"Oh remember, remember . . . I urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God's kindness."

President Henry B. Eyring

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Other Side of Christmas

There is another side of Christmas which is so hard for the poor, the downhearted, the discouraged and the lonely. I have to hold my childhood memories of Christmas at a far, far distance to keep them from engulfing me in the old gloom. I have to be so careful of well meaning Christmas stories. At the end of November a dear friend gave me a Christmas book entitled "Small Change." My first impression was that I should set it aside, at least for another season (other than Christmas) but my friend had given the book to me and so I read it. Oh my. I should have listened to my first impressions. So, the first part of this month started out with the painful old memories of my childhood; but slowly, the beauty of the season wrapped it's comforting arms around me as I reflected on all the things I have learned to LOVE about Christmas!

I love the music, I love the lights, I love my family gathered around. I love the gifts shared with loved ones, the cookies from neighbors, the shine in children's eyes, the Christmas program in church,and most of all the story of Jesus! I love all these things because I am on that beautiful side of Christmas now! And, this year I love the night I got to spend with my own flesh and blood sisters, with whom I was not raised, but am now just beginning to know! (And I love them!) We attended BYU's Christmas of Dance from around the world together. It was beautiful and warm and I felt loved.

I can say that I am glad that my friend shared this book with me because it has made me think again about writing "The Other Side of Christmas!" Most people will wonder what wasn't wonderful about the book "Small Change." It did have a good message, but my friend didn't have a clue that it would affect me like it did and I don't think she quite understands now. I know it hurt her very much to think she had caused me pain by giving me this gift. I should not have told her how it effected me, but I wanted her to understand. (I love my friend very much!)

Every year I've had this need to help people understand how hard it is for the poorest of the poor at this time of year especially. In my novel "Joy Outweighs The Sorrow" I coined the phrase, "the only real poverty is spiritual" and that's the worst kind of poverty to have at Christmas time. It's one of those things, that unless you've lived it, you would never understand. I have thought every Christmas that I need to write about "the other side of Christmas" to somehow help others understand, but I never do. I end up getting past that painful part of Christmas and then go on with my life.

Our neighbor and former bishop now works for the LDS Church heading the humanitarian division of the welfare program. He told us how the church has added Caring for the Poor as the fourth leg of the mission of the Church---along with, Proclaiming the Gospel, Perfecting the Saints and Redeeming the Dead. That is wonderful and exciting because it will bring us closer to Zion---closer to the time when we will have "no poor among us!" There is a way to care for the poor that lifts the "arms that hang down" but it ONLY works when done in the Lord's way!

“I would that ye should do alms unto the poor,” the Savior declared, “but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven” (3 Ne. 13:1; see also Matt. 6:1–2). I would add that unless we do alms for the poor in secret as the Savior counseled and out of the "true charity" of our hearts, or in other words with the "pure love of Christ" the adversary of us all will use the alms done to be seen of men, to do far more harm, and cause the poor to sink more deeply into despair and hopelessness!

In the book "Small Change" the author helps the protagonist find a solution to giving alms in secret, by using their church pastor dressed as Santa Claus as the vehicle. It sounds lovely, but it is wrong---so wrong. Only someone who is on "the other side of Christmas" could understand why that simply doesn't work and still hurts! That is what I wanted my friend to understand. Santa Claus is not our Savior! I testify that only Jesus of Nazareth, can save us---from sin, from sorrow, and from poverty of even the worst kind! And only Jesus Christ can teach us how to properly care for the poor as we progress toward Zion---where the pure in heart dwell, and where we will have no poor among us!

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