Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Thoughts

by Margaret Turley

This month there is another birthday LDS people celebrate. Joseph Smith was born December 23rd, 1805. Though he was not a first child, he was born in humble circumstances. There are several similarities between the first prophet of our dispensation and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Both had their birth and mission foretold by prophets in earlier times. Both had goodly parents. Both were charismatic. Both were mocked and scorned. Both died in the prime of their lives at the hands of others that did not understand what they really were doing. Both sealed their testimonies in blood.

Along with reading in Luke, I like to read the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith Story to commemorate the blessings we enjoy because of this great prophet.

Even though this is the season where we generally sign Christmas Carols, I also like to sing or play A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief. It was this song that Joseph requested John Taylor sing before his martyrdom in Carthage Jail. It is all about Christ and the service he rendered for us and the service we may offer back to him. One of my ways to give service at this time of year is to play my violin for others. It helps me feel the spirit, and sharing music is a personal way for me to bear my testimony.

Another hymn that I feel belongs in the December repertoire is I Know that My Redeemer Lives. Because of Joseph Smith we know there are three distinct personages in the Godhead. Joseph was privileged to see and talk with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ in the sacred grove. They have bodies of flesh and blood. We are literally created in their image. This truth is very comforting to me. It is much easier for me to pray to an actual person. I can’t imagine being able to bare my soul to a nebulous being. We also know that prayers can be answered and revelation given in this time of the earth’s existence because of Joseph Smith and the restoration of the gospel.

My favorite sacrament hymn, I Stand All Amazed, is another song I hum in my head throughout the whole year, and especially in this season. So while many people are singing about the birth of Christ, I also sing and meditate on the life of Christ and his loving atonement for all mankind, including me.

I hope to be worthy to be present when he comes to earth again. I have copied the words of my favorite primary song that used to be sung around Easter time when I was a child. I feel the words fit right in with Christmas.

I Wonder When He Comes Again
Words and Music by Mirla Greenwood Thayne

I wonder when He comes again,
Will herald angels sing?
Will earth be white with drifted snow,
or will the world know spring?
I wonder if one star will shine
far brighter than the rest;
Will daylight stay the whole night through?
Will songbirds leave their nests?
I'm sure He'll call His little ones
Together round His knee,
Because He said in days gone by,
"Suffer them to come to me."

I wonder when He comes again,
Will I be ready there
To look upon His face
And join with Him in prayer?
Each day I'll try to do His will
And let my light so shine
That others seeing me will seek
For greater light divine.
When that blessed day is here,
He'll love me and He'll say,
"You've served me well my little child;
Come into my arms to stay."

I wonder when He comes again,
Will all the nations bring
Their children to His waiting arms
To hear the angels sing?
And as they heed His loving voice,
And seek His outstretched hands,
Will children of the world rejoice
To finally understand:
That only, as we do His will
Can happiness increase.
That love, alone, can make this world
A haven of His peace?

Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. Because of his faith, courage and diligence we have this scripture that is a second witness of Christ. My favorite part in the BOM is 3rd Nephi. It is so inspiring to know that Jesus spoke to Nephi the night before he was born to Mary in Bethlehem and gave reassurance that the signs of His birth would be given, thus saving the lives of the faithful Nephites. 3rd Nephi 1:13 “Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.”

When Christ visits the Nephites in the land of Bountiful he establishes the church on this Continent, the same as he did in Judea. Chapter 17 is particularly wonderful. 3rd Nephi 17:11&12 “And it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought. So they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst; and the multitude gave way till they had all been brought unto him.” Verse 21: “And he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.” Verse 23&24: And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones. And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of the heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.” This scripture is so soothing to me that I usually read it while I am in the temple waiting to go on an endowment session.

My mother was a young girl in Holland during the second world war. I would like to share her Christmas story which I changed to 3rd person narration to enter in the contest on Joyce DiPastena’s website.

Early on Christmas Eve morning if 1944, Martje’s momma put the largest pan on the makeshift wood-stove her father had crafted out of the toy galvanized bucket. It took a very long time to cook anything on this tiny stove so her mom had to start early in the day to have something hot by nighttime. Martje was very hungry, something she was accustomed to by now.

“What are you cooking for Christmas dinner Momma?”

“You will see.”

It had been a very hard winter. Most of the ponds were frozen over with snow on top. Her papa made a straw pit in the back yard where he stored some carrots, potatoes and rutabagas—but that was empty now. All they had left was some sugar beet pulp, a couple hands full of flour and a smidgeon of oil.

Martje was curious about what was going to happen this Christmas Eve. They had a tiny tree from their own back yard. Her mother had allowed Martje to place the nativity underneath scrub they kept in a bucket. She noticed her mother set the table as she always did for special occasions and every Christmas Eve Dinner. She used her nice linen tablecloth and her finest china and polished silverware. Her mother picked some holly that grew by their front bay window and decorated each plate with a tiny branch of holly and a candle with a red ribbon tied around it.

