Keeping Christ in Christmas is a daily advent calendar that my family does each year. This year’s sub theme is Through Service. We invite you to join us every day as we serve others around us and show you how fun and easy it can be!
One of my quirks is that I’m obsessed with Advent Calendars. I LOVE them and have several in my house that we do every day in December.
5 years ago, when my daughter was 2 I decided to do a family advent calendar for our parents to open each day in December. I wanted to do something that would help us teach our children about Christ and WHY we celebrate Christmas.
So that first year, 2012, we did Keeping Christ in Christmas: Witnesses of Christ.
We took a photo of my daughter dressed up as individuals and prophets from the Bible and Book of Mormon (Yes, we are Mormon) who witnessed, foretold or prophesied of Christ. We then attached the scripture with the photo.
Every day from December 1 – 25 our parents would open an envelope and pull out the photo and scripture. It was fun, cute and helped us remember the reason for the season.
In 2013 we did Keeping Christ in Christmas: Through Music.
We dressed up as our favorite Christmas carols that were about Christ and then took a photo and attached it to the song.
In 2014 we did Keeping Christ in Christmas: Life of Christ. We dressed up and photographed moments of Christs life with the scripture or story attached to the photo.
We skipped 2015 – too much going on, and we regret it. But don’t worry, we have started back up again this year.
This year’s theme, 2016, is Keeping Christ in Christmas: Through Service. As a family we chose several acts of service we could do during the month of November and then photographed ourselves doing those acts. We’ve also attached a story / message on service.
We hope you’ll join us on our Journey this year as we’ll be updating this post EVERY day from December 1 – 25. So come back EVERY DAY and see what new photo and message we have to share with you! And comment below on what your favorite ways to show service to others is!
December 12 – Keeping Christ in Christmas: Through Service
The Advent Envelope:
Our Service: Amelie’s school has something called a “Buddy Bench.” Every day she makes and effort to watch for kids sitting on the Buddy Bench. When she sees someone sitting there, she invites them to come play with her and her friends. The Buddy Bench is a place where kids can go when they need a “Buddy” to play with. Amelie has made an effort to include everyone in her play time at recess.
Years ago, when our family was living in Massachusetts, we had our home in the little country town of Weston, about 13 miles west of Boston. It was a very quaint, sophisticated community with many picturesque, winding country roads lined with hand-fashioned rock walls. The small business section was completely deserted by 9:00 P.M. each evening. Yet for all its quaintness, Weston had its problems, especially with many of the high school and junior high students who used drugs and brought liquor into the town where alcohol was illegal.
However, I would like to tell you about one Weston High School student who was too busily engaged in other pursuits to become involved with drugs or alcohol. This young man spent a lot of time on the ski slopes. Being an avid skier in New England is not unusual, but what this boy did with his talent is unusual. He was an expert skier and loved the sport. In fact, he was an instructor and spent even his spare time teaching others to ski. You could regularly see him coming down the mountainside very close to one of his pupils, who was oftentimes years older than he. They would start slowly but gather speed as they made graceful turns down the slope, all the time carrying on a conversation, laughing, enjoying the invigorating air and the sparkling sunshine. Observers would take note and follow the pair with their eyes until they reached the bottom, regarding them as just two more skiers having a great time.
What the onlookers did not realize was that one of the skiers was blind. This young Weston High School student was teaching the blind to ski. He did it free of charge. When he first had the idea, he discussed it with others and was advised by all to forget it. He was told over and over that it would simply be impossible.
But this young man had witnessed the hopelessness of some of the blind people and wanted to share with them one of the pleasures of his life. He wanted them to have a feeling of accomplishment and success. He wished to give them a new dimension to their lives. He wanted them to feel that they were real, whole individuals. He really cared. He cared enough to devote the time necessary to develop a rapport of love, encouragement, and understanding with these people to help them build faith in themselves and in their own abilities. Gradually mutual friendships blossomed.
These blind people placed their trust in this young man. He was their friend. He was the only one they would permit to put on their boots and snap them into their bindings. In their training, he said that helping them develop an attitude of trust and faith in themselves was the important thing. After that, the technique would come easily.
