Family Advent – Day 13

[Symbol] – Stockings

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[Story relating to the Symbol]

Nathan’s Gift

I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation (Moro. 8:17).

Christmas music filled the kitchen with a happy feeling. The cookies Marinda and Mom were baking for family home evening smelled sweet and spicy. And yet Marinda suddenly felt sad.

“You’re pretty quiet,” Mom said gently. “Is something wrong?”

Marinda sighed. “I know that I will always remember Nathan, but will Nathan remember me?”

Mom put the cookie sheet on the counter and looked into Marinda’s round blue eyes. “Nathan will always remember us. In fact, I’m sure that he is looking forward to being with us again.”

Marinda nibbled on a warm molasses cookie and thought carefully about Mom’s words. “I know that he is with Heavenly Father,” she said at last, “but I want him to be my little brother now.” The cookie slipped from her fingers as she laid her head on her folded arms, her eyes brimming with tears.

It had been six months since Nathan died—six hard months for Marinda and all her family. Now the Christmas tree and the holiday music seemed to make things harder. Mom wiped her hands on her apron and sat beside her daughter. “Do you really believe that Heavenly Father loves us, Marinda?”

Marinda lifted her head and nodded. “Of course I do, Mom. I just wish He hadn’t let Nathan die. I wish we could be together like a family should be.”

“If we really believe that Heavenly Father loves us, we have to also believe that He does what is best for us, even when it makes us sad. We can be sure that He did what was best for Nathan. He even sent His Son so that we can be together again for eternity.”

Marinda’s face clouded up, and tears rolled down her cheeks. “I want Nathan to be with us this Christmas. I want to teach him Christmas carols. I want to help him decorate cookies. How can I do that when he isn’t here?”

Mom had tears in her own eyes as she hugged Marinda close and brushed a curl off her forehead. “Marinda, I know just how you feel. I want to be able to share things with Nathan, too. I feel very sad that he can’t live with us now.”

They sat quietly for a few minutes before Mom gently pulled Marinda’s face up and said, “I have an idea that might help all of us. Come to my room, and I’ll show you.”

They hurried upstairs. Mom opened the cedar chest and took out a pretty white box. Snuggled in tissue paper was the small red Christmas stocking that Mom had made for Nathan before he was born. Marinda had forgotten about it.

Mom stroked the stocking tenderly. “I didn’t quite know what to do with this after Nathan died, but you’ve given me a wonderful idea. …”

Marinda’s eyes lit up with excitement as Mom explained her plan. They decided to share it with the rest of the family at family home evening.

That evening, as everyone sat comfortably on the couch, Marinda began, “I’m glad that I am part of this family. I’m happy that we can be together forever. I love all of you, but I really miss Nathan. I want to be able to do things for him every day, but especially now, at Christmas. So from now on, Mom and I want to hang Nathan’s stocking with all of ours. Only his will be filled with something better than candy and toys.”

“That’s right.” Mom explained, “On Christmas Eve, we’ll each give him a gift—a note telling what we plan to do during the coming year to become more worthy of living with him in the Celestial Kingdom. And instead of putting Nathan’s stocking away after Christmas, we want to leave it hanging on the mantel. It will remind us every day of our gifts to him. Also,” she added with a wink, “we can look at our notes any time to check our progress or add something new.”

For a few seconds it was very quiet. Marinda noticed that everyone had tears in their eyes. Dad finally broke the silence. “That is a great idea! It will help all of us not only to remember Nathan but also to do our best so that we can be with him again. It’s really a gift to all of us.”

Marinda looked at her family. She loved them so much that she couldn’t even imagine being without them. And now she really felt that they were giving Nathan a gift. And that he was giving them one, too—a reason to work harder at doing what’s right.

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[Song] Here comes Santa Claus

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[Scripture] 2 Corinthians 9: 7

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

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[Challenge – Give] –  An old story tells about a kind man with three daughters. They were poor and worked very hard. One evening, the daughters washed their stockings and hung them to dry near the fireplace. ST Nicholas came in the night and secretly placed a bag of gold into each stocking. Children have hung stockings at Christmastime ever since. Stockings are a symbol of giving, They remind us to give with our whole hearts, whether we are recognized for it or not. Today do something nice for someone without letting them know who it is!

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 [Quote relating to the challenge]

The greatest gift our Father has given us is His Son; and the greatest gift Jesus gave us is His life, teachings, and atonement. This being true, we help others grasp the true meaning of Christmas when we give as They gave: with all our heart. Generosity of spirit is truly divine.

Jesus taught generosity by telling His disciples about the poor widow:

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.

And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.

And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast

in all that she had, even all her living. —Mark 12:41–44

Christmas gifts should be in memory of the divine gift, the life of Jesus Christ. His gift gave us eternal life; our gifts should enliven with joy those who receive. His gift was the sacrifice of his earthly life; our gifts should represent personal sacrifices on our part. . . .

Our first gift at Christmas should be to the Lord; next to the friend or stranger by our gate; then, surcharged with the effulgence from such giving, we would enhance the value of our gifts to our very own. —Elder John A. Widtsoe

 

 Media link: [The Generous One]

https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2015-12-0040-president-dieter-f-uchtdorf?

 

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10th Anniversary Advent Throw-Back :

[A favourite from previous Advents]

Quote: [President Gordon B. Hinkley]

“Thanks be to God for the gift of His Beloved Son, who gave His life that we might live and who is the chief, immovable cornerstone of our faith and His Church…I love Him. I speak the name of Jesus Christ in reverence and wonder. He is our King, our Lord, our Master, the living Christ, who stands on the right hand of His Father. He lives! He lives, resplendent and wonderful, the living Son of the living God.”

