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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Maybe Christmas Doesn't Come From a Store ~ Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (Ensign Dec. 1977)

Lesson taught by Jeanine M.

Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mt. Crumpit,
He rode with his load to the tiptop to dump it!
“Pooh-Pooh to the Whos!” he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
“They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming!
“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
“Then the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry Boo-Hoo!
“That’s a noise, “grinned the Grinch,
“That I simply MUST hear!”So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow …
But the sound wasn’t sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!
He stared down at Who-ville!
The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!
Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN‘T stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”
“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!


(Dr. Suess, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 
 New York: Random House, 1957.)

Part of the purpose for telling the story of Christmas is to remind us that Christmas doesn’t come from a store.

One impression which has persisted with me is that this is a story of intense poverty. I wonder if Luke did not have some special meaning when he wrote not “there was no room in the inn” but specifically that “there was no room for them in the inn.”
We cannot be certain, but it is my guess that money could talk in those days as well as in our own. I think if Joseph and Mary had been people of influence or means, they would have found lodging even at that busy time of year. 

Video: Do You Have Room? 

The wise men did come later bearing gifts, adding some splendor and wealth to this occasion, but it is important to note that they came from a distance, and when they came Jesus was “a young child,” and the family was living in “a house”.
Perhaps this provides an important distinction we should remember in our own holiday season. Maybe the purchasing, making, wrapping and the decorating-- those generous expressions of our love at Christmas—should be separated, from the more quiet, personal moments when we consider the meaning of the Baby (and his birth) who prompts the giving of such gifts.

In some of our lives the manger has already been torn down to allow for discount store specials on gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I do not mean this to sound—like a modern-day Scrooge. The gold, frankincense, and myrrh were humbly given and appreciatively received, and so they should be, every year and always.
But for that very reason, I, like you, need to remember the very plain scene, even the poverty, of a night devoid of tinsel or wrapping or goods of this world. Only when we see that single, sacred, unadorned object of our devotion—the Babe of Bethlehem—will we know why the giving of gifts is so appropriate.

I have recently begun to think more often of Joseph, that strong, silent, almost unknown man who must have been more worthy than any other mortal man to be the guiding foster father of the living Son of God.
It was Joseph selected from among all men who would teach Jesus to work. It was Joseph who taught him the books of the law. It was Joseph who, in the seclusion of the shop, helped him begin to understand who he was and ultimately what he was to become.

Video: Joseph

I’ve thought of Mary, too, this most favored mortal woman in the history of the world. It is hard for me to grasp the feelings a mother has when she knows she has conceived a living soul, feels life quicken and grow within her womb. At such times fathers stand aside and watch, but mothers feel and never forget.
Again, I’ve thought of Luke’s careful phrasing about that holy night in Bethlehem:  “The days were accomplished that she should be delivered. “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and [she] wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and [she] laid him in a manger.”
Those brief pronouns trumpet in our ears that, second only to the child himself, Mary is the chiefest figure, the regal queen, mother of mothers. And those same pronouns also trumpet that, save for her beloved husband, she was very much alone. 

Video: Breath of Heaven 

With only Joseph’s inexperienced assistance, she herself brought forth her firstborn son, wrapped him in the little clothes she had knowingly brought on her journey, and perhaps laid him on a pillow of hay.

But except for heavenly witnesses, these three were alone: Joseph, Mary, the baby to be named Jesus.
Shepherds would soon arrive and later, wise men from the East. Later yet the memory of that night would bring Santa Claus and Frosty and Rudolph—and all would be welcome. But first and forever there was just a little family, without toys or trees or tinsel. With a baby—that’s how Christmas began.
Perhaps recalling the circumstances of his birth, of his own childhood, the ultimate gift of his atonement, we can remember that; 
Maybe Christmas,  doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas … perhaps … 
means a little bit more!”

Jesus has said many times “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Christmas, then, is for children—of all ages. I suppose that is why my favorite Christmas carol is a child’s song. I sing it with more emotion than any other:

The Only True God and Jesus Christ whom He has Sent


  1. Thank you for leading me to this amazing talk. Where did you find the videos?

    1. Kristen, I am sorry to be so long in a response. I emailed the teacher to find out links for the videos and never heard back. I did a search and found these links:
      Do You Have Room: mormon.org
      I can't find the one I remember for Joseph but here is one that would work:
      Breath of Heaven:
      Elder Holland,
      I hope that helps. This was an awesome lesson!

    2. Oh I just found the correct Joseph video! Try this one Kristen.