The last I heard, he had been successful in teaching 13 blind people to ski and was in the process of teaching more. He had even been requested to write a manual on teaching the blind to ski. He possessed then, and I am sure he still does, the confidence which comes with success. But more importantly, he has developed lasting friendships and has learned how to love and share through worthwhile service.
It is an eternal truth that the greatest satisfaction we find in this life is not that which is done for self but that which is given for the benefit of another.
December 11 – Keeping Christ in Christmas: Through Service
The Advent Envelope:
Our Service: Janelle volunteers at Amelie’s school. She helps in the classroom assisting the teachers be the best they can be!
Excerpt From: The Joy of Service, By Russell C. Taylor
Elder Bruce R. McConkie has so eloquently taught us that service is essential to salvation. I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do. Progress is not created by contented people. It is up to us, you and me, to be uncomfortable in complacency, to refrain from being spectators, and to be players in the game of life. The Lord has chosen His people to perform a mighty work. Our home teaching, our visiting teaching should be more than going; it should be doing with Christian love. It can be done; you can each do your portion of the work because you desire it.
Fathers and mothers, with your strength of example you will influence your sons and daughters for eternity with examples of loving, uncomplaining service far more convincingly by doing than only by saying. Show your children a life of love for them by a life of love and service to the Church and to our Father’s children in spiritual need.
I recall King Benjamin’s instruction to parents as they were counseled in teaching their children:
“But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” (Mosiah 4:15.)
As wisely stated, “Until a man learns to think, he is not an educated man, no matter how many degrees he has.” I would also add that a thinking man will want to serve. The greater your service, the closer your access to God. One who serves and sacrifices goes to bed at night with peace of mind.
I think of a dear sister who has crippling arthritis in her hands but faithfully each week, upon entering the genealogical name extraction center in Denver, finds the joints of her fingers limber enough to type the names with efficiency and rapidity—the blessings of unselfish service.
Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, feet that were hot, sweaty, and soiled with dust and dirt. He washed not their hands or face; he washed their feet. He who is the greatest shall be the least—he it is who learns to serve. (See D&C 50:26.)
December 10 – Keeping Christ in Christmas: Through Service
The Advent Envelope:
Our Service: We dropped off art supplies to Promise Neighborhood. A local community outreach center that offers a variety of services to local residents.
When the Savior called His disciples to follow Him, they were living the law of Moses, including seeking “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” but the Savior came to fulfill that law with His Atonement. He taught a new doctrine: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
The disciples were taught to turn from the ways of the natural man to the loving and caring ways of the Savior by replacing contention with forgiveness, kindness, and compassion. The “new commandment” to “love one another” was not always easy to keep. When the disciples worried about associating with sinners and certain classes of people, the Savior patiently taught, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Or, as a Book of Mormon prophet explained, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
There is another special way disciples show their love for the Savior. Today I pay tribute to all who serve the Lord as caregivers. How the Lord loves you! In your quiet, unheralded service, you are following Him who promised, “Thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.”
I think of my neighbor whose wife was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Every Sunday he would help her dress for Church meetings, comb her hair, apply her makeup, even put on her earrings. In rendering this service, he was an example to every man and woman in our ward—in fact, for the world. One day his wife said to him, “I just want to see my husband again and be with him.”
He answered, “I am your husband.”
And she sweetly replied, “Oh, good!”
I cannot speak of giving care without acknowledging the special caregiver in my life—the Savior’s special disciple to me—my eternal companion, Mary. She has given all in compassionate nurturing and love. Her hands reflect His gentle, sustaining touch. I would not be here without her. And with her, I will be able to endure to the end and be with her in eternal life.
If you are suffering deeply, with others or alone, I urge you to let the Savior be your caregiver. Lean on His ample arm. Accept His assurance. “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you,” He promises.
December 9 – Keeping Christ in Christmas: Through Service
The Advent Envelope:
Our Service: We donated toys to Toys For Tots and talked about why.
The Savior lovingly acknowledged the widow whose contribution was only two mites because she did what she could. He also told the parable of the good Samaritan, which He concluded saying, “Go, and do thou likewise.”Sometimes reaching out is inconvenient. But when we work together in love and unity, we can expect heaven’s help.
