Family Advent – Day Nine

[Symbol] – Candy Canes:


[A Symbol related Story]

The Candy Bucket

By matthew buckley & robin jensen

Author’s Note: Matthew Buckley is my pen name. My real name is Marion Jensen, and I was named after my grandfather. He died before I was born, and I know him only through his journals and the stories told about him by my uncles and aunts. This is a true story of a Christmas shortly after my grandfather returned from World War II in 1945.

The children attached to the three noses on the windowpane could have sworn they smelled the wet snowfall outside. They had been watching the snow fall most of the afternoon, thinking about Christmas. Would Santa come? And if he did, what would he bring? In recent years, Dad had been away at war, and even though Santa had come, the gifts he’d brought had been more practical than fun. Their hopes this year—now that Dad was back and had a job—were greater than they had been in years.

From behind them came Dad’s voice. “David, run out behind the house and bring in the old washtub. You know, the one with the hole in it.”

Dad had returned home from the navy four months earlier and, because he had been in the South Pacific, was still tan and dark. His black hair, which had recently been cut short to meet naval regulations, was only now beginning to grow longer than the quarter inch he had worn it at then. In contrast to his hair and complexion, his eyes were an icy blue that seemed to twinkle when he was happy.

David, the oldest at eight, ran to obey his father. Dad rounded up Michael, who was four, and Cathy, who was five, and took them to the front room by the Christmas tree.

When David returned with the tub, Dad tousled his sandy hair and brought out one of Mom’s old stockings and a pair of scissors from deep in his overalls pocket.

Whispering low, he said, “We’re going to play a trick on old Santa Claus this year, kids. Do you want to help me?”

“How are you going to do that, Dad? Does Mom know about this?” asked Mike.

“Is it safe?” said Cathy.

David added, “You can’t do that, Dad. You can’t trick Santa. He knows everything.”

“No, kids,” said Dad. “Santa’s getting old and probably hasn’t had time to get his eyes checked this year. I bet he’s half blind and won’t be able to see what we’re going to do.”

“What are you going to do, Dad?” Mike asked.

“Well, I’ll tell you what. I’m going to hang Mom’s old nylon stocking here on the mantel. Underneath that I’m going to put the old washtub. Then I’m going to cut a hole in the toe of Mom’s stocking and let it hang into the tub. When Santa starts to fill my stocking, he won’t see the candy falling into the tub. He’ll keep trying to fill my stocking until the tub is full.”

Without waiting for the children to respond, Dad cut the hole, hung the stocking, and positioned the tub. When he was finished, Mike, who had been the quietest throughout the proceedings asked, “Dad, if your trick on Santa works, will you share your candy?”

Mike was surprised by Dad’s reply. “Sure, I will. In fact, I’ll get so much candy that you might as well not even hang your stockings. I’ll get so much that if we split it four ways, we’ll all get sick.”

The silence that greeted this suggestion was long. Finally it was determined that the three children would still hang their own stockings—not to be greedy, but so that if Dad’s idea worked, they would be able to give the candy in their stockings to Mom and still share with Dad. Dad agreed.

On Christmas Eve the family read the traditional scriptures and watched the lights on the tree. The children hoped that by some seasonal magic, Santa really had received their Christmas messages. Eventually, everyone was sent to bed.

It can’t be said that David, Cathy, and Mike dreamed of sugarplums. The three of them had never seen one. But they certainly had visions of snow, trees, and gifts. And most assuredly they dreamed of a tub full of candy. Maybe even the whole corner of the room would be filled with more candy than they had ever seen. Dreams like these are enough to keep a child asleep for a long time. When the light of the morning came, however, two parents found themselves being watched by three sets of sleepless eyes.

As Mom opened her eyes, the children grew bolder and approached the bed.

“Do we have to eat first?” asked Cathy.

“I want to save room for my candy,” said Mike.

“Can we just go in the other room and see?” asked David.

The rush of questions woke Dad, who said, “Come on, kids. Let’s go see how much candy we tricked out of old Santa.” They retreated to the dining room, and when the folding doors were opened, they were met with the sights and smells of Christmas.

All eyes turned to the mantel, searching for the mountain of candy in the tub. But rather than being filled to the brim with sweets and goodies, the tub was full of coal. There was a small bit of kindling and a note on top. The children looked at their stockings. Each one was full, bursting with nuts, candies, and fruit. All, that is, except Dad’s nylon stocking. It was hanging there empty of any Christmas joy. Dad went over to the tub, picked up the note, and read it out loud.

