Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Prayer: Family and Giving

Can you believe it is already Christmas time? You may be saying to yourself, "I can't wait for that care package to come." You may also say, "Christmas is a time for family." Neither statement is inherently bad, as long as the proper perspective is applied to it. Family and the gift of Christ are the central themes in Christmas and how you choose to align your spirit with the intention of the season is the ultimate challenge.

By actively participating in the Christmas holiday we Christians remember the gift given to Heavenly Father's entire family: namely the condescension of both the Father and the Son in order to ransom the willing souls, through faith and grace, back to our eternal home and glory (see Luke 1:35 and John 3:16). In this singular event in all of universal history, the most intimate gift for the family was bestowed by the Giver of all things. Is it any wonder that we center the celebration of this blessed day by exchanging gifts, whether through service (a form of self condescension), necessities or niceties to lift the spirit? And to whom do we offer these gifts? Our family? God's family? In token of the great gift both the Father and Son offers us, we in turn imitate (while some may claim it to be flattery it also fulfills Christ's command to become perfect even as He is) their generosity by imparting of what me may have to those we love or want to love.

So how do we deal with the ambiguous responses at the first of this greeting concerning gifts and family? You could indulge in the warm memories of your family to help supplant the family centered teachings of the Restored Gospel. You could also give of yourselves, not in money or treasure, but in valued time to those that dearly need it. What we must never do is indulge in the lonely or selfish behaviors that so fill the commercial and secular world during these times of rejoicing.

While on my mission to the Seoul West Mission, South Korea, I saw first hand the goodness of willing spirits offering and commercial giants taking. In an effort to raise Christmas gifts for an orphanage from where my U.S. raised, English speaking Korean companion was delivered, we sought the help of local merchants. The goal was to auction off the merchant-procured items and donate the monetary intake and the remainder of un-auctioned items to the orphanage as appropriate. An ambitious goal for a 21-year-old non-business type but I felt compelled to brighten the lives of those whose lives seem to be missing the gift of family.

Much to my surprise, the first merchant, a wealthy high-rise shopping center conglomerate (they packaged malls vertically and even included a food market in the basement) allowed me the privilege of their audience. I thought this was the most difficult task of the whole process, just simply arranging for a meeting. But after the pitch was delivered, the souring faces of regret filled the executive office and I was denied and asked to leave on account of that’s not what they do in their business. Devastated by this blow to what I thought would have fulfilled 90% of our donations, my companion and I left, a little grumpy, a little upset, but certainly more humbled and emboldened by our task.

While proselytizing through neighborhoods that at the time were littered with corner markets and merchants, the next few days were spent humbling asking those that obviously had less, compared to the upper crust execs at the high-rise, if they'd be willing to donate to the orphanage. Little by little and with great enthusiasm, the lower income merchants donated this and that until our auction supply was running over.

I'll never forget one of the last nights I spent in Korea. We donated the auction raised monies and goods to the children with whom we had become friends. Both my companion and I with tears in our eyes felt the joy that comes through giving, especially to those whom we love.

As is appropriate for your unique circumstances, find a way of reaching out to give a gift to someone in our Father's family. Imitate the love that the Father and the Son bestowed to us. This is my humble Christmas season prayer.
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