Our family has quite a few Christmas traditions, but like many people, the family favorite is a visit to Old St. Nick. We spent the last 7 years living in Southern California and we had grown to love the Santa at the Irvine Park. We would bundle up (yes, it does get chilly) and make the drive to the outdoor park. It really is a magical scene at the holidays. A real train, complete with a conductor, drives through a beautiful park that glows with millions of softly twinkling lights and falling (fake) snow, all to the sound of Christmas carols. When the train arrives at the final destination you can see Santa on the stage, ready to greet the children.
Our three daughters were all dressed in Christmas red; ready for the family photo that would grace our Christmas cards that year. Rachel and Breanna (ages 6 and 3) were so excited to tell Santa about their Christmas wishes. I love that this Santa takes time to talk to each child and ask about their year. If you bring your letter he will sit the child on his lap and read the entire letter with them. Each girl had their turn, we took a family photo and then got back into our coats and hats. We put away the cameras and started to leave the stage. Suddenly, out of the blue, Santa stood up and walked over to us and asked us to wait. He said he had noticed that we had a new baby with us this year and said that first Christmases were always special. He then asked if he could hold our little Lexie and give her a special Christmas blessing. I said yes, not knowing what to expect, and handed our little baby girl to him. Santa then made the sign of the cross over her and said, "May all your days be like Christmas. Full of love and joy and giving."
The tears sprung to my eyes and I was stunned. At that moment I truly believed in Santa. (I also cried a few tears that the video camera was already put away.) But, that moment will forever be etched in my memory.
Love and Joy and Giving.
What a life she will have if this blessing from St. Nickolaus comes to pass.
Love and Joy and Giving.
Aren't these the gifts we want for our children? Aren't they the gifts our Father has given to us?
The first Christmas didn't have a train, or lights or a Santa on a stage. But there was a donkey, a star and little baby in a manger that would bring the world the greatest gift ever given.
I think about that Christmas blessing each year when I pull out that Christmas card. I pray that Lexie's life IS full of love and joy and giving. I try to remember that the Christmas season isn't about the shopping or cookies or parties. But, it IS about the joy we find by giving to others, serving them and loving them. When the cookies are made with love and the gifts are chosen carefully with the other person in mind, then the spirit of Christmas is what shines through.
This week I heard a about a man that owns a shop called "Storage Wars Outlet". Just like in the show "Storage Wars" he goes and bids on abandoned storage units and then sells the stuff he gets out of another storage unit. Last year he bought a "Christmas Store" that was going out of business and he decided to hold onto the stuff and hand it out to needy families this year. I read about him on Facebook a few days ago. On his first day he had 51 single mom's show up to see what he had to offer (all for free; no questions asked). He thought he would have about 100 total families the whole season. He sent out a plea for people to drop off gently used toys and winter clothes because he was running out and the families kept coming. Families that made too much for other assistance, but not enough to buy the things they need or want. This morning I brought by a load of toys and clothes that might help out. I was struck by what Larry (who had a white beard and could pass for Santa if you ask me). He said, "You know, I'm embarrassed to admit that I have never done anything like this before. I wish I had done this years ago." His face was filled with Joy. Joy because of the love and giving.
Our Savior's life was filled with love and giving. And, although his mortal existence was difficult and hard, I'm sure it was also filled with joy because he was doing the will of His Father.
May we all remember this Christmas season that it is the LOVE and JOY and GIVING that brings us PEACE into our hearts. The world needs more LOVE and JOY and GIVING. These are the gifts our Saviour brought us and now, let us share those gifts with those around us.
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