Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Elder Hugh B. Brown on the spirit and serene joy of Christmas

Elder Hugh B. Brown (1883–1975) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1953, then as an apostle in 1958.  He served as a counselor to President David O. McKay from 1961 until President McKay's death in 1970, then for five more years as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until he passed away.
"This is the secret of the popularity of Christmas. It is the best day of the year, the most joyous because we seek the happiness of others rather than of ourselves. It is the day when love takes command, and men, women, and children, by losing themselves, find joy and peace. For one day, at least, Christendom practices Christianity.
"For fifty-one weeks most men desire to wring personal profit, economic, social or political, out of every situation, often without regard to the effect on the lives and happiness of others.
"The Yuletide is to many people an annual seven-day Sabbath. It is a holy season when men rest from the agitating business of getting and relax into the serene joy of giving.
"The spirit of Christmas creates interest in others, minimizes self-serving interests and activities, and searches for opportunities to make others happy. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world's busy life and become more interested in people than in things. We see people struggling and competing with each other and wish we could somehow touch their lives with the joy and gladness of Christmas. The Spirit whispers, 'They are your kinfolk, and their happiness is your concern.'
"During this joyous week we apply the brakes to the driving power of self-interest and, like the propeller on an airplane when its blades are reversed, the pull is in the opposite direction. When speed and altitude are reduced, the details and beauty of life refresh the soul and inspire gratitude and a desire to serve and partially repay our debt to the Giver of life."
- Hugh B. Brown, "The Abundant Life," pp. 305-307

It's a pretty sad reflection for Elder Brown to observe that one of the unique benefits of Christmas is that "for one day, at least, Christendom practices Christianity." The characteristics of service, unselfishness, charity, and love for others are magnified by the celebrations; but all of those things should be part of the disciple's daily life. It's a good time to reflect on our priorities and motivations in life, and make sure that we are actively "practicing Christianity" throughout the year.

"The serene joy of giving"—that's a beautiful phrase and a profound concept. And it's at the core of the message of Christianity. I loved the phrase "The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul." We can look through that picture window in a new way in order to view the opportunities to serve and bless those around us.

In all of these things, as we learn to focus on the Savior's message of giving and service, we begin to "partially repay our debt to the Giver of life." And perhaps that's the greatest message of all. As we celebrate Christmas and recall the birth of Jesus and the beginning of His crucial ministry, we should be led to strengthen our resolve to follow Him in every way. That is what He asks in return for His gift to us. That is how we begin to repay the debt we owe Him.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

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