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What Jesus Wants for Christmas

By Kathyrn Lynard

Many years ago in a small town in the southern part of the state of Utah, my great-grandmother was called to be the president of the Relief Society. During this period of our Church’s history there existed a very bitter and antagonistic spirit between the Mormons and the Gentiles.

In my great-grandmother’s ward one of the young sisters married a Gentile boy. This of course did not please either the Mormons or the Gentiles very much. In the course of time this young couple gave birth to a child. Unfortunately the mother became so ill in the process of childbirth that she was unable to care for her baby. Upon learning of this woman’s condition, great-grandmother immediately went to the homes of the sisters in the ward and asked them if they would take a turn going into the home of this young couple to care for the baby. One by one these women refused and so the responsibility fell completely upon her.

She would arise early in the morning, walk what was a considerable distance to the home of this young couple where she would bathe and feed the baby, gather all that needed to be laundered and take it with her to her home. There she would launder it and then return with it the next day. Great-grandmother had been doing this for some time when one morning she felt too weak and sick to go and perform the service that had become her custom. However, as she lay in bed she realized that if she didn’t go the child would not be provided for. She mustered all her strength and went.

After performing this service she, and I suppose only with the help of the Lord, was able to return to her home and upon entering her living room, collapsed into a large chair and immediately fell into a deep sleep. She said that as she slep, she felt as if she were consumed by a fire that would melt the very marrow of her bones. She began to dream and dreamed that she was bathing the Christ child and glorying in what a great privilege it would have been to have bathed the Son of God. Then the voice of the Lord spoke to her saying, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me.”

(anonymous story quoted in Cat’s Cradle by Chieko Okazaki)

Who is the Gentile baby—the rejected, seemingly unlovable, undeserving person—in your life as Christmas approaches? What does he or she need? How might you help fulfill that need?

About Kathyrn Lynard

(Founding Editor) is the author of the memoir The Year My Son and I Were Born (Globe Pequot Press, 2009) and the editor of four published anthologies. She contributes to Mormon forums from Meridian Magazine to Sunstone on a variety of topics including gender issues, disability, mental health, sexuality, family life, and spirituality.

18 thoughts on “What Jesus Wants for Christmas”

  1. Thank you for this beautiful excerpt from Chieko Okazaki's book. It does double duty for me: reminding me to look out for the rejected and unloved, and reminding me that the service I do as a SAHM for my little children fulfills that beautiful phrase from Matthew 25:40. Thank you.

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  2. Such a beautiful story– thanks for the reminder, Kathy. It's hard to imagine hating someone for marrying a 'gentile' in the modern church. I can't think of anyone who it hated, but I can think of many who have been forgotten.

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  3. Nicole, exactly. I first read this story when my two oldest children were very small, and it completely changed my perspective. I realized that my service to them was service to God in a very literal way.

    And yes, Mark, I need the reminder too–pretty much constantly. I was telling a friend yesterday that I have no problem serving those who are appealingly poor and needy. I'd happily care for any heart-wrenchingly vulnerable "baby" (no matter how old they are). It's those whose veiled neediness makes them obnoxious and arrogant and clueless that I so readily reject . . .

    Which brings me to Michelle's point. True, the stigma against marrying a nonmember is not what it used to be. But what stigmas remain in LDS culture? Who are we quick to reject? Who are we reluctant to serve? Who do we see as undeserving?

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  4. The thing that I find hard about this story is that there are seldom such innocents that need our service. People who need our service are usually more like the "Gentile" husband than the sweet child, as you already pointed out Kathryn.

    My personal example: my husband and I have been asked to serve a specific couple in our ward in many different ways. Right now he is their home teacher and I am her visiting teaching companion. She went through an ugly divorce, moved cross country, and moved in with a boyfriend. Her boyfriend eventually joined the church, they got married, and now they are working to be temple worthy. All well and good.

    Where the rubber hits the road for me, where it gets really hard, is when they are insensitive and unkind to us but still expect our attention. They are completely oblivious to our personal strains and troubles. The gospel tells me that I should serve to serve regardless of how it is received or rewarded though.