Being Santa [ A Story by Julie Wright]

She crept up behind me and asked me a question that halted me mid-pan-scrub.

I am a terrible liar. I get all flustery and red when I try to fib. And I am not the Grinch. My heart is not two sizes too small. And my shoes fit just fine. I’d always loved Christmas—Santa Claus; packages; warm, comforting smells from the kitchen—I loved it. All of it. And then I had her.

The lines between right and wrong and of good parenting seemed blurry with a child of my own, especially at Christmastime. Did I buy into the lie of a guy in fancy red pajamas breaking into houses to deliver presents? Or did I teach her the Christmas story of a stable, shepherds, and a baby?

Could I do both—cross my fingers behind my back and not count the little tale of the guy in red as a fib? I had avoided the issue by simply not stating one way or the other when it came to the reality of the fat guy in a red suit. I figured when the kids were old enough to ask outright, I’d fess up to the truth. Until then, I’d just avoid it all. Avoidance was a vital part of my parenting toolbox. It had served me well until that day of dishes and the question.

“Is Santa Claus real?”

Oy. I pulled my hands from the sink and methodically wiped them on a dish towel, my mind spinning for a good answer to that particular question—one that didn’t implicate me as the bad guy.

I bent down and stared at my four-year-old, her big hazel eyes wide with suspicion and accusation. “What do you think?” Hedging questions by placing them on the other party usually worked when it came to topic avoidance.

She wasn’t having any of that, though. Her wide eyes narrowed, and her little hands went to her hips. It bothered me that she looked a lot like me when she did that. “I asked you.”

I couldn’t lie. But I couldn’t tell the truth either. In a moment of decision, I removed one of her hands from her hips so I could hold it and walked her to the coat rack, pulling both her jacket and mine off the hooks.

“Well? Is he real?”

“Let’s go for a walk.” I opened the front door to the cold, gray-drenched landscape outside and led her across the street to the hair salon.

As we pushed the door open and stamped the snow from our shoes, she said, “Mo-om!” in that plaintive voice that meant she was tired of being put off.

“Just give me a minute.” I scanned over the snowflakes taped to the window. Genders, ages, and wishes were found on each white piece of paper.

I told her what the snowflakes said and asked her which one she wanted to pick. Puzzled and still looking suspicious, she pointed to one. We pulled it free from the window and headed to the store.

“Mo-om! I asked a question!”

“Yes, you did. Just give me a minute.” Stalling was another important part of my parenting toolbox, kept in the same general area as avoidance and hedging. The ability to explain complicated situations has always evaded me. It isn’t that I don’t know the answers, but it’s hard for me to explain that knowledge to other people. And that’s why I found myself wandering the store in search of the doll requested on the paper snowflake. I couldn’t explain Santa Claus. I had to show her.

She picked out the doll and the wrapping she wanted to use, and we went home to wrap the gift. “Is he real, Mom?”

“Be a good girl and hand me the tape pieces. I’ll answer your question in a minute.”

She did as instructed, babbling about how the little girl who got this doll would love it because it came with hair jewels that could be used in real hair too. She placed a small finger on the ribbon while I tied the bow. “Are you not telling me because you don’t know? ’Cause I can go ask Dad.” I’d have been offended by such a statement if it weren’t for the fact that her dad really did know a lot about everything. We went back out to the hair salon to drop off the present.

Once we were back out in the cold and walking home I asked, “Do you know what you just did?”

“I gave a present.”

“Yes. You gave a present. You were Santa Claus for someone.”

She stopped in the middle of the road. “What?”

I tugged at her hand. Stalling wasn’t such a good tool when your child stood in the middle of the road. “You were Santa Claus. Santa Claus isn’t any one person. He isn’t a guy with a beard who slides down chimneys. Lots of people get to play Santa Claus for Christmas. Your dad and I get to be Santa for you and your brothers. And sometimes, when there are people who are having hard times, other people get to be Santa for them, like you were just now for a little girl you don’t know and might not ever meet.”

“Has someone ever been Santa for you?”

I thought back to several years earlier, when things had been hard and finances tight. We’d found a basket on our porch filled with things we needed, and even a few things we just wanted. “Yes. Someone has been Santa for me.”

“I like being Santa.” She pulled harder on my hand and started to run. “Let’s get the boys so they can be Santa too!” I had to stop her and tell her we had to wait until the boys actually asked about Santa before we could tell them.

I felt pretty good about the whole situation and patted myself on the back. Self-congratulation doesn’t get out of the parenting toolbox very often, so I like to soak in it when the opportunity arises.

It was three or four days later when my daughter came back with a statement rather than a question. I was doing laundry this time. “Heavenly Father is Santa Claus.”

“What?” I mentally slapped my forehead. She still didn’t get it. I thought I’d done a good job explaining the Santa situation, but it seemed I’d ended up confusing her even more. I should have told the truth, let her feel betrayed and have a good cry, and be done with the whole business.

“Heavenly Father gave us Jesus. That’s a really good present. He’s a better Santa Claus than even me.” She skipped off, leaving me standing stunned with a pair of mismatched socks in my hands.

With eyes stinging from tears, I glanced at the Nativity scene on top of the bookshelf. I dropped the socks back to the pile and wandered over to pick up the little carved manger with a baby in it.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Every moment of my life requires that gift given on the first Christmas. A baby in a manger who grew to be exactly what every person in the world needed. Yes, Heavenly Father is a better Santa Claus than even me. Often when things are hard, that gift Heavenly Father gave has wrapped around me and whispered, “Peace unto you . . . Merry Christmas.”

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day-13-stockings

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