For Today: “Reason For The Season” Stories To Share!
Hello and Merry Christmas!
We hope you’re healthy, happy and ready for a beautiful holiday with your dear ones. We are so grateful for YOU! With your support, we are in a position to share these life-changing products full-time and are committed to making them even more available in 2018. We know that for many of you, the health improvements they provide make holiday celebrations with family and friends easy, fun and possible. For some, this Christmas is the first time in many years you’ve had the energy and health to participate the way you want to. How marvelous.
So we love you and thank you! From the bottom of our hearts! If it were possible, we’d even sing Christmas Carols to you! Since that is not possible (and our voices don’t match our joy in singing lol) for our Christmas greeting to you, we have prepared something else.
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I have loved thinking and pondering what to share as my gift to my Church congregation and the Lord this Christmas. Now that it’s ready, I’d like to share my talk for our Christmas Eve Service with you as well. Please feel free to enjoy the stories here and pass it along this beautiful Christmas of 2017.
Christmas Is a Time To Listen … And To Love
By Carolyn Allen
Christmas Eve 2017, Jackson Tennessee Ward
Christmas is for each of us — at every age and stage of life! From our newborn granddaughter to our favorite Veteran in his nineties.
If this were a classroom I would love to ask each of you what is your favorite part of Christmas! From the smell of a fresh cut Christmas tree to the gifts, the music, the lights! The food and the treats! It’s a kaleidoscope of things to see, hear, taste, touch, and to imagine.
My favorite parts of Christmas is the listening … to the music, the laughter, the happy conversations that abound – and the stories. Oh, the stories just for this time of the year! The beautiful, timeless story of the Savior’s birth brings all kinds of amazing stories to their own births and to life. Just for Christmas!
Jesus, as a little boy, must have loved stories, simply because all children do! It’s wonderful to imagine Joseph and Mary and his grandparents telling him stories. I’ll bet they were very talented storytellers because He grew up to be a wonderful storyteller himself! Stories were frequently His best ways of teaching. In His stories are hidden messages – for those with a listening heart and a desire to learn.
Our dear Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, has followed the Savior’s example. He, too, teaches frequently with stories. So today, I am going to follow both the Savior and the Prophet with …. STORIES!
I bet every child and adult knows the marvelous story of the Polar Express! When it first came out in 2004, we were living in the Washington DC area. Our family went to see it at the big IMAX theatre at the Smithsonian. This is not your average, local mall Imax theatre! It is 60 feet tall and 90 feet wide. It is comparable to the height of six-story building!
We waited in line and got the special 3D glasses. When that train came roaring in at the beginning of the movie, we were all afraid it was going to run over us! There were children in front of us crying it was so real on that massive screen and it was fantastic!
As fantastic as the story itself, it is the lesson at the end that is even more fantastic ….
Do you remember? The last part of the story? The bell! Yes, the little bell in the boy’s pocket. Do you remember as the children grew up …. they no longer heard, remembered, or listened for the bell.
To me, as an adult, the bell is indeed a reminder of Christmas, the tinsel, the toys and the magic of Christmas and childhood. For those of us who love the Lord Jesus Christ, that bell is a symbol of his call for to remember Him and his Miracles. Especially the Miracle that, through his birth, we can be reborn again and again.
So, with the other two stories I am about to share, I hope you’ll pretend you’re in your pajamas with a cup of cocoa, and a silver bell in your pocket! And listen with your ears and hearts now so that you will never forget the importance of … LISTENING!
Many of us have had the wonderful opportunity to see the Nutcracker Ballet. It’s a Christmas treat with music that we all know and love, especially here in Jackson with my good friend Stephanie Freeman who helps choreograph and produce the big production of the Jackson Ballet Company that performs each year at the Civic Center. With its beautiful hired professionals, exquisite dancers, costumes and all the special effects, it’s very special. She told me of her experience last year in one unforgettable performance that I will share with you now.
You all know the story of the Nutcracker too of course!
Do you remember that after the Nutcracker has been turned into a Prince, at the end of the First Act, Clara, and the Prince are transported off the stage in a beautiful sleigh? It appears like magic from the side of the stage, all glistening and gold, with two dancers who push it on, dressed as the footmen in fancy costumes and hats.
The music it at a high point as the sleigh arrives, telling the audience and the dancers that the first act is over. The sleigh carrying Clara and the Prince magically glide across the stage and the curtains close.
Last year, however in one performance here in Jackson, the music rose to the crescendo, the cue for the sleigh to appear … but the sleigh, sitting in the wings, did not move! The dancers on stage and all the backstage hands wondered what was going on.
Nearly everyone in the audience was expecting it to appear too! But it did…. NOT. Without too much of a delay, The gifted performers did what they had to … they gracefully WALKED off the stage! No magical ride with the beautiful music and the dimming lights as the curtains close. Not this time. No sleigh. They walked. The curtains closed. Intermission!
