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Following are two ways Latter-day Saints have shared Christmas gifts of service and love:
It was a way for their children to share their talents, as well as an opportunity for them to get to know, serve and love the senior brothers and sisters.
The evening started with Brother Margetts and his sons stopping by to give rides to all who could attend. A dinner of clam chowder and homemade bread was served by their children. A family program was provided and guests would be invited to share memories from a Christmas past. Concluding the festivities was the reading of Luke 2 by Brother Margetts.
“We wanted them to learn to be gracious hosts, and our guests had such a love for the children,” he said. “I think it helped our children to feel comfortable around the older people.”
Now that their family is grown, their children are continuing the tradition in their own homes. A daughter, Becky Hunt, and her husband, Kirk, began the gatherings in their family six years ago.
Sister Hunt recalled the joy she felt as a child while passing out invitations. “It was almost as much fun as the Christmas gathering. They would invite us in to their homes and talk with us and sometimes offer us a treat.”
A son and his wife, John and Sara Margetts, said it is a huge blessing to be thinking of others at Christmastime. “It is good for our children to get to know the senior people in our neighborhood.”
John Margetts recalls, “Christmas was never complete until we hosted the Christmas gathering. I grew to love the single sisters and brothers as I served them. I was always fascinated to hear their stories about how Christmas was when they were children. ... Now, as a father hosting the gathering in my own home, I notice how much they love my children. ... It is amazing that as I try to show love to them, that same love is paid back to me and my family tenfold.”
This year, as in past years, he said his family will be inviting several non-member or less-active single brothers and sisters to their Christmas gathering. “If anything, it is an opportunity to share the true spirit of Christmas with them — the spirit of Christ.”
Sister Linda Margetts said her family learned much from hosting the event. “I thought that we were doing a service activity, but it turned out to be the other way around; they were serving us.”
Gifts of gratitude
Jenny Williams discovered another way to participate in the work of salvation through loving and serving others in small and simple ways. During a Relief Society meeting several years ago she was pondering how to follow the Savior in gift giving during the holidays. As she listened to the comments of the sisters she felt a prompting about how to share the special gifts of giving and gratitude. She had been thinking she would take a gift to someone each day the twelve days before Christmas.
Instead of doing it for one person she would do it for several different people. She decided to write letters of gratitude to people who had made a difference in her life during the past year. She wanted to tell them how much they meant to her, that she has felt the Savior’s love through them, how they blessed her life at that time and that they helped her be a better person.
Each Christmas holiday she delivers letters of gratitude. It might be a family member, a friend or someone in the ward or community to whom she would like to express gratitude. One of the first letters of gratitude that Sister Williams wrote was to a sister in her Relief Society. Sister Williams was a new mother. She asked a sister if she could come to her home and talk about motherhood. She later found that this woman had ten children. She felt Heavenly Father had directed her to seek advice from this dear sister who was experienced in mothering.
Sister Williams recalled, “The main difference in writing these letters of gratitude has been my own self reflection. It has helped me feel more positive.”
She has felt thankful for those who have influenced her life and gratitude to a loving Heavenly Father who sends others to bless her life.
“A grateful heart, then, comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort-at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude. Often we feel grateful and intend to express our thanks but forget to do so or just don’t get around to it. Someone has said that feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” — President Thomas S. Monson, “Divine Gift of Gratitude,” October 2010 general conference
“It is only when we love God and Christ with all of our hearts, souls, and minds that we are able to share this love with our neighbors through acts of kindness and service — the way that the Savior would love and serve all of us if He were among us today.” — Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Finding Joy through Loving Service,” April 2011 general conference
“A wise mother I know intentionally includes her children in her efforts to keep her covenants. She joyfully bears the burdens of neighbors, friends, and ward members. ... It was not surprising when her young daughter recently came asking for help to know how to best comfort her friend whose father had just passed away. That was a perfect setting to teach that her desire to comfort her friend was one way to keep her baptismal covenant. How can we expect children to make and keep temple covenants if we don’t expect them to keep their first covenant — their baptismal covenant?” — Sister Linda K. Burton, “The Power, Joy and Love of Covenant Keeping,” General Relief Society Meeting October 2013