What is it, exactly?
Some might define the "Christmas Spirit" as the feelings of joy one gets from the holiday music or the rush they get from the hustle and bustle of trimming the tree, hanging the stockings, shopping for the perfect gifts, attending the best holiday parties, or baking the best-ever pumpkin pie. And while those things can surely bring Holiday Cheer, the Spirit of Christmas runs a bit deeper than that.
If the true meaning of Christmas is Christ-centered, then it would make sense to assume that the true Spirit of Christmas is also Christ-centered; to live Christ-centered lives. I've heard it said before that service is the one thing above all others that can bring us closest to the Savior, and cause our souls to become more like Him. It would make sense then, that if I am a true Christian - which I profess to be - then I would have a desire to be like Him and to serve others.
As a kid I remember singing Christmas Carols with my youth group at the nursing home. In college, I helped serve up warm food at the local shelter. As a young mom, I took my kids with me to shop for other families less fortunate. Anytime we'd pull into a retail parking lot with a bell-ringer, I'd clear out my cup holder, giving the change to my kids to drop in the red tin pail before entering the store. These things make us feel good, and not because we feel like we are such goody-goodies; but I believe that when we serve others, we are more open to feel of God's love, and THAT is what brings us joy -- for THAT is the true spirit of Christmas.
The last few years, we haven't been able to shop for other families less fortunate because, well, as a single-working-college-student-mom it's just not in my budget. In fact there have been times throughout the past 4-5 years that I have had to learn to swallow my pride and be on the receiving end of things. It can be tough because often times I have sat wondering, "What can I possibly give? What do I have to offer?" Nevertheless, I have still tried to think of ways to serve and to teach my children to serve so they too can feel the true Spirit of Christmas.
This year my oldest used some of his own money to buy a toy to donate to Toys for Tots; and it wasn't just some cheap toy either. No, he really got excited and put thought into it, trying to think what he would like if he were little. Makes a mama proud.
As I have thought about what I want to do this year to "serve" others, I've come to the realization, that serving doesn't always pertain to monetary or physical needs, although having those resources surely makes it easier. I have really tried to think about the Savior and most of all how He treated people. I have recently felt the need to push myself out of my comfort zone, to friend people I may not normally associate with, and to really understand them and their story, because let's face it -- we've all got a story, right?
It's amazing to me, that as I have done this, I have really come to appreciate people better and I've come to have a greater love for humanity in general. It's like I've morphed into something greater, or at least evolved into someone more loving and understanding, and less cynical. There is so much blecky-blahs in this world, I want to focus on the nice-itie-nices. I have to say that even if the people I have met don't turn out to be people I spend a lot of time with and even if they don't become my next best friend, I have learned something from them; gleaned something good from the opportunity in getting to know them. I've also learned that what we see on the surface doesn't always accurately reflect what lies beneath. Some of their stories are heart-breaking or tragic and I feel blessed for knowing about them. If nothing else, other people's stories and trials surely seem to help me put my own in perspective.
Some might call it karma, but I believe that when we strive to serve others, somehow our own needs get met and suddenly what little we have becomes "enough". I have already witnessed first-hand the generosity of friends and neighbors this holiday season, for which I feel blessed and truly grateful. And suddenly, what I have is becoming "enough".
The most I can afford this year is to buy a few toys to place in the Toys for Tots bin, and let my younger kids drop my spare change in the bell-ringer's bucket every time we run into Tarjay or Walmart. But the best I can do is try to love people the way the Savior would; see them as He would and hopefully become more of the person He already know me to be.
For me, this is how I have come to feel the true Spirit of Christmas this year.