It was a happy intermission for the audience, but NOT for the two young dancers who were to have brought the sleigh on.. Everyone backstage must have been abuzz about…. about these two!
They had MISSED THEIR CUE and botched a very important part of the show! They had been selected especially for their part, as an opportunity to show that they could be trusted and were becoming older members of the ballet corp!
Where had they been? What could possibly have been more important than sitting in the wings, waiting for that cue? Even if it meant waiting there for 30 minutes ahead of time until their time came.
Well … they’d been sitting and talking in the dressing room. Playing with their hair and their makeup, and talking as girls love to do.
Nothing more than that. Gabbing backstage and fixing their hair! When they realized how close their cue was and ran to take their places it was TOO LATE! Of course, they felt terrible.
As awful and embarrassing as this was, however, it became worse. Instead of apologizing to the dancers and director and taking whatever scolding they deserved, they went HOME! They didn’t have the courage to stay for the second act and face the music.
Now, for most of us – the story would end right there with a “Can you believe that!” But my dear Stephanie (who was there for the whole thing as the show producer) turned it into a remarkable thought for me.
“Really,” she said with the light that is uniquely hers in her eyes and smile, “How often do WE miss our own cues? What if when we meet our Heavenly Father upon our return as we die, we realize – with horror like these girls — that we’ve been so busy with other things that we totally forgot HIM and the things He has asked us to do? Or to realize that we have not had the courage to repent when we missed our cues?”
Dear friends, we are so blessed to have the Lord in our lives. We KNOW our cues! To learn them and to repent when we forget and make mistakes is the Lord’s Christmas gift to us through the birth, life, and atonement of his Son!
That gift is far sweeter and more important than any wrapped Christmas gift, and I cherish it every day of my life.
My next story has been one of my favorites for many years. It comes from a 20-year-old Guideposts magazine (December 1997). So this story is also true and goes back to the dark days of the American Depression when 15 cents was more like $15 … or $50 … dollars.
It was 1936. Dora Ward was a little girl of about 6 living in Florida. Her Daddy, like many at that time, had lost his job. Unable to pay the taxes on their home, they also lost it and had to move to a very small home that was literally right by the railroad tracks with the embarrassing address of “Railroad Avenue.” Sometimes the house shook when the trains rumbled by. One day at school, the teacher asked Dora’s class to write letters to Santa for what they’d like for Christmas.
She was so thrilled to show her letter to her Mama! It was short because there was only ONE thing she wanted: A Shirley Temple doll. For you children now, Shirley Temple was a very pretty little girl who was a movie star. Just like now with popular movies, there were all kinds of toys with her picture and dolls that looked just like her, about the size of an American Girl doll.
But her Mama, who was sewing, wasn’t excited about her letter and said, “Sweetheart, If there aren’t enough Shirley Temple Dolls for Santa to provide for all the little girls like you that want one, I’m sure he’ll give you another one you’ll like just as much! I’m so proud of your penmanship … and your spelling!”
Her mama went back to her sewing – she had much work to do as she was constantly remaking the older children’s into smaller clothes for the younger children in order to keep everyone dressed. In those days, flour came not in paper bags, but cloth bags and Mama would take the cloth from the flour sacks and sew them into underwear for the children. It was a difficult time.
Even with no money, however, Christmas was a happy time! They went and cut their own tree and decorated it with ornaments and paper and popcorn chains. A few days before Christmas, Mama gave Dora and her big sister Annie each 15 cents to buy their gifts for the entire family. They went to the store where the Shirley Temple Dolls were!
“Just wait till you see them!” Dora said to her sister again and again. But Annie was impatient and replied, “Oh, there are lots of beautiful dolls in the world!” And when they got there, though Dora wanted to spend time looking at all the beautiful Shirley Temple dolls, her sister said, “Hurry up! We don’t have time to gawk!” And pulled her away from them to do their shopping.
At last Christmas morning came, and it was their family’s tradition to eat breakfast FIRST before seeing any of the presents or stockings! She could hardly eat, she was so excited to get to the living room. At last, they finished and she ran into the living room with only one thought …
But she stopped short when she saw a doll leaning stiffly against the arm of the couch. She moved closer. The doll was the right size as a Shirley Temple doll, but she had painted hair! No golden curls framed her face. A chipped spot, on one hand, had been painted over. Dora picked her up awkwardly as if she had been put there by some terrible mistake. Frantically she searched the room. There was not Shirley Temple doll anywhere!!!!
Unable to hold back her sobs, Dora ran to the bedroom where she threw the imposter onto a chair, and herself onto the bed to cry. Her Mama was right behind her.
“Why, Mama, why! Why did I get this doll instead of the doll I really wanted?”