At the funeral services for a remarkable daughter of God, someone shared that this sister, as stake Relief Society president, worked with others in her stake to contribute quilts to give warmth to suffering people in Kosovo during the 1990s. And like the good Samaritan, she went out of her way to do more as she and her daughter drove a truck filled with those quilts from London to Kosovo. On her journey home she received an unmistakable spiritual impression that sank deep into her heart. The impression was this: “What you have done is a very good thing. Now go home, walk across the street, and serve your neighbor!”
The funeral was filled with additional inspiring accounts of how this faithful woman recognized and responded to the extraordinary and pressing calls—and also the ordinary occasions—of those within her sphere of influence. For example, she opened her home and her heart to help struggling young people at any hour—day or night.
My beloved sisters, we can be assured of Heavenly Father’s help as we get down on our knees and ask for divine guidance to bless His children. Heavenly Father; our Savior, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost are ready to help.
As we consider the “pressing calls” of those who need our help, let’s ask ourselves, “What if their story were my story?” May we then seek inspiration, act on impressions we receive, and reach out in unity to help those in need as we are able and inspired to do so. Perhaps then it might be said of us, as the Savior said of a loving sister who ministered to Him: “She hath wrought a good work. … She hath done what she could.
December 8 – Keeping Christ in Christmas: Through Service
The Advent Envelope:
Our Service: We made and delivered Blessing Bags to the poor and needy.
A great example of unselfish service is the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose vow committed herself and her fellow workers to “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.” She taught that “one thing will always secure heaven for us—the acts of charity and kindness with which we have filled our lives.” “We can do no great things,” Mother Teresa maintained, “only small things with great love.” When this wonderful Catholic servant died, the First Presidency’s message of condolence declared, “Her life of unselfish service is an inspiration to all the world, and her acts of Christian goodness will stand as a memorial for generations to come.” That is what the Savior called losing our lives in service to others
Our Savior teaches us to follow Him by making the sacrifices necessary to lose ourselves in unselfish service to others.
December 7 – Keeping Christ in Christmas: Through Service
The Advent Envelope:
Our Service: We decorated and delivered cookies to the teachers and staff at Amelie’s school to say Thank You for all the work they put into giving her a great education.
As we serve we grow. President George Albert Smith taught, “It is not what we receive that enriches our lives, it is what we give.”
Selfless service is a wonderful antidote to the ills that flow from the worldwide epidemic of self-indulgence. Some grow bitter or anxious when it seems that not enough attention is being paid to them, when their lives would be so enriched if only they paid more attention to the needs of others.
The answer lies in helping to solve the problems of those around us rather than worrying about our own, living to lift burdens even when we ourselves feel weighed down, putting our shoulder to the wheel instead of complaining that the wagons of life seem to be passing us by.
Stretching our souls in service helps us to rise above our cares, concerns, and challenges. As we focus our energies on lifting the burdens of others, something miraculous happens. Our own burdens diminish. We become happier. There is more substance to our lives.
December 6 – Keeping Christ in Christmas: Through Service
The Advent Envelope:
Our Service: We slipped a few dollars and a note into a Redbox DVD as a Random Act of Kindness for the next person to rent the DVD to find! Snack money on us!
I am convinced that when we give unconditional love; when our interest is first in serving, building, edifying, strengthening without thought of self; when we do not expect an automatic return for each act of kindness, generosity, or sincere effort to help; when we are not concerned about what we will receive or what others will say or whether our own burdens will be diminished, but selflessly seek to build another, the miracle of the power of the gospel is released in our lives. When we permit the Lord to work through us to bless others, that sacred experience releases power in our own lives, and miracles occur. Well did the Master say, “For inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these, ye do it unto me.” (D&C 42:38.)
Respect and love must be earned, and there is no better way to earn them than to lift another.
Begin now with your best effort. Reach out to another. You will feel the power of the Lord flow through you. Your own self-respect will return, and you can love yourself again. Your life will be enriched and given purpose, and you will be given the power to make a difference in everything around you.
