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When our children were young, it was relatively easy to choose gifts for them. Christmas morning brought them delights and surprises. As these easy-to-buy-for children grew into teenagers, it became challenging to surprise or delight them. At some point, Richard and I decided it was better to please them than attempt to surprise them, and why not spend the money on things they needed, wanted, and would use. We began taking each teen shopping (negotiating where necessary), purchasing what he or she wanted (within the budget), wrapping the gifts, and placing them under the tree. I heard more than one teen say to a sibling, “I can’t wait for you to see what I am getting for Christmas.” As the gifts were opened Christmas morning, the element of surprise was to the rest of the family and the delight was to teens that got what they wanted.
Several of our now adult children have made an art of thoughtful, timely giving. They have refined this gift by being observant, listening for clues in conversation, and by subtly asking about needs or interests months before the gift is to be given. However, because of their naturally generous personalities and their focus on meaningful gift giving, they are especially difficult to give to in return.
Every Christmas, I meet these same dilemmas in desiring to give a gift to Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son. I know I cannot surprise Them, but is it possible to delight them? Is there anything They, the perfect gift givers who have everything, want?
Christina Rosetti expressed the same concerns in the last stanza of “In the Bleak Midwinter.”
What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man I would do my part. Yet what can I give Him? Give my heart.
On this subject Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught: “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give”.
But for me, right now, giving my heart like Christina Rosetti or my will like Elder Maxwell feels elusive. I want to give something measurable and concrete, but how can a mortal choose a gift for a God? Perhaps, if I study Their conversations and observe Their interactions in scripture, like my thoughtful gift-giving children who listen to and observe me, I will find gift ideas.
By coincidence, if there were such a thing in righteous pursuits, one of our missionary grandsons sent a list of scriptures showing in what our Father and His Son delight. I studied Alex’s list and expanded it to include things that delight and cause Them to rejoice, things that bring joy, pleasure, and are beautiful to Them. I was surprised and delighted as the list got longer and longer.
Heavenly Father and Jesus enjoy:
My Faith: “Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full” (3 Nephi 17:20).
My Faithfulness: “And now, behold, my joy is great, even unto fulness, because of you, and also this generation; yea, and even the Father rejoiceth, and also all the holy angels, because of you and this generation; for none of them are lost” (3 Nephi 27:30).
My Honesty: “Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight” (Proverbs 12:22).
My Mercy: “He delighteth in mercy” (Micah 7:18).
My Lovingkindness, Judgment, and Righteousness: “I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight” (Jeremiah 9:24).
My Hearing His words: “Hearken and hear, O ye my people, saith the Lord and your God, ye whom I delight to bless with the greatest of all blessings, ye that hear me” (D&C 41:1).
My Upright Ways: “But such as are upright in their way are his delight” (Proverbs 11:20). “I know also, my God, that thou… hast pleasure in uprightness” (1 Chronicles 29:17).
My Prayers: “The prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8).
My Service: “For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord… delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end” (D&C 76:5).
My Music: “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me” (D&C 25:12).
My Repentance: “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:7). “And how great is his [Jesus Christ’s] joy in the soul that repenteth” (D&C 18:13).
My Publishing of Peace: “I [the Lord] am he that doth speak…. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace” (Isaiah 52:6-7)!
It did not take long for me to choose my gift to give, and because of Meridian, I can start here to publish peace.
A friend leaves his medical practice to teach neonatal resuscitation in remote areas of the world twice a year. He travels with light in his eyes and testimony in his heart. He shared a recent experience with an African man who asked, “I have been watching you this week and think you must be a religious man. Will you tell me about your beliefs?” As I pictured this opportunity for my doctor friend to share good tidings that publish peace, the thought came into my mind, “How beautiful upon the mountains are your feet.”
As I recently waited in an orthopedic surgeon’s office, I looked around for people waiting there. I watched a couple in their mid-seventies sit together in obvious concern about the husband’s health. Both of his legs were in braces and he walked with two canes. As they waited, the wife lovingly rested her head on her husband’s shoulder. I watched a young father care for a three-month-old baby while his wife was seeing the doctor. When the wife came into the waiting area, his eyes lit up. I watched a husband who wore a cochlear implant push his great granddaughter in a stroller. The wife walked haltingly behind them. Every step she took caused wincing pain. Then a man in a wheelchair came into the waiting room. He had a full white beard and wore a Santa Claus hat and a red shirt. I looked at him and realized he had no feet, yet he smiled at everyone who gave him eye contact. I thought about how this isolated moment in an inconsequential waiting room represented a microcosm of the world, each person in his or her own unique way contributing to a world in great need of peace.
Scriptures on peace arrange symmetrically into a beautiful Christmas tree:
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland made a request: “I ask us to be peacemakers—to love peace, to seek peace, to create peace, to cherish peace. I make that appeal in the name of the Prince of Peace”.