It was Christmas night, and I was sitting quietly in the living room all by myself. I was tired—OK, I was exhausted. Christmas was done. Giant check mark on that one.
I sat in the soft glow of the Christmas tree and enjoyed its beauty. We had a good tree that year. I enjoyed all the ornaments and the “thousand points of light” we joked about every year as my husband wound ten strands of lights around the tree.
Upstairs the kids were playing with Dad. We had gotten the boys some cool remote control cars, and they were enjoying them noisily. I was so glad the gifts had worked out this year.
On and on I went through my mental checklist for my “Christmas To-Do List.” It was Christmas night. The checklist was done. Christmas had been a success this year.
Or had it?
Somehow I felt vaguely unsettled about it all.
Don’t get me wrong—I absolutely love the drama of Christmas celebrations. I love the decorations, the turkey with stuffing, the gifts for grandparents, visiting with friends and family, the concerts and the parties, and . . . everything. I love everything about the holiday season.
So what was missing? Why did this Christmas night feel so . . . flat?
I glanced to my left and my eye caught on the big nativity set on the mantel. I saw the baby Jesus.
That’s what was missing.
As a family, we try diligently to talk about Christ and focus on Christ during Christmas. But it was almost as if He just fell somewhere on the to-do list between the Christmas cards and the cranberries.
It was my focus that was off. And I was distressed that now, on Christmas night, the entire family thought, “Christmas: focus on Jesus—CHECK!” Like it was done. Like we were done.
That made me feel ever so sad.
I wanted things to be different. I wanted to find a way to turn Christmas into an experience focused on Christ. Not only that, I wanted to find a way to focus my family more on Jesus throughout the entire year. But how?
I prayed quietly in the dim light that Christmas night that I would be guided to find a way to help my family turn to Christ more fully.
And I kept praying.
The answer came four months later. It was a lovely day, and I had stopped at my friend’s house. We were chatting in her living room when I noticed something.
“Whoops!” I said to Susan. “You forgot to put away a stocking from Christmas. It’s hanging on your mantel.” I was forever finding little things I had forgotten to pack away at the end of the Christmas season and assumed she had done the same.
“Oh, no,” she replied. “That stays there all year long.” I thought that was little odd, so she explained. “Many years ago I was at my friend’s house and she had a stocking hanging on her mantel. She explained that the whole family would write down a gift they wanted to give to Jesus and would put it in the stocking. They kept the stocking up all year as a reminder. Ever since, we have done the same.”
I looked again at the beautiful white lace stocking hanging there and thought, “This is it!”
I went home and explained the idea to my husband, who probably thought it was another one of my bright ideas that would fall by the wayside. But it did not. From that moment forward, I kept my eyes peeled for a beautiful stocking. Finally, I found a lovely small gold stocking with white trim. Perfect.
Christmas came once again. And on Christmas night, we gathered our four sons together. I showed them the stocking and explained what we wanted to do as a family. We each filled out our card and put it in the stocking.
The days began to march on. Often at family home evening, we would refer to the stocking and talk about how we were doing on our gift for Christ. Sometimes one of the children would see the stocking and comment on it.
The next Christmas came. Christmas night our family gathered around the tree and opened the stocking. By then, it had become almost like a treasured friend in our home. All of us talked about what we had done all year long to give a gift to the Savior. It was one of the most profound Christmases we had ever shared.
Things felt much different that year. The stocking hung on the mantel, full of new cards promising new gifts for the coming year. Truly, our family was more fully focusing on Christ that season and throughout the year.
That year, the glow wasn’t from the tree. It was from within.
Give Your Own Gifts to Christ
Here are some great ideas on how to remember your gifts to the Savior all year long. Be sure to discuss them in family home evenings and other family times to encourage family members.
Stocking: Have family members write down their gift for Christ on a small card and date and sign it. Put all the cards in a beautiful stocking and hang the stocking in a prominent location that the family can see all year long. You can also wrap a box to use in place of the stocking.
Gift Calendar: Post a special calendar in a prominent location where your whole family can see it. Invite family members to jot down a note on each calendar day when they give a gift to Christ.
Picture of Christ: This idea is a favorite of young children. Display a framed picture of Christ and get a package of tiny happy-face stickers. As the child performs a “gift” for Jesus, he or she can put a sticker on the frame. Soon Jesus will be surrounded by smiley faces!