 Dear Mr. Jensen,

What am I to do with you? Trying to play a trick on old Santa. What I have left you is what you deserve. Please try to be a better example to your children.

Love, Santa.

 Dad wadded up the paper, threw it on the grate, took some kindling from his tub, and started the fire.

None of the children dared say anything. None of them reminded their father that they were going to give their stockings to Mom and share Dad’s candy. And oh how they were relieved that they had left up their stockings. If Santa was going to do things that way, they were glad it had been done to their dad and not to them.

The fire began to warm the chilly air, and soon the happy sounds of Christmas filled the room.

It was good to have their father home this Christmas. The last two years without him had been quiet and lonely. To have joy and happiness and fun together, as well as treats, was all the Christmas season should be. And even though Dad’s trick hadn’t worked, it had been fun to dream about.

Through the rest of the day, when no one was looking, each of the children slipped Dad a little of their candy. And through the rest of the day, though no one was looking, Dad would smile and put piece after piece of coal on the fire.


[Song] Candy Cane Christmas


[Scripture] Luke 15: 4-6

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.


[Challenge – Rescue] – The shape of a candy cane looks like the shape of a shepherd’s staff. A shepherd’s staff has a crook on one end, which the shepherd can use to help guide lost sheep back to the safety of the flock. In the scriptures, Jesus is compared to a shepherd, searching for those who are lost and gently leading them to safety. The candy cane is a symbol of the love of Jesus, our Shepherd, who was born to show us the way to get back home to heaven. Today find a way to reach out to someone who may feel lost.


 [Article relating to the challenge]

For the full Article go to:

Search and Rescue

By President Thomas S Monson

During the seemingly never-ending years of the Vietnam conflict, we frequently heard through the media’s blaring voice the term search and destroy. This phrase helped explain to the public the peculiar nature of combat in that area of dense jungle, oppressive heat, and debilitating disease.

This war was not marked by large-scale battles on open terrain. Rather, the enemy was often not visible—but nonetheless highly dangerous—thereby leading to the concept of search and destroy. Casualties were high, suffering rampant, and destruction everywhere to be found. We will never know how many cried out their own expression of the biblical question, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” The world sighed profound relief when conflict ceased and peace prevailed.

I was thinking of the term search and destroy this past winter as I visited with a neighbour and friend in beautiful Heber Valley east of Salt Lake City. Snowmobile adventurers had been lost for a several-day period in the backcountry of high winds, penetrating cold, and eerie silence. My friend Johnny told me of the desperate plight of the lost and referred to the anxiety of their families. He mentioned that he was a member of the county search and rescue force, whose members left their businesses and farms and went in search of the lost and missing.

The searchers had prayed for a break in the winter weather, knowing the critical element of time in such a rescue. Their prayers were answered; the weather cleared. Surveying each grid of the vast area through the use of high-powered field glasses as the helicopter flew back and forth through the mountains and the ravines, the lost party was finally spotted. Then came the difficult task of reaching and retrieving the courageous group. All was well. The lost were found. Lives were spared. Worry and fear yielded to joy and jubilation.

Johnny, with heartfelt emotion, said to me, “I love to search and rescue. Just to look into the faces of those who could have died and feel, as well as see, their profound  gratitude fills my body and soul with compassion and thanksgiving. I’ve never before experienced anything quite like it.”

Perhaps he was witnessing the personal understanding of the Lord’s pronouncement, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”Or maybe Johnny was feeling the penetrating declaration of the Prophet Joseph Smith who said, “It is better to save the life of a man than to raise one from the dead.”

My thoughts turned to that favourite song from Sunday School, the one that always brings tears to my eyes and compassion to my heart:

Dear to the heart of the Shepherd,

Dear are the “ninety and nine”;

Dear are the sheep that have wandered

Out in the desert to pine.

Hark! he is earnestly calling,

Tenderly pleading today:

“Will you not seek for my lost ones,

Off from my shelter astray?”

The next verse reflects our response to the Shepherd’s plea:

Green are the pastures inviting;

Sweet are the waters and still.

Lord, we will answer thee gladly,

“Yes, blessed Master, we will!

Make us thy true under shepherds;

Give us a love that is deep.

Send us out into the desert,

Seeking thy wandering sheep.”