Her wonderful mama, instead of scolding her, scooped her into her arms and said, “Dora, I want to talk to you about the first Christmas. God loved us so much that he sent his son, Jesus.
And many people were disappointed. They wanted God’s son to be rich and grand, like an earthly King.
And sometimes …” Mama’s voice got softer so Dora had to listen harder … “Sometimes we don’t recognize the gift we’ve been given because it is NOT the gift we had asked for expected.”
Dora, it wasn’t possible to provide a Shirley Temple doll for you. So our family worked together and dressed up a second-hand one to be just as pretty!” Dora looked and realized that the doll’s print dress was very cute! It had real buttons that worked! She had shiny white shoes with fancy straps that snapped open and closed perfectly. The little socks were trimmed with lace. There was another dress with a knitted cap and sweater to match. A nightgown, and even a skater’s outfit!
Mama put her arm around Dora and said, “Your big brother had been saving to buy a radio, but he decided to use that money for doll clothes. Annie spent hours knitting and sewing. Look! She even has real underwear, not flour sacks. Your sister made sure of that!”
Dora replied, “You did all that for me?” “Yes, honey we did! We love you! Your kindness and love are the brightest spot in our home! Do you remember when Annie got that permanent that turned her hair frizzy? You told her she would always be the prettiest girl at school. And when your sister’s Patricia’s friend gossiped about her and was unkind, you were her true friend so she wouldn’t be lonely.”
Then Mama straightened up and looked deep into Dora’s eyes. “Dora, I’m going to ask you to give the family the nicest Christmas gift you can give them.” Her voice got louder and more firm … “Please go back and make them believe you are grateful for the doll and their hard work.”
And unlike the girls from the Nutcracker … Dora LISTENED.
She bravely marched back to the living room and prayed to be able to make them believe she loved this doll. As she went back to the living room, the tree was shining in the middle of the room with her family gathered around. She looked at each of them and remembered not the doll, but the wonderful things they each did for her every day. She thought of the radio her brother would now be waiting for even longer. And of all the times her big sister Annie let her tag along on her dates with her boyfriend. How her sister Patricia would take her to the park when she had homework or other friends to play with.
She ran to her Daddy, threw her arms around him and began to cry again. “Hey, honeybun! We’ve been waiting for you!” he said with a big smile hugging her back. “Thank you for the doll! I love her! She’ll always be my favorite!” as she hugged him even harder and sobbed into his neck.
And that second-hand doll very quickly became Dora’s very favorite doll! Eventually, things got better for their family. There were Christmases with fancier gifts. For Dora, however, this was the Christmas that she learned to love and to know that love is a beautiful, eternal round of giving and receiving love not just at Christmas but all year round.
We all love stories with a happy ending, like this one! But what I personally love even more is thinking about them. (Yes, I loved English literature classes where everybody got a say in the characters and plot, motives, and symbolism!)
In this story, Dora received a second hand, used doll. It was not what she wanted or expected. But through the loving support of her family, it BECAME a wonderful doll … BECAUSE Dora was sweet enough to accept their love … and the doll.
Although it was still a second-hand doll, but with their love it became even more lovely than a new doll.
May I suggest, this lovely Christmas Eve of 2017, that we embrace Dora’s lesson …
how often our own lives, like Dora’s are not what we expected. With disappointment, do we cast what we have aside? Or realize, as her Mama was able to show her, that true beauty and joy are to be found in what we DO have right now. With perfect faith that all is well right now, and will be forever.
Our beautiful, marvelous Savior humbled himself to come as a baby. For reasons that are too glorious to comprehend … that he might understand us as human and have the compassion and empathy to become our advocate with the Father. He came that he might atone for us and our sins. He marked the path and led the way and every point defines.
His life started long, long before Christmas, and continues into the eternity. This we know through the scriptures and the Testimony of the Living Christ from our Prophet and Apostles.
Dora’s loving family helped her to love a second-hand doll … and turned it into something to cherish throughout her life.
Our Savior, however, does the same, but in a divine manner for each US! He changes US and makes us new and lovable. And not for just our mortal lives, but for our eternal lives!
The only requirement that He asks is that we LISTEN … for the BELL, for the CUES. And obey. Like Dora did. To accept Him, to graciously accept what IS, to repent, and to LOVE and forgive … ourselves and those around us.
The Father’s marvelous gift is His Son. For Christmas. For this day and every day, for always.
His perfect son who came as a baby to teach us, as only babies can, to love. And then as He grew with His perfect glorious love that teaches us how to love –even in our own used second-hand conditions. He came to turn our precious mortal experience into immortality and eternal life with Him, and His Father … who loved us enough to send us Son as the first Christmas gift, on that sacred night so long ago.
Merry Christmas! You mean the world to us! Enjoy your holiday week!