December 5 – Keeping Christ in Christmas: Through Service
The Advent Envelope:
Our Service: Ben helps others move in and out of their homes on a monthly basis. He takes time away from his family to help others out. It’s a selfless service and we are proud of him and his desire to serve others.
Service requires unselfishness, sharing, and giving. My wife and I learned a valuable lesson during our time of service in Africa. We were assigned to a district conference in Jinja, Uganda. Early Saturday morning before our meetings began, we took the opportunity to tour a new chapel in the area. As we arrived at the building, we were greeted by a young boy of three to four years of age. He had come to the Church grounds to see what was going on. Struck by his broad smile, Sister Snow reached in her purse and handed him a wrapped piece of hard butterscotch candy. He was delighted.
We spent a few minutes touring the chapel before returning outside. We were met by more than a dozen smiling children, who each wanted to meet the new neighborhood candy lady.
Phyllis was heartbroken, as she had given the boy her last piece of candy. She disappointedly gestured to the children there was no more. The small boy who initially greeted us then handed the candy back to Sister Snow, gesturing for her to unwrap it. With a heavy heart, Phyllis did so, fully expecting the boy to pop the butterscotch candy into his mouth in full view of his envious friends.
Instead, to our great surprise, he went to each of his friends, who stuck out their tongues and received one delicious lick of the butterscotch candy. The young boy continued around the circle, occasionally taking his own lick, until the candy was gone.
Now, one can argue the lack of sanitation with this gesture of sharing, but no one can dispute the example set by this young boy. Unselfishness, sharing, and giving are essential to service. This child learned that lesson well.
December 4 – Keeping Christ in Christmas: Through Service
The Advent Envelope:
Our Service: We shoveled the sidewalks and driveways for other people.
As we look heavenward, we inevitably learn of our responsibility to reach outward. To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man. Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy. We do not live alone—in our city, our nation, or our world. There is no dividing line between our prosperity and our neighbor’s wretchedness. “Love thy neighbor” is more than a divine truth. It is a pattern for perfection. This truth inspires the familiar charge, “Go forth to serve.” Try as some of us may, we cannot escape the influence our lives have upon the lives of others. Ours is the opportunity to build, to lift, to inspire, and indeed to lead. The New Testament teaches that it is impossible to take a right attitude toward Christ without taking an unselfish attitude toward men:
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).
I have many memories of my boyhood days. Anticipating Sunday dinner was one of them. Just as we children hovered at our so-called starvation level and sat anxiously at the table with the aroma of roast beef filling the room, Mother would say to me, “Tommy, before we eat, take this plate of food I’ve prepared down the street to Old Bob, and then hurry back.”
I could never understand why we couldn’t first eat and later deliver his plate of food. I never questioned aloud but would run down to his house and then wait anxiously as Bob’s aged feet brought him eventually to the door. Then I would hand him the plate of food. He would present to me the clean plate from the previous Sunday and offer me a dime as pay for my services. My answer was always the same: “I can’t accept the money. My mother would tan my hide.” He would then run his wrinkled hand through my blond hair and say, “My boy, you have a wonderful mother. Tell her thank you.”
You know, I think I never did tell her. I sort of felt Mother didn’t need to be told. She seemed to sense his gratitude. I remember, too, that Sunday dinner always seemed to taste a bit better after I had returned from my errand.
December 3 – Keeping Christ in Christmas: Through Service
The Advent Envelope:
Our Service: We cleaned up the isles of Walmart. Putting items away where they belonged, instead of leaving them on the ground. This is something we do EVERY TIME we go to Walmart. Notice we are cleaning up the shoe isle and Ephram, as usual, isn’t wearing any.
Kindness, love, patience, understanding, and unity will increase as we serve, while intolerance, jealousy, envy, greed, and selfishness decrease or disappear. The more we give of ourselves, the more our capacity to serve, understand, and love will grow.
Those who serve will always seek to please God and live in harmony with Him. They will be full of peace; they will have a cheerful countenance and a spirit of kindness.
Those who serve will strive to ennoble, build, and lift their fellowmen; therefore, they will find the good in others, and they will not find reason or have time to become offended. They develop the virtue of praying for those who criticize. They don’t expect recognition or reward. They possess the love of Christ.