Tonight I express the gratitude of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles and all the General Authorities of the Church to members worldwide for your generosity and sacrifice in contributing your time, talents, and means through fast offerings and other service to alleviate suffering and to bless lives….

The words of a Western Hemisphere prophet, uttered centuries ago, are still heard and followed today. King Benjamin reminded his people that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”

From that same sacred record we contemplate the words spoken of the people during the reign of Alma, son of Alma: “They did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.”

The book of Luke, in one chapter, provides us two related parables which prompt our thinking and guide our footsteps in following the Master. First is the parable of the lost sheep, and second, the parable of the prodigal son.

The Lord began, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

“And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

“And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

“I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”

In the parable of the prodigal son, we remember that one son wasted his substance and was reduced to near starvation. I ponder the line “and no man gave unto him.” Finally, when he came to himself he returned to the land of his father, expecting nothing but a rebuke and reprimand.

“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

“And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

“But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

“And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

“For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

To the faithful son who was a bit critical of his father’s actions toward his brother came the same response: “Thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”

Could I leave that long-distant time and that faraway place and share with you examples of the guiding influence of the Master Shepherd as we, in the fulfillment of our assignments, whatever they may be in His service, will see the evidence of His divine help and feel the touch of His gentle hand.

I served as a bishop during the period of the Korean War. We had received from Church headquarters a letter indicating that bishops should send a personal letter to each serviceman every month, along with a copy of the Church magazine at that time, the Improvement Era, and a subscription to the Church News. That took a little doing. In our large ward we had about eighteen servicemen. We did not have much money. The priesthood quorums, with effort, supplied funds for the subscriptions to the publications, and I took care of the letter writing. From my experience in the Navy at the end of a previous war, I knew the importance of receiving word from home.

One day the sister who took the shorthand for those individually dictated letters said to me, “Bishop Monson, don’t you ever get discouraged?”

I said, “No, I don’t. Why?”

“Do you realize,” she explained, “that this is the seventeenth consecutive monthly letter you have sent to Lawrence Bryson, and you have never received a reply?”

I said, “Well, send number seventeen. It might do the job.” And it did. I received a reply from an APO number, San Francisco. Brother Bryson, far away in the Pacific, had written a short letter which began, “Dear Bishop, I ain’t much at writing letters [I could have told him that seventeen months sooner], but today has been a special day. I have been ordained a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood. My group leader has stayed close to me, and I am grateful to him.” Then he said, “By the way, thanks for the Church News. Thanks for the magazine. But a special thanks for your letter which comes each month.”

Years later at a stake conference in the Cottonwood Stake, when Elder James E. Faust was stake president, I mentioned that experience in a stake priesthood meeting. A man came up after the meeting and said, “Do you remember me?”

I looked at him. It had probably been twenty-two years since I’d seen him. I said, “Lawrence Bryson!”

He said, “That’s me. Thanks for the letters. That’s why I’m here today.”

Where is Lawrence Bryson now? He and his wife are currently serving full-time missions. Their lives demonstrate full activity in the Church. They are searching for sheep that are lost. I think they will know where to find them. I know they will save them.

I still have that wonderful letter written to me from Lawrence Bryson and dated “Christmas Day, December 25, 1953.” It was one of the most treasured Christmas gifts ever received by me. Sure, you sometimes wonder after seventeen letters have been sent why no reply has come, but I remembered a line of truth: “The wisdom of God may appear as foolishness to men. But the greatest single lesson we can learn in mortality is that when God speaks and a man obeys, that man will always be right.” The leaders of the Church had spoken. We as bishops needed only to obey. The blessing was sure to follow…..

The simple words from Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher, carry an assurance that brings comfort and inspires effort: “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.”

Such was my experience as pertains to President George H. Watson, who today serves as first counsellor in the Naperville Illinois Stake presidency.

Brother Watson wrote a letter to me, never mailed, dated 3 October 1978 which tells of his conversion to the Church and of his baptism, which took place in the summer of 1959 in eastern Canada, where I served as the mission president at that time. I did not receive this letter until this past year, when it was carried to me by Elder John E. Fowler, who discovered its existence while visiting with the Watson family following a stake conference in Naperville. Both Brother Watson and I have some modest reluctance in sharing with you his private letter, but feeling the impression that the account would help to encourage many of you brethren participating in this worldwide priesthood meeting this evening, we shall do so.

I will conclude by reading President Watson’s own words. He wrote:

“Dear Elder Monson:

“This is a letter out of the blue. Its purpose is to thank you for the letters you wrote some twenty years ago—one to me and the other about me—and to let you know the effect they had on my life.

