We’re down to the wire, now. Christmas is right around the corner. If you’re like me you have more than a mental list; you’ve written down people and gifts, “making a list and checking it twice.”
I keep mine clipped to my daytimer. Though I finally joined Facebook and even Twitter, I have not yet made the leap to an electronic calendar. So there is the folded sheet of paper with everyone on it for whom I am buying and wrapping. I unfold it frequently and check off the items I find as I shop, then I stash the gifts in curious hiding places until I can wrap them.
And I actually like having a physical list, which I then store in my “Christmas file,” an entire file drawer divided into stories, songs, gift ideas, stationery for newsletters, and so on. And it brings back fun memories to glance over these saved shopping lists, and see the kinds of things that once delighted my kids who are now ages 20 to 31.
But I am ashamed to admit I left someone off my list each year. I left off the very person whose birthday we are celebrating. And so I invite you, this year and next, to start a new Christmas tradition of including Christ on your list. And not at the bottom, but right at the top.
Yes, we all think of how much we love him, we sing of our adoration of him, and we make him the center of all we do. But do we give him something specific? From time to time we Mormons take a personal inventory and pledge to repent, improve, and reach higher. It probably explains why so few of us get caught up in New Year’s resolutions-we more or less “resolve” all year long.
But shouldn’t we give Christ a Christmas present? Shouldn’t we choose a bad habit, a sin, or a shameful trait, and hand it over to him once and for all? He has asked us to give him our burdens, and if we aren’t burdened by grudges and resentments, tricky relationships, or wrenching trials, then what was he talking about? He wants us to turn to him, lean on him, and let him actively help us. What loving irony that the gift he wants is for us to let him give to us!
And so how can we do this? Experts tell us that a goal written down is far more likely to see success than one merely thought about. How about, at the top of our list, we write down “Christ” and then”gossiping” or “judging others” or “smoking” or “overspending” or “overeating” or “excessive videogame playing” or, or, or? We all know what we can give up to make our lives better, to bring our hearts in line with his. What if we chose just one great gift and we actually gave it to him? When we frame it this way, when we include Christ in our decision to improve, it becomes far more binding than if we simply promise ourselves to stop a bad habit or start doing something we should. To break the commitment is now like taking back a gift-a gift given to Christ, himself.
Let’s encourage our children to do the same, and let’s let them keep it a private thing between them and the Lord. They can write it down and keep it, or burn it in the fireplace, whatever they wish. But they will know in their hearts that they gave that gift to Christ, and it will have staying power in their lives.
Look at the people in your life who have caused you pain. Forgiving others is not only a commandment, but a surprisingly freeing action. What if you wrote “Forgive Fred” (just to be alliterative, I don’t even know a Fred)? Christ will not only accept your offering, he will help you do it!
What if you’ve struggled for years to get to the temple? Christ will not only delight in this gift, he will help you conquer the roadblocks so you can make it happen.
What if you’ve been slacking on scripture study and you write “Read scriptures for 10 minutes a day” on your list? Christ will love that gift. He will help you remember to keep your word, and will fill your heart with happiness when you do it.
Amazingly, Christ will help us craft and deliver his own gifts! And as you go forward as a changed, determined disciple, you will not only reap the benefits of your choice, you will have a tingling joy in your heart, knowing that this is also a gift you specifically gave Christ.
Christ is, of course, omniscient and therefore knows everything. But this year, let’s see if we can surprise him.
Joni Hilton’s book, “FUNERAL POTATOES-THE NOVEL” (Covenant Communications) is in LDS bookstores everywhere.
Hilton has written 20 books, three award-winning plays, and is a frequent public speaker and a former TV talk show host. She is also the author of the “As the Ward Turns” series, “The Ten-Cow Wives’ Club,” and “The Power of Prayer.” Hilton is a frequent writer for “Music &The Spoken Word,” many national magazines. She is married to TV personality Bob Hilton, is the mother of four, and currently serves as Relief Society President in her ward in northern California. She can be reached at her website, jonihilton.com, Twitter:@JoniHilton, and Facebook: Joni Hilton.