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‘Christmas I Remember Best’: How one family’s simple Christmas left a lasting impression

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I was in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and our mission president had asked each pair of missionaries to give out 50 copies of the Christmas story the week of Christmas. We had to walk during this week as 18 inches of snow had shut the town down.

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By Doug Timmins

This is the second of 10 winners in the Deseret News annual Christmas writing contest, “Christmas I Remember Best.”

The Christmas I remember best is from 1976. I was serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tennessee.

I was in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and our mission president had asked each pair of missionaries to give out 50 copies of the Christmas story the week of Christmas. We had to walk during this week as 18 inches of snow had shut the town down.

We went to the shopping center and everyone we talked to gave the same basic answer when we asked them to take 10 minutes to read the story to their families: “We’re too busy getting ready for Christmas to read a story, leave us alone.”

So after five days and only giving out 15 copies, we were feeling down.

One of our investigators, a doctor, told us to go to one of his nurse’s home. We walked out to the address and no one was home. It was getting dark when we saw a light on at a house about half a mile down the road. We both had the feeling that we needed go to there.

When we knocked on the door, a gentleman dressed in a heavy coat answered. We introduced ourselves and he quickly invited us in. He led us into the kitchen where his wife and two kids were setting by a wood cook stove — the only heat in the house.

The light we had seen was a single bulb hanging from a cord. On the table was a jar full of sand with a juniper branch for a Christmas tree. There was a single present by the tree.

Once we had settled down, the husband told us that neither he nor his wife could read and that they had been praying for someone to come by to read the Christmas story from the Bible to their kids.

We both said we would and started to open our Bibles when he stopped us.

He called his kids over to the table and let them open their only gift — a new Bible.

After we finished reading, we were invited to share their Christmas supper of beans and cornbread.

Once we left, we were amazed to realize that most of the families we had talked with during the week were too busy getting things ready for Christmas to remember the reason for Christmas.

This simple family who had nothing for Christmas only wanted their kids to know the real reason behind Christmas — the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

To this day, remembering the birth of Jesus is first, and gifts are second for me.

Doug Timmins lives in Orem.