As a child growing up in Argentina, Sister Cristina B. Franco, in compliance with a general request from teachers in her ward’s Primary, was cleaning and repairing some of her old dolls in preparation to donate them to children who had to spend Christmas Day in a hospital.
Her mother suggested, “You should also give one of your nice toys to the children,” remembered Sister Franco, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, during her address at the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional on Sunday, Dec. 3.
The mother suggested, “Cris, it is really good to give something that we truly like, something that’s hard to give because we are fond of it, something that would be a sacrifice. That is what our Heavenly Father’s gift for us was. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ — not just any son. He sent His beloved and perfect Son so we can go back to live with Him once again.”
That year, Sister Franco remarked, she understood a little better the Father’s gift of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, “who lovingly and selflessly gave His life for us.”
Sister Franco read from the gospel of Luke the account of the angels’ annunciation to the shepherds of the birth of the Christ child and the heavenly multitude saying “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
“Brothers and sisters, how can we today enjoy this same peace and good will toward men?” she asked.
She said that as she had pondered that question for several weeks, “three actions — actually three gifts we can each give — came to mind. We, of course, give these gifts throughout the year, but at the wonderful season of Christmas, we remember the Father’s gift of His Son and consider how we might follow Their example as we increase in our individual ability and desire to give.”
The three gifts she cited were the gifts of love, service and forgiveness.
“Our Father in Heaven and our Savior, Jesus Christ, are the greatest example of love,” she said. “Our Savior taught by example to love everyone. He also taught us to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
She noted that the Savior ministered personally to the people, “lifting the oppressed, giving hope to the discouraged and seeking out the lost. He gave sight to the blind, healed the sick and the lame so they could walk, and raised the dead."
Sister Franco said that at Christmastime, she thinks of the missionaries, Church members who serve faithfully in their callings and the men and women serving in the military to ensure the safety of others.
“But even if we are not serving the Lord or our country in fulltime service, our opportunities to serve are limitless,” she said. “Kind words and deeds can lift burdens and cheer up hearts!”
Declaring that forgiving others brings peace and joy to one’s life, Sister Franco said, “In order to receive forgiveness for our sins, we need to forgive others.”
She added, “Forgiving others allows us to overcome feelings of anger, bitterness or revenge. And who wants to feel those feelings at Christmas? Forgiveness can also heal spiritual wounds and bring the peace and love that only God can give.”
Sister Franco concluded, “At this Christmas season, let us all give the best gifts. Let us sacrifice with grateful hearts our favorite toys — not the ones we’ve worn out. And let us give the gift of love, the gift of service to those around us and the true gift of forgiveness. For as we repent, the Holy One of Israel forgives us. I testify that He lives. He is the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, our Savior, our Redeemer and our Friend.”