Those who serve will always be willing to share what they possess and what they know at all times, in all places, and with all people.
Those who serve even in adversity will maintain a living hope of a better future. They will continue to be firm in the midst of a crisis because their hope is in Christ.
Those who serve will accept their assignments with humility, recognizing their limitations but convinced that two people can do all things they propose to do as long as one of the two people is God.
With divine inspiration, King Benjamin declared, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). Those who serve will have greater understanding of the personality and attributes of God.
Those who serve with devotion, even when things don’t turn out the way they would like, are not easily discouraged, fatigued, or frustrated because the promise of peace of mind and the companionship of the Holy Spirit will never abandon them.
December 2 – Keeping Christ in Christmas: Through Service
The Advent Envelope:
Our Service: We offered free date night babysitting for friends! 2 1/2 hours of free babysitting by two semi-responsible adults!
“A young mother on an overnight flight with a two-year-old daughter was stranded by bad weather in Chicago airport without food or clean clothing for the child and without money. She was … pregnant and threatened with miscarriage, so she was under doctor’s instructions not to carry the child unless it was essential.
Hour after hour she stood in one line after another, trying to get a flight to Michigan. The terminal was noisy, full of tired, frustrated, grumpy passengers, and she heard critical references to her crying child and to her sliding her child along the floor with her foot as the line moved forward. No one offered to help with the soaked, hungry, exhausted child.
“Then, the woman later reported, ‘someone came towards us and with a kindly smile said, “Is there something I could do to help you?” With a grateful sigh I accepted his offer. He lifted my sobbing little daughter from the cold floor and lovingly held her to him while he patted her gently on the back. He asked if she could chew a piece of gum. When she was settled down, he carried her with him and said something kindly to the others in the line ahead of me, about how I needed their help. They seemed to agree and then he went up to the ticket counter [at the front of the line] and made arrangements with the clerk for me to be put on a flight leaving shortly. He walked with us to a bench, where we chatted a moment, until he was assured that I would be fine. He went on his way. About a week later I saw a picture of Apostle Spencer W. Kimball and recognized him as the stranger in the airport.’”
Several years later, President Kimball received a letter that read, in part:
“Dear President Kimball:
“I am a student at Brigham Young University. I have just returned from my mission in Munich, West Germany. I had a lovely mission and learned much. …
“I was sitting in priesthood meeting last week, when a story was told of a loving service which you performed some twenty-one years ago in the Chicago airport. The story told of how you met a young pregnant mother with a … screaming child, in … distress, waiting in a long line for her tickets. She was threatening miscarriage
and therefore couldn’t lift her child to comfort her. She had experienced four previous miscarriages, which gave added reason for the doctor’s orders not to bend or lift.
“You comforted the crying child and explained the dilemma to the other passengers in line. This act of love took the strain and tension off my mother. I was born a few months later in Flint, Michigan.
“I just want to thank you for your love. Thank you for your example!”
December 1 – Keeping Christ in Christmas: Through Service
The Advent Envelope:
Our Service: We raked leaves for our 93 year old next door neighbor!
While driving to the office one morning, I passed a dry-cleaning establishment which had a sign by the side of the front door. It read, “It’s the Service That Counts.” I suppose in a highly competitive field such as the dry-cleaning business and many others, the differentiating factor which distinguishes one store from another is, in actual fact, service.
The message from the small sign simply would not leave my mind. Suddenly I realized why. In actual fact it is the service that counts—the Lord’s service.
All of us admire and respect that noble king of Book of Mormon fame—even King Benjamin. How respected he must have been for the people to gather in such great numbers to hear his words and receive his counsel. I think it most interesting that the multitude “pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them.” (Mosiah 2:6.) Even a high tower had to be erected that the people might hear his words.
In the true humility of an inspired leader, King Benjamin recounted his desire to serve his people and lead them in paths of righteousness. He then declared to them:
“Because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God.
“And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:16–17.)
This is the service that counts, brethren—the service to which all of us have been called, the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Come back tomorrow for Day 5!