This is the Season of Giving. For most of us, our eyes twinkle with anticipation as we give, or receive brightly wrapped packages. Children compile wish lists for Santa, adults make lists of items they’ll be buying for loved ones. Most of the items on those lists are things we can purchase or make.
I just taught a Relief Society lesson on this subject, and placed a small Christmas tree in the room, surrounded by 40 tiny boxes. I started by inviting the sisters to come and get a gift from under the tree, and open it.
Inside were small slips of paper, each one listing a different gift Christ has given us, most notably his very life and his atonement for our sins. But there are many more than forty such gifts– Christ gave us this beautiful world, the Sermon on the Mount, the pattern for prayer, his unfailing example, his church, the power of the Priesthood, resurrection, parables, miracles, on and on.
What a lovely thing it would be, if every Christmas we gave him a gift as well. But what can we possibly give our Savior, who has everything?
Well, he doesn’t have everything. He doesn’t always have our devotion to Home and Visiting Teaching, our obedience to his commandments, our temple attendance, our commitment to serving and loving others. He would like us to give up our sins and bad habits, to forgive others, to repent, to bring others to him. These are the kinds of gifts we often decide to give our Redeemer—we pledge to be better. But this checklist overlooks something.
This year I’ve been struck with the simplicity of what he actually asked for in the New Testament. Christ gave us a two-word request: Follow Me. And, for most of us, that means the list above—being nice, reading our scriptures, saying our prayers regularly, accepting callings. The Primary Answers.
But if we look at what Christ actually did on page after page of the New Testament, we cannot miss the fact that he reached out to the sinners, the beggars, the outcasts. He most emphatically did not plan one event after another solely to benefit his own congregation. He did not surround himself only with like-minded friends. Christ saw every human being as valuable and worth saving, and his actions underlined his beliefs. Criticized for dining with social outcasts, he did it anyway.
Do we do this? Do we invite the homeless, the suffering, the down-and-out—into our inner circles? Or is our address book filled only with the names of other members?
Almost 25 years ago Glenn L. Pace gave a Conference address called “A Thousand Times.” In it he said, “We must reach out beyond the walls of our own church. In humanitarian work, as in other areas of the gospel, we cannot become the salt of the earth if we stay in one lump in the cultural halls of our beautiful meetinghouses. We need not wait for a call or an assignment from a Church leader before we become involved in activities that are best carried out on a community or individual basis.
“When we get emotionally and spiritually involved in helping a person who is in pain, a compassion enters our heart. It hurts, but the process lifts some of the pain from another. We get from the experience a finite look into the Savior’s pain as He performed the infinite Atonement. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, a sanctification takes place within our souls and we become more like our Savior. We gain a better understanding of what was meant when He said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40.)”
What if, this Christmas, we gave Christ a pledge to actually follow him? What if we said, “Here I am, Lord—How can I help today?” and made ourselves into actual tools in his hands? Neal A. Maxwell may have said it best, as he so often did: “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.” This year, I say we give him our hearts.
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Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.