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SIMPLE JOYS OF CHRISTMAS

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Christmastime is a marvelous time, but it is very easy to get caught up in the pressures of the season and perhaps even lose the very spirit in our lives that we're trying to gain.

"Overdoing it" is especially common this time of the year for many people - it may be too many Christmas activities to attend, too much to eat, too much money spent, too many expectations, too much tension.We may take on too much for the time and energy we have, or the finances available. Shopping, gift-wrapping, cooking and baking are all things we feel we have to do. Cleaning, fixing and decorating the house may be on the "to-do" list, too. Often, our efforts at Christmastime result in feeling stressed out, wrung out and worn out during a time that we should feel the simple joys of commemorating the birth of the Holy One of Bethlehem. The answer, of course, of not becoming stressed out at Christmastime is using wisdom and having a balance in our lives.

"And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. . . ." - Mosiah 4:27

But, in addition to overdoing it, sometimes we place the emphasis on the wrong things at Christmastime and forget the sacred nature of the season.

Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done or in the purchasing of brightly wrapped and expensive gifts. But we find the real joy when we make the Savior the focus of the season, yes, when we put Christ back into Christmas.

"[The Savior] gave freely and lovingly," President Howard W. Hunter said at the First Presidency Christmas devotional Dec. 4, "and His gifts were of inestimable value. He gave eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf, and legs to the lame; cleanliness to the unclean, wholeness to the infirm, and breath to the lifeless. His gifts were opportunity to the downtrodden, freedom to the oppressed, forgiveness to the repentant, hope to the despairing, and light in the darkness. He gave us His love, His service, and His life. And most important, He gave us and all mortals resurrection, salvation and eternal life.

"We should strive to give as He gave. To give of oneself is a holy gift. We give as a remembrance of all the Savior has given."

In our gift-giving, shouldn't we also give gifts that have eternal values along with our gifts that eventually break, tear or are forgotten about? What would the world be like if we all gave gifts of kindness and gentleness, of understanding and compassion, of service and friendliness?

"Christmas," President Spencer W. Kimball said, "comes once a year to reveal to us the beautiful and near approach man can make to the divine, to the ideal, to the Christlike life." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, page 247.)

And perhaps we draw closer to that divine by the simple things we do during this time of the year:

By taking a gift to the poor we not only brighten their day, but also help us think of others.

By creating an atmosphere of love in our homes we not only provide for our families a place free from ill will, but also a place they will want to be.

By giving a blanket to the homeless we not only give warmth to their bodies, but also enable us to feel a glow in our souls.

By treating our families with tenderness we not only form a close bond with them, but also demonstrate with kindness that they are, indeed, dear to us.

By visiting the elderly we not only lift their spirits, but also uplift ours as well.

By forgiving others we not only live a great principle, but also help us to receive the mercy of the Great Forgiver.

By taking food to the hungry we not only fill their physical needs, but also add to our own spiritual well-being.

By teaching our families gospel truths we not only help provide for their eternal security, but also pave the way for their eternal happiness.

By writing a letter to the lonely we not only give them something that makes them feel good, but also give us something to feel good about.

By getting together as a family and reading the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke we not only emphasize what is important, but also teach that there's more to Christmas than the packages tucked beneath the Christmas tree or the brightly colored lights on the house.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." - Luke 2:14

Surely with the spirit of Christ in our lives we will have good will and love toward all mankind, not only during this season but throughout the year as well. Isn't that, in reality, what Christmas is all about?