That night, the main thing that was missing was the usual holiday aromas from the delicious meals her mother cooked. Martje’s mother brought in the soup terrine and placed it on the table. Her father gathered everyone around the table, Martje, her sister Greet, and her mother. The only one missing was her brother, Ton, whom she missed fiercely. He was fighting for the resistance and she hadn’t seen him since the day he mysteriously showed up and rescued her from her school before it was bombed.

Her father said a prayer. He thanked the Lord for blessings of health and safety. He thanked God for sending the wonderful gift of His only begotten Son. He pleaded to guard his son and bring him safely home. After the amen her mother placed one beef bouillon cube in each of their soup plates. “I’ve saved these so we could have something special.” Then, as if she were serving a most exquisite cuisine she ladled out hot water from the soup terrine and poured it over the top of each cube. “Stir your bullion.” And so they did. The soup plates were deep so nothing spilled.

The family sat slurping up their “soup” without comment. All of them had participated on hunger walks trying to gather food from outlying farm areas over the past few years. But as the war raged on, there was less food to be obtained and greater danger anytime they wandered that far from home.

After the soup was gone; each had a thin slice of tasteless sugar beet loaf. It was not enough to assuage the hunger, but eleven year old Martje knew it would do no good to complain. She did wonder why her mother went through all the trouble to set a fancy table, when they could have easily drunk the bullion from cups.

When dinner was finished, her father read the Christmas story out of the Bible. Then they all sang Silent Night. That would have to do this year as the usual live nativity at their church was not allowed due to the German occupation.

That night when Martje got ready for bed she asked her mother, “Why the fancy table?”

“What day is it?”

“It’s the night Jesus was born.”

Her mother looked her in the eye. “Christmas, hasn’t changed. We can still celebrate the birth of Christ, and honor him. We can thank God for the birth of His son. It does not require fancy food. It does require a nice looking table, even for only a bouillon cube. We should show proper respect and so we always use the best and look out nicest. That way we can be ready to invite Him to be our guest.”

It was a meal Martje never forgot. Throughout her 75 years she has shared the story with many people so that they can know that we should always remember the reason for Christmas, and give thanks for what we have, no matter how little or humble it may be.

I hope that you will all have a peaceful Christmas this year, that you will be able to share the joyous message of the gospel with your family and friends and any new acquaintances you meet. If all you do is say “Merry Christmas” then at least you are reminding those you talk to about the true reason for this season. Wear a smile, give thanks for all your blessings and join with heavenly choirs in our homes, communities and at church to give praise to our Savior and King.

9 comments:

  1. Margaret,

    That was absolutely beautiful. I'm always grateful for a reminder that Joseph Smith was born in December. It's another birth and life to be grateful for in this season of reflection. Thank you.

    Your thoughts on singing other sacred hymns at Christmas also touched me. Years ago, we had a singles group that went caroling. I Believe In Christ was always the last song we'd sing. It was very, VERY powerful. I've never forgotten that.

    Also, thank you for sharing your mother's story. It's true that it doesn't matter how much or how little we have, showing gratitude and respect ARE the most important things.

    Thanks for the link to your blog. This was the first thing I read this morning, and you've set the tone for my day. That was beautiful, thank you.

    Merry Christmas!

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  2. That's a good story. I've never heard Oma tell that one before.

    Serena

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  3. Thank you, Margaret, for that beautiful testimony, and that absolutely wonderful story about your mother. It touched me to tears. The Primary hymn "I Wonder When He Comes Again" is my favorite because it reminds me of the hope and love that the Savior will bring when he returns to the earth. It will be a miraculous and joyful one.

    Merry Christmas.

    Myra

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  4. Beautiful blog, Margaret!
    Thanks
    Kerry

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  5. What a great reminder of what Christmas is about. Did your mother's brother ever show up again? What an incredible story!

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  6. Yes, Ton came home at the end of the war. Mother's home was kind of like a triplex town house. Their family lived on the end. The middle home belonged to a family that backed the Nazis. The walls were thin enough you could hear everything going on next door. They had to be extremely cautious. Both Mom and her sister helped with the resistence from time to time. In one of the most Christian acts of charity and forgiveness that I have ever heard, my grandfather saved that family from being killed when a mob of Dutchmen came and attacked them after Holland was liberated. He told them "You are doing what we fought against. You should be ashamed." Much like when the Savior forgave the adultress and invited the first without sin to throw the first stone. Like then when the crowd dispersed, so did the mob.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

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  7. Thank you Margaret what a wonderful story. And I personally love the Samuel the Lamanite Christmas song whatever they call it these days, ha. Maybe Christmas in Zarahemla.

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  8. What a beautiful and joyful message, Margaret! Thank you! you shared my favorite Primary song, too! I loved reading your family Christmas story. I can't wait to read it to my family. It has been a challenging year and we are rediscovering what it truly means to celebrate Christmas. Thank you for helping make it a wonderous season indeed!

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  9. You have a great heritage, Margaret. Charles crashed his B-24 in Holland, and we were treataed almost royally when we went back fifty years later. Loved seeing Cory ten Boom's house in Haarlam, and could go on and on about the wonderful Dutch people. "I Wonder When He Comes Again" is the sort of song I wish I could have written, and your story is inspirational. Thanks.

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