The Christmas season often reminds me of my childhood and the feelings of beauty, joy and peace during this special time of the year. My grandmother, a devoted Catholic, taught me to enjoy this wonderful season of the year. Usually every Saturday I would go with her to the local Catholic Church, where we would clean the building and then decorate the stand with natural flowers in preparation for the Sunday worship service.
I remember we once had to decorate the chapel for Christmas Eve celebration. We picked flowers and entered the church, but before we started decorating, she softly and convincingly told me, “Today’s decoration is special because tomorrow, we celebrate the birth of baby Jesus, the son of God”. I had a special feeling. I had just learned from my family that Jesus is our Savior.
Realizing that I had the privilege to prepare to celebrate “His coming” gave me a special feeling that I have not forgotten. That Christmas had a deeper meaning for me. The Christmas song we sang that day — “Faraway, I hear angels of heaven singing glory to God in Heaven and peace on earth to men of good will” — still echoes in my mind. Looking at the Nativity scene, I felt like I was part of the event of the birth of Christ. The Nativity scene was often merely and naturally decorated with candles that illuminated our eyes and our hearts. It was not adorned with decorations that we have today, but its simplicity and natural beauty gave true meaning to Christmas. I felt that someone special had been born — He was my friend, my Savior and the Light of the World. I felt an unusual peace in my heart and, being a child, I could not quite yet understand where that feeling came from, nor could I explain it. I am grateful today for my grandmother, Geneviève Nkulu Yohari, who understood and put into practice the Savior’s call, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
The greatest memory I have of the Christmas season is, of course, the feeling of peace, for Christmas is a time when we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace. I love the description of the blessings brought by the Prince of Peace, as Elder Russell M. Nelson, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke at the 2013 First Presidency Christmas Devotional. He said that the Prince of Peace can bring peace to those whose lives have been ravaged by war. Peace can come to those who are not feeling well physically or spiritually (italics added). Peace can come to one who suffers in sorrow. Peace can come to those whose labors are heavy. Peace can come to those who mourn, to all who earnestly seek the Prince of Peace. Peace can come to all who choose to walk in the ways of the Master.
At this time when the world is troubled by wars and calamities, families broken by divisions and many people feeling alone and left behind — at a time when trials of life are troubling human minds — Christmas is a season when we should try to find and create peace for ourselves and for our fellow brothers and sisters. We may miss the ornaments to decorate our homes, new clothes for our children, or a special Christmas meal — but nothing can prevent us from receiving the peace that comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Christmas is a great opportunity to reconsider our personal relationship with the Savior and benefit from His promise of peace. Like my grandmother and I did years ago, we can prepare our hearts and decorate them with positive feelings that come from obedience and repentance — so that we can fully receive the spirit of the Savior. Christmas is an ideal time to start a new life as the birth of a child heralds the beginning of a new life, a time to start a new way of loving and serving God and our neighbor.
During Christmas, our children love the moment when we decorate our home. This is a moment of fun and it strengthens our family bonds. Our little Christmas tree is a few years old, yet still it brings a new decor to our house every time we put it in a corner in our living room. It is also a symbol of unity as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ which adds to the things we do together as a family — such as prayer, family home evening, and scripture study — all of which we do to invite the Savior’s spirit into our hearts.
In his 2018 First Presidency Christmas Eve message, President Russell M. Nelson reflected on four gifts that Jesus Christ offers to anyone willing to receive them. He said that Jesus Christ gave you and me the capacity to love. That includes the capacity to love the unlovable and those who not only do not love you but presently persecute and despitefully use you, He offers you and me the ability to forgive, the gift of repentance and a promise of life everlasting. All these gifts are a source of peace for us and for our neighbors (Russell M. Nelson, “Four Gifts that Jesus Christ Offers to You”, December 2018).
Jesus Christ is truly the Prince of Peace. May we, during this Christmas season, seek and find the true peace that only He and his Gospel give.