It is no secret in my home that I love the Christmas season. The spirit of Christmas is a very tangible thing for me. Like most of you, I feel more charitable, more attentive, and jollier. I like hearing the cheerful music and look forward to gatherings and time with family. It is a weird seasonal habit, but I often whistle along to the Christmas music being played in the stores. I also randomly just start whistling whenever we are out and about. Heather, my wife, says it is just something I have always done.
Last December, I surprised Heather with a quick weekend trip to Banff, Alberta. We needed time to get our Christmas shopping done far from our kids’ prying eyes. When Heather and I were first married we lived in Banff. It was an idyllic place to start out life together and we have many fond memories of our time there. For me, spending time in Banff is just good for the soul. The majesty of the mountains and the clean air soothes and helps to wipe away the stress of day-to-day life.
Banff at Christmas time is especially lovely. Saturday evening found us outside at the park administration building enjoying the beautiful “In Search of Christmas Spirit” light display and walk. It was a perfect, crisp, windless night in the mountains. COVID regulations meant we had to distance from the other guests while on the self-guided walk, which tells the story of how the animals of Banff worked together to find the Christmas spirit.
I soon found myself whistling one of my favourite Christmas carols called “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” The beautiful tune seemed appropriate given our peaceful surroundings. As we walked, I continued to whistle. The couple ahead of us suddenly stopped. In order to be respectful of their space, we stopped as well. My whistling continued.
The young woman turned and walked toward me. As she approached, I could tell that she had tears running down her rosy cheeks. She quietly said to me, “I love that hymn. You have brought Christmas into my heart tonight. My grandmother just passed away and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” was her absolute favourite Christmas hymn. We two would sing it together every year. I miss her so much but hearing you has brought joy to my heart. Thank you so much, and Merry Christmas.”
I don’t think I whistle that well, but I have been told that I am full of hot air, so maybe that helps in the whistling world. However, I do believe that we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do possess the spirit of Christmas and it was that spirit that touched the heart of that sweet lady in her time of suffering and sadness.
Christ commanded, “Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven” (3Nephi 12:16; Matthew 5:16). In what ways has Heavenly Father prepared you to share that spirit at Christmas time and throughout the year?
We live in a time when merely wishing someone a hearty “Merry Christmas” is no longer the norm. It has become a brave declaration of faith in the face of omnipresent consumerism and anti-religious sentiment. This brief moment reminded me of a powerful lesson. I have a serious responsibility to share the light of the gospel with His children. It is one of the best ways to demonstrate my love for the Saviour and my personal dedication to His glorious cause.
President Thomas Monson remarked: “I had the privilege of going to Atlanta, Georgia and there saw the church where Peter Marshall presided. I thought of his declaration when he pleaded, ‘Let us not spend Christmas and let us not observe Christmas, necessarily, but let us keep Christmas in our hearts and in our lives.’ This would be my plea today, for when we keep the spirit of Christmas, we keep the spirit of Christ because the Christmas spirit is the Christ Spirit” (“The Spirit of Christmas,” New Era, December,1974).
That night I gave thanks to Heavenly Father for His many blessings. I thanked Him for providing that special moment when the Spirit touched us in Banff. I hope you and yours will find ways to share the spirit of Christmas now and throughout the year. The world desperately needs the hope of Christmas.