Monday, December 22, 2014

True Meaning of Christmas . . .

December 22, 2014

Hey everyone just wanted to drop a christmas greeting to everyone and I hope that all is going well. We are all very excited for the holidays today actually we are having our zone christmas party and I had one heck of a time trying to get the menu and program and everything set up (all of that was changed multiple times by multiple people) and we are so excited!!

At this time of year I'm reminded of just how lucky and blessed I am that I've met the people that I have not just there in America but here in micronesia as well. I've met people from around the world I feel like and I love everyone single person that I've met through my years. I'm 21 right now and I've been thinking about how lucky I am to have gone through what I've gone through. The last 3 years or so have been the hardest I've ever gone through and I've considered giving up multiple times and yet there is still something within me that says to push on. Even though this is my second (and last christmas) I've been really stressed lately with trying to plan out our dinner and the calls and all that especially now that I'm the senior companion. But today I had the realization: this time of the year is good to have celebrations and greetings and all that but the big thing to remember is the birth of our Savior and even though I'm still thousands of miles away from the ones I love this year, Christmas will still be good.

I found this story earlier and wanted to share it with everyone. And for everyone that may not be able to spend time with family this time of year, know that we are all together if we remember our Savior Jesus Christ. I Hope this all finds everyone doing well and Merry Christmas!!

Love always,
Elder Sean McEwan

Christmas in St. Petersburg
by Elder Greg Nelson Russia St. Petersburg Mission

It was Christmas Eve around the world, but just another frosty December night in St. Petersburg, Russia. This country celebrated no such holiday.

Our zone had just presented a Christmas program in the huge Kazanski Cathedral, where we sang Christmas songs and read from the book of Luke. It seemed as if our words and notes drifted up to the lofty ceiling and were swallowed by the darkness. But the sparse audience, mostly members and investigators, had partaken of the Spirit.

Our missionary work hadn’t been going well. People didn’t want to listen to two humble young men give them a message of redeeming love. Perhaps because of my discouragement, the Christmas celebration planned for later that evening didn’t hold much appeal for me.

My boots kicked up some new fallen snow and I shoved my bare hands deeper into my pockets. My gloves had been misplaced at a hotel a few days earlier. In this country, you don’t just walk into a store and buy gloves. You need to search.

Suddenly, Elder Redd sat down on a bench in the small park in front of the cathedral. I thought, Oh, now what? I just want to go home where it’s warmer.

Home was not the right thing to think about. It brought a flood of memories I really didn’t want to ponder right then. This was my first Christmas away, and I was feeling down. Where were all the decorations and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season? What about stockings, Christmas trees, and nativity scenes?

We hadn’t been able to get through to the international operator, so it looked as if I couldn’t make my phone call home either.

Tears welled in my eyes. I turned around so my back was to the wind. As I faced the cathedral, everything began to grow quiet. I looked at the majestic structure in front of me, bathed in pale, green light. The stars above were pin dots on a black shade, radiating calmness and peace.

“Silent night, holy night; all is calm, all is bright. …” The phrases softly entered my mind and drifted in whispers from my lips. “Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.” Elder Redd heard me and joined in a little bit louder. There was a feeling of reverence.

As we sang the second and third verses, a warm realization came to me. The joy, happiness, and peace at Christmas come from within. The material things and outward symbols of celebration bring sweet feelings, but only for a short moment.

Instantly, the thought of sharing Christmas with the other elders became appealing. It would be a gathering of friendship and love. We missionaries all needed to strengthen each other.

Christmas is what you make of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re with family and friends or halfway around the world. The real gifts at Christmastime are the fruits of the Spirit. Paul said, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (Gal. 5:22). Could one ask for anything more during the celebration of Christ’s birth?

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