Someone once said that when God wants to change the world, he doesn't send kings or generals, he sends a baby. This month we consider the birth of two special babies that changed the world: Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ. We celebrate Joseph Smith, but we worship Jesus Christ.
I think what we call the "Christmas spirit" is actually the spirit of Christ or the spirit of the gospel—we are more loving, more generous, perhaps more tolerant and forgiving than we are the rest of the year. Isn't this how the gospel teaches us to treat others? As Boyd K. Packer has said, "These are the weightier matters of the law."
I've been stuck in traffic during this season and seen people in the surrounding cars smiling and laughing. I've had sales clerks show extraordinary kindness and patience. I've known families who sacrificed to give their children a special Christmas.
One year when our children were still at home, one of our teenage sons wanted a silver trumpet more than anything in the world. He was in a gifted and talented music program and still had to use an old, dented loaner. He was convinced that with a new instrument, he could play much better; that his music would soar.
As much as he wanted that trumpet, that's how much we wanted to give it to him. But it cost as much as our whole Christmas budget. One night when he was out, we talked to the other kids and asked them what they would think about basically giving up their Christmas for him. To our surprise and immense delight, they all agreed.
When Christmas morning came, and he saw that gleaming trumpet in its velvet-lined case, his eyes got big and he slowly reached for it. All he said was a soft, "Oh my." The other kids' excitement was palpable. As I hugged the daughter closest in age, I could feel her heart pounding even though she and the others received only small token presents. To this day our grown-up children say that is one of their best Christmas memories.
To quote Norman Vincent Peale: "Christmas waves a magic wand over the world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful and engaged in a conspiracy of love." Maybe this is why, when the missionaries come, some people recognize the spirit they bring with them because they've felt it before—every year at Christmas.