Christmas was fast approaching, we could feel it in the air as we walked down Ohio St in Bangor Maine. It had been snowing, and it was cold outside, but we were excited for Christmas! My companion would be finishing his mission just 2 weeks after Christmas, and this would be my first in the mission field.
I knew this Christmas was going to be different, I was 2,000 miles away from my family, it would be my first Christmas where I did not see them. But some things would be the same, like watching the First Presidency Christmas devotional! That year a part of it stood out.
“Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done, nor is it found in the purchasing of gifts. We find real joy when we make the Savior the focus of the season. We can keep Him in our thoughts and in our lives as we go about the work He would have us perform here on earth. At this time, particularly, let us follow His example as we love and serve our fellow man. A segment of our society desperately yearning for an expression of love is found among those growing older, and particularly when they suffer from pangs of loneliness. The chill wind of dying hopes and vanished dreams whistles through the ranks of the elderly and those who approach the declining side of the summit of life.” ~President Thomas S. Monson
As the days before Christmas grew ever fewer, we looked at our schedule… Christmas Day was empty. We thought the members must’ve just thought we were already booked! So we mentioned it to the Bishop before church. In Sacrament meeting, he announced that no one had invited the missionaries over for Christmas, he told the members that he would be traveling out of town for Christmas, but he pleaded with the members to please invite the missionaries over so they’re not alone.
We thought this will do the trick, we will have at least half a dozen invites now. At the end of Church, we eagerly collected the calendar from the Relief Society President… No one had signed up for Christmas Day, it was completely empty. Depressed and rejected we left the church, it felt like no one wanted us. I thought this is going to be the worse Christmas I’ve ever had.
Tuesday morning did not feel like Christmas, we somberly opened our Christmas packages from our families, and then exchanged gifts for each other. We held our studies, and then thought, what are we going to do? No one wants us. As we looked at our planners we realized, it’s Tuesday, we normally go to the senior center every Tuesday, let’s go today! We then remembered the words of the Prophet not to forget the elderly!
As we walked the icy road over to the senior center, the phone rang it was our Zone Leaders, they asked how Christmas was going? We explained our situation, they listened in shock that no one invited us over. We arrived at the senior center and told them we had to go.
As we walked into the senior center the lady who ran the center came up to us in disbelief and said. “What are you doing here?” We explained that it was Tuesday, and we always come over on Tuesdays. She then looked at us and said. “But it’s Christmas!” To which we replied “The Prophet told us not to forget the Elderly this Christmas.” She started to tear up and invited us in to have Christmas Lunch with the seniors.
Lunch was delicious, everyone kept asking us why we were there on Christmas? We would explain who and what the Prophet was, and that he told us not to forget the elderly. After lunch we helped out with a small activity, at the end we looked at all the senior citizens, they eagerly looked at us almost to ask if we were staying, I looked at the schedule, and there was nothing for the next few hours, I asked the lady who was in charge and she replied “Today is rather slim on activities, we try to let the staff have Christmas off to be with their families, and most of our residents leave today to spend time with their family, or their family comes here. The only ones left are those who don’t have anyone..”
The words struck me, at that point I talked with my companion and we decided that we would stay with them, they would have “someone” today. Right then the Zone Leaders called us, they were excited. They said. “We told the member who is feeding us Christmas dinner that you had nowhere to go, they told us you could join us! It starts in less than an hour, we need to come get you ASAP” I looked at my companion and we said. “Thanks, but we’re going to stay at the senior center” dumbfounded it took them a second to reply back “Are you sure?”, “Yes, we want to send Christmas here”.
After we hung up the phone we came back into the room where everyone was waiting with eager eyes, one of the ladies asked “Are you leaving?” we replied “No, we’re here to spend Christmas with you” They smiled. We decided to sing Christmas carols. I’ve never seen so much energy in a room full of old people, they were singing along, many of them had tears in their eyes, and even some of the families who were visiting their grandparents had come into the room to listen, the Spirit was strong. When we finished they thanked us for making Christmas for them. But in reality, they made Christmas for us.
As we walked home to our apartment we had learned the true meaning of Christmas. We learned “If you serve like He did you will find Him. When you find Him, you find the true meaning of Christmas.”