“My name is George Watson. In 1957, at the age of twenty-one, I emigrated from Ireland, where I had grown up, to Canada. The main purpose of going to Canada was to put together sufficient money to do postgraduate work at London University.

“The firm for which I worked was in Niagara Falls, and I found a room at the ridiculously inexpensive cost of $6.00 per week. The only drawback was that I had to drive the landlady—age seventy-three—to church each Sunday in St. Catharines, Ontario.

“I soon found this chore to be very annoying, as she used the twenty-five-minute drive to try to get me to see the missionaries from her church. I resisted this very effectively for better than a year, until one day she told me that there were two young ladies coming to supper, and would I care to join them. It is very difficult to be rude to lady missionaries!

“I did a great deal of thinking over the next few months and decided that although what eleven sets of missionaries were telling me felt right, I would have to give up too much, besides which I was fed up running my landlady to church. In order to stop her asking for the ride, I decided to take her half an hour late on the next Sunday and to go in and sit with her in an open-neck shirt, sneakers, and sports slacks. I thought this would embarrass her and she would not ask me again.

“My plan worked perfectly, except that she was not annoyed at being late, and I made as much impact as a damp squid. We arrived just as the Sunday School was splitting for class. I would not go into class and spent my time talking to a very fine man who was crippled and who ‘understood’ me. As I was to return to Ireland eight days later (July 1959), he suggested that I should join the Church on the Saturday before I left. He was to call and confirm this during the week, but I effectively countered this by not answering the phone all week. On Sunday, after a sleepless night, I phoned him to apologize and was baptized in Hamilton virtually on the way to the airport—knowing that I would never meet any Mormons in Ireland and that the Church would lose track of me.

“I have no idea, President Monson, where you found my address in Ireland, but on the Friday after I returned, I had a letter from you welcoming me into the Church, and on Sunday at 9:00 A.M. there was a knock on the door and a President Lynn stood on the doorstep saying he had had a letter from President Monson in Toronto asking him to watch over me.

“The next few months or years were traumatic. Three meetings on a Sunday were entirely unreasonable: no way I would speak in front of that group; they can’t expect more than 10 percent. Even more traumatic: my girlfriend set out to show me how ridiculous I was. She ended up being baptized.

“We now live in Illinois with three wonderful children. I often sit and ponder why the Lord has blessed us so greatly. We have all had reason to feel His sustaining hand in difficult times.

“Although it is unlikely that we will ever meet, I would like to very sincerely thank you for taking the trouble to write those two letters. They have completely changed the course of our lives. I am grateful for the knowledge of the Saviour’s purpose in coming to earth, my relationship to Him, and what He expects of me. The courage and steadfastness of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and the knowledge that he imparted to us will always be a source of inspiration to me. I am thrilled at the opportunity of serving in the Lord’s church.

“May the Lord continue to bless you in His work, and thank you for the effect you have had on my life.”

“[signed] George Watson”

This past Christmas, when George Watson and his beloved Chloe came to Salt Lake City to visit two of their children and a son-in-law, they came to my office, that we might formally meet. They expressed their testimonies and again conveyed their thanks for all who had participated in this human drama, this miracle in our time. Tears flowed, prayers were offered, and gratitude conveyed.

It was an appropriate season of the year for our visit together, when all Christendom pauses for a brief moment and remembers Him—even Jesus Christ—who died that we might have eternal life. He who notes the fall of the sparrow surely orchestrated the search-and-rescue mission that brought the Watson family to His fold. May we ever be found in His service and on His errand is my humble prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Media links:

[Rescue from incarceration]

[Infant Holy, Infant Holy]


10th Anniversary Advent Throw-Back :

[A Favourite from Previous Advents]

I firmly believe that the only way to make Christmas real is to imitate The Master. We need to form living links with People everywhere whose loneliness needs brothering or sistering, whose hurts, physical and emotional, need healing, whose poverty cries out for bread and understanding. Jesus spent His life rescuing us all from ourselves. Shouldn’t we rescue others from Loneliness and discouragement? A death of someone close can always make Christmas more difficult. Those are they, that are on our list of Holiday party guests. For a few hours we hope to lift some anxiety or pain from these good people. On the other hand, if we wish to make Christmas no more than a winter holiday or a week-long celebration, we can sit on our hands and do nothing!


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