us joy in years to come arise from the actions we take now. We truly treasure the memories we have today by working to make more memories we’ll have tomorrow.
And we amplify the goodness contained in those memories by creating channels for sharing it with future generations. Don’t make the mistake of allowing your circumstances to decide your level of activity. Even if you’re single without any direct descendants, don’t think there aren’t others in succeeding generations who’ll be interested in knowing more about your goodness. Like light that shines for all to see, the goodness we each have can make memories everyone can treasure for years to come.
So treasure the memories you have by making new ones and recording them in some way for future generations. When you do, you’ll expand the goodness you experience in our your own life and transmit that goodness to those who come after you. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Given the challenges in my life right now (which I’ve discussed in previous programs), I certainly have had better Christmas seasons. But I also can’t complain. I’m greatly blessed.
So are all of us. We all have people who care about us. Even when we think we don’t, God sends His angels to help us feel love in the moments when we most need to feel it.
The Lord has said His angels will be “round about you to bear you up” (D&C 84:88). Sometimes those angels are actual people. Loved ones on the other side of the veil cheer us onward, and servants of the Almighty — imperfect disciples who love the Lord and try to follow the Master — provide assistance on this side.
We can all be that kind of angel, the kind that gives service to those who need to receive it. The size of the service doesn’t matter, because serving just means being kind. Service doesn’t need to be big or showy. It just needs to be done.
Small often counts more
There’s so many ways to serve. Two weeks ago we talked about the Light the World campaign promoted by the Church. Here you can find some wonderful ideas to serve. This week focuses on sharing light with the community.
Of course, we can all think of our own ideas for service. Again, it doesn’t need to be big or showy. Very often the small acts of service are the most meaningful.
I’ve shared before the account of the small act of service my mother provided during prayer. As I knelt with my mother in prayer before returning to finish my graduate program after the holiday break, I heard her beseeching the blessings of heaven to assist me in finishing. Not long after my return, I became frustrated with the progress of my research and more especially my deteriorating relationship with my major professor. So great was my frustration I wanted to quit.
I still remember the impression powerfully coming over me as I marched out of the student union building intent on telling my major professor I was done. The memory of my mother praying for me gave me courage to change my mind and strength to finish my program. I wouldn’t have that graduate degree without the small act of service my mother provided. Again, service doesn’t need to be big or showy. It just needs to be done.
Christ showed the way
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ demonstrates excellent examples of service — acts of kindness done for the praise of God and not for the praise of men. He specifically mentions giving alms, fasting, and prayer. We can each give these small acts of service.
Our contributions to the Church’s humanitarian aid fund provide for the truly needy of the world. Many other worthy charities accept donations of money, time, and other resources. We can all give something. We can all also fast in behalf of those we know in need. And we can all include petitions for blessings in our prayers that someone we know will be sustained and even prospered through a difficult challenge. Those prayers are especially powerful when we pray for others by name.
I’ve enjoyed great blessings through small acts of service I’ve performed in connection with my Sermon on the Mount study. I’ve spoken before about this annual tradition in which I spend the last 40 days of the year applying the Sermon on the Mount to my life. One recent act of service I performed was to bring lunch to my father and afterwards help him disassemble his backyard gazebo. It wasn’t service you could describe as big or showy. But it was service that needed to be done.
Your service awaits
Everything I’ve discussed so far is really just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. The small acts of service we could provide are truly infinite in number. And every one of them can have a powerful influence for good.
What will your small act of service be? What kindness will you show someone? To what causes will you contribute your money, your time, or your resources? For whom will you fast? For whom will you pray by name? You can make this Christmas season truly memorable for both you and those you serve when you share your kindness all around.
Service doesn’t need to be big or showy. It just does need to be done. When you take the time to give of your time, your money, your resources — and most importantly your love — you shine the light of Christ into a world growing ever more dark. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
We all know Christmas time as the season of giving, and rightly so. We give gifts to friends and family because Christ gave the greatest gift ever. His sacrifice makes it possible for us all to return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father.
I don’t know how many of us are thinking about Christ’s glorious gift when we gift that awful looking tie to a father, those bunny slippers to a mother, or that special toy to a child. But not all gifts of value come wrapped in paper and ribbon. Many of these gifts are more worthy of reminding us of the real reason why we give gifts this season.
The best part is that we all have those sorts of gifts to give. The worst part is that many of us fail to give those gifts. We compare our gifts with those others have to offer. Seeing ourselves lacking, we heed the persuasions of doubt and fear to hide away our contribution. “Who am I to offer anything meaningful?” we question.
Yet we best embrace the spirit of the season when we kick doubt and fear out the door and just do the good we can. When you ignore any insecurities you may feel about the quality of your gift and just give your gift, you’ll find the light of Christ burning brighter in the world as well as your own life.
Recognize your light
Nature teaches that every child has the potential to become as the parent. As sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, we have the potential to become as perfect a Giver as He is. And we develop that potential by following Christ’s example.
The Savior always sought out the one. Sure, He fed 5000 with a few fish and five loaves of bread, but we have many more accounts of Him ministering to individuals: The woman at the well, the man born blind, the adulteress caught in the act, the woman with an issue of blood, His disciple Peter whom He instructed to feed His sheep — the list goes on and on.
Surely many of us will not be performing the miracles He performed. But we can all be a miracle in the life of someone who needs lifting to higher ground. We can share a smile, give a hug, offer a listening ear, and reach out with love and understanding. These acts may seem small, but they feed the needs we all have to feel loved, understood, and nourished.
Avoid the comparisons
Here many of us hold back from giving our gifts of love, compassion, hope, and positive energy. We compare our gift with what we see someone else offering, something we judge to be superior to our own gift. “Wouldn’t they want the better gift?” goes the rationalization.
We spend far too much time comparing ourselves to others in just about every way imaginable, so it’s no surprise we compare in the arena of gift giving as well. But the goodness of a gift doesn’t come from its superiority over other gifts. The goodness of a gift comes from the light and love which surround the gift. And only you can offer your unique combination of light and love to others.
Sources of light will vary, but any light is welcome in a dark room, no matter how dim or dispersed. In like manner, anyone living in a dark world will welcome any light into their lives. Any light will provide relief from any ominous burden of darkness. The sooner we quit comparing our gifts with those of others, the sooner we can offer our gifts to others and relieve them of that burden of darkness.
Make your contribution
Perhaps a unique gift of goodness you can make has entered your mind. Don’t suppress that generous thought. Don’t withhold your gift by delving into an endless debate of whether or not that idea came from God or your own thinking. If your offering brings goodness into the world, give your gift.
Just give. That’s the advice we all get from that little stream hurrying down the hill in a popular Primary song. That stream didn’t provide much water to the surrounding fields, and yet those fields grew greener still. Likewise, the gift you have to give, no matter its size, can bring love, light, and goodness into the lives of others.
This Christmas season, just give your gift. What can you do to lift someone’s burdens? What can you do to offer hope in brighter tomorrow? Even if your light is only a glimmer, when you give your gift, you make the world a better place. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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