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For many, this Christmas season will not seem as joyous as might be desired.

Thousands will have heavy hearts as their loved ones are far away from home on military assignments, many in the Persian Gulf. Those who are on active duty will also yearn for hearth and home at this special time of the year.

These are days that require exceptional faith and courage. Hopefully the forced separations will not dampen nor destroy the purest meaning of the Christmas season. These are only temporary challenges and should not be allowed to obscure the real meaning of a season that centers around the Prince of Peace. As the Savior is kept at the center of Christmas, earthly grief can be assuaged through faith in His promises of peace of mind and peace in one's heart.Those who are separated can still keep Christmas in memorable ways. Our memories are given to us to help in such circumstances. Christmases past can be conjured up and savored with tender feelings. Such thoughts and recollections, likely not previously written down, can be kept as treasured pages in the book of life.

Being apart from loved ones at Christmas can actually provide new opportunities to reach out to others and help make their season special. The gift of love to others can build new bridges of friendship and compassion. What better gift is there than that of an understanding heart? A Christmas celebrated away from family, but which is still observed, can result in new experiences that will be remembered and treasured in the future.

The attitude of making the most of whatever life brings can make a separation at Christmas, or any other time of the year, at least bearable.

It can also be of comfort to those on military duty to know that they are giving gifts of themselves to help assure peace and stability in an uncertain world. And as they give these gifts of service, it is incumbent upon those who are thus served to accept the gifts and honor the givers.

Those who miss their loved ones who are away can be comforted by preparing special messages of love and cheer that can be sent across the miles of separation. What a great gift to receive words and feelings of support from loved ones. Such letters or messages of encouragement can be kept and read and re-read time after time as moments of loneliness or anguish come.

In honor of their loved ones who are away, those still at home can find ways to serve others around them who have special needs. A kind deed or act of service to those in need, given in the name of the one who is away, can be a fitting representation of the pure love of Christ.

Even as Christ came to give His life for others, so should we strive to give of ourselves in love to those who need us. We reach our greatest heights when we stoop to lift up those in need. When we thus act or serve we are assured that it is as though we had done it for the Savior Himself.

The true spirit of Christmas is found in the following words that have not always been associated with this season, but certainly ought to be:

"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

"For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

"Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

"When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

"Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matt. 25:34-40.)

May God bless all who have heavy hearts this Christmas season and lift their burdens through the loving ministrations of those who are able to give.

May peace be with those who defend freedom, wherever they are, and may the ravages of war not come to hurt or make afraid, this Christmas or any other Christmas.