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Memory One:

Over two decades ago I was asked to be one of the ward nursery leaders. As soon as the Bishop extended this call I felt the tears starting—and not the happy kind. I loved little children, really I did. During the previous five years I had given birth to four of them, and therein lay the problem. My body was exhausted from so many pregnancies and deliveries in a short span of time. My back ached from bending and twisting and lifting my toddlers and baby. Forty sticky fingers clung to my legs at home—did I really need more at church?

I was barely able to keep the tears from spilling over as I accepted the Bishop’s call. When I considered the assignment later at home I told myself that I’d try it for a few weeks, but if it was too much I would explain my situation (which I thought should have been obvious) and ask to be released. Thankfully, the other nursery leader was a wonderful   woman who became my close friend as we wiped noses, distributed fruity marshmallows, and taught two minute lessons on topics such as “God created animals.” Somewhere along the way I forgot to ask for that release.

Though I served in that calling for several years, one simple memory shines above all the others. On the Sunday before Christmas it was my turn to give a brief lesson. I chose to bring a lovely snow globe from home. The scene inside the globe included Joseph, Mary, and the Christ Child in a manger. When shaken, the globe filled with sparkles of golden glitter. I perched on a tiny folding chair, gathered the restless toddlers around me, and wound the music mechanism.

As the bell-like tones of “O Holy Night” began to play softly, I spoke of Baby Jesus, and a reverent hush came over my little ones. It was more than just toddlers being curious about a new toy. Something powerful happened in the nursery that day as those tiny, sticky-fingered children looked on the manger scene and listened to the music, rewinding it several times. We basked in a few moments of holiness. Looking back on that scene, I feel that it was the purity of the little children that allowed something sacred to happen.

The next week it was business as usual in the nursery: soggy diapers, toy tug-a-wars, and fishy crackers smashed in the carpet. But I never viewed those children the same way after worshiping with them the Sunday before Christmas.

I grew closer to Christ as I spent time in the presence of the pure in heart.

Memory Two:

The setting: Christmas Eve 1985, Kensington, Maryland Stake Center.
The event: the Washington DC mission Christmas dinner and fireside
The weather: co-o-o-old!

It was the only time of my mission that all of our missionaries gathered in one location. We shared a Christmas meal together in the gym, and enjoyed reconnecting with favorite companions before moving into the chapel. I was fortunate to be seated on the stand, and smiled at the view of hundreds of missionaries packed into the benches, the overflow area, and part of the cultural hall. Quite a sight.

We sang Christmas hymns, heard a handful of lovely musical numbers, and listened as President Brian Swinton addressed us. At some point during his talk I was aware that the Spirit was unusually strong. I felt such reverence. Then, it was as if a slow wave of the Holy Spirit started from the back of the cultural hall and gradually rolled forward until it encompassed everyone. I had no desire to move. I recall thinking that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on earth at that moment. That wave of the Spirit felt like a heavenly thank you to the hundreds of missionaries gathered there. We were weak and imperfect servants, but we had responded to a call to serve and were doing our best to spread the Savior’s message of peace. I felt like the Lord acknowledged our offering that night.

A closing prayer was given, and an unusually reverent crowd of missionaries dispersed to drive back to their different areas. With the glow of the Washington DC temple reflected in our rearview mirror, my companion and I headed to Gaithersburg, carrying with us the spiritual hush of the fireside. Silent night, holy night. Heavenly peace.

I grew closer to Christ as I spent time in His service.

Memory Three:

This last event took place in September of 1987, but is a Christmas memory nonetheless. Having been married approximately one month, I spent the morning alone in our basement apartment while my husband attended his university classes. I was exploring my newly discovered love for songwriting. Determined to write a song that day, I devoted several hours to an idea that had been rolling around in my head. The results were dismal. I could not seem to craft a single stanza of meaningful lyrics in spite of concentrated effort. In my discouragement I wondered if I had only imagined that I might have a gift for writing music. I was mentally drained from hours of focused, creative effort and gave in to the urge to nap.

Several hours later, as I slowly regained consciousness, I was vaguely aware of a pale string of words flitting through my mind. I was gradually able to make them stand still long enough to understand them: “He was a shepherd too.” Huh? What was that all about? By this time I was fully awake and about to discount the phrase as part of a dream, when I realized it was a song idea. This was completely unrelated to the song I had tried to write all morning—to this day I can’t recall what that first idea was—but I had accidentally stumbled on a truth that many writers and creators know. If you put serious mental effort into a project, then go do something unrelated such as taking a nap, going for a walk, or washing dishes, your subconscious will often keep working and eventually begin “spitting out” ideas. Sometimes these ideas relate to what you were working on, but sometimes not. In this case, my subconscious mind seemed to be handing me a Christmas song.

As I picked up my notebook and wrote the phrase “He was a shepherd too,” other ideas filled my mind. “He was a wise man too.” Instead of getting dinner started, I spent the next hour capturing sentences that were surfacing, and ordering them into two verses and a chorus. My hungry husband arrived home from school surprised to find, not a hot meal waiting, but a disheveled young wife who was ecstatic to have written a Christmas song in September.

Though I chose to limit the song to two verses, several more could have been written on the subject of the roles Jesus Christ fills. Savior, Redeemer, Deliverer. Looking back thirty one years after writing this song, my heart warms as I ponder the truth that Jesus Christ is everything we need Him to be. How many ways have I relied on Him for relief, for forgiveness, for soul deep change? Truly, He is “Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) I grow closer to Christ as I consider the varied roles He has filled in my life.

He Was a Shepherd Too
(from the album “Christmas: a Holiday of the Heart”)
words and music by Lynne Perry Christofferson
Vocalist: Felicia Sorensen

On a holy night in Bethlehem
certain shepherds left their fields
to behold a tiny child
which an angel had revealed.
I have thought about those shepherds
and I wonder if they knew
that the child that they had come to see
would be a shepherd too.
Just as they cared for their lambs
He would gently lead His own
and carry them within His arms
and would bring them safely home.
He would be the greatest shepherd.
Oh, I wonder if they knew
that the child that they had come to see
would be a shepherd too.

Traveling from a different country
wisemen came with gifts of gold
to behold a tiny child
which the prophets had foretold.
I have thought about those wisemen
and I wonder if they knew
that the child that they had come to see
would be a wise man too.
Just as they offered wisdom
He would humbly share His own
and give the world the teachings
that would bring them safely home.
He would be the greatest wiseman.
Oh, I wonder if they knew
that the child that they had come to see
would be a wiseman too.

As the bearer of salvation
He would be the King of Kings,
the long foretold Messiah
come with healing in His wings.
Yes, a wiseman and a shepherd
come to die for me and you.
Do we understand the baby came
to be the Savior too?