    Last night the branch president left a message for my husband, saying that once again this couple needs our service. Right now I'd much rather walk miles to bathe a sweet baby and do laundry, than hold this couple's hand again.

    That's my ugly truth about service this Christmas season.

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  5. Excellent reminder. An angle of life I think we sometimes ignore. btw, I recently finished reading your book, Kathryn, and I want so much to email you my thoughts but not sure how to find you, except for right here. I did a post about it on my blog today but there is a little more I'd like to share with you.

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  6. Jen-

    I have been in a similar position recently, where I just feel a little squeezed, service-wise. Feeling like that makes it hard to serve with anything other than gritted teeth. And it's much easier to, say, drop off a sub-for-Santa-ish pile of presents on a psuedo-anonymous person's door than to face ongoing service to somebody who can, in a very real way, wear you out.

    But that's what it's about, isn't it? Figuring out how to do it without hating it, without resenting it? I'm not sure exactly how to manage that–heaven knows I've done service with nothing but resentment in my heart–but somehow it should be possible to find the joy in ongoing, deep, committed service. And so we keep doing it, even when it wears us out.

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  7. a "gentile" baby, eh? And I suppose the Gentiles figured it was a "mormon" baby so why waste the effort? A baby is a baby for goodness sake… not a denomination. I wish I was better at seeing this in my own life more, it's always easier to see what "other" people should be doing differently than what you should be doing differenly yourself. 😉

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  8. Where the rubber hits the road for me, where it gets really hard, is when they are insensitive and unkind to us but still expect our attention.

    But isn't that true of all children, and are we all not children, really?

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  9. My family have been in the receiving end of service. I am very grateful for the true Saints, who have put their time and other resources into propping up our family.

    I hope it doesn't sound self-righteous to say that we have tried to also show that gratitude; and have served in ways that we are able, with our limited capacities.

    But it's really a sacrifice only if it hurts a little, huh? Like doing the same thing over again with a person, who should by now know better than that. And not becoming bitter about it (perhaps some resentment is forgivable, if we're willing to admit that someone may have the same feeling about us?).

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  10. Thanks for sharing this. I really took the message to heart on a personal level and pray I can follow through with inspiration received.

    As a teacher I found that the kids who often saw themselves as the victims of the other children's bullying were often the children who actually did more of the bullying. These were kids who needed love the most yet made it difficult to love them.

    Grown-ups can act the same way. Praying to see others in the way that Christ sees them helps me to continue to act charitable when service is difficult.

    But I would add a caution, that sometimes I think our service can cross over into enabling, and/or we can become abused by other people. If we are close to the spirit, we will know when we need to give more, despite the hardship, and when we need to set a limit in a particular situation. Just felt like I ought to share that last thought.

    I appreciate you Kathryn.

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  11. Right now my Father serves in a ward of mentally and physically disabled adults. This calling is such that he can't even get anyone to accept the position as his second counselor.

    He gets lots of excuses, but most of them amount to the job being too demeaning, too demanding, and just an overall pain in the butt.

    He takes many of these people to their appointments and to the grocery store. He helps them with their bills and finding jobs. They are often ornery and not really fun to be around. Even their families have distanced themselves as much as possible.

    These aren't people who deliberately try and manipulate the system. They deal with all sorts of disabilities.

    Because this Ward my Dad serves in is so small, he tried to find a way for it's members to be included in a larger, more traditional Ward.

    He was turned down by each and every leader he approached. The leaders (and often their ward members) don't want to be bothered, and had no problems telling my Dad so.

    I asked my Dad why he chooses to stay in this position. He explained to me that growing up in an orphanage he was treated a lot like the people he now chooses to serve.

    He also shared that as Parker grew older there may come times when people look at him as a burden, someone not worth the time or effort.

    He chooses to continue serving because of his past and Parker's future. He serves in gratitude for those who took the time to see beyond the orphan and to pay it forward in hopes that Parker will always have those willing to serve and include him.

    My Dad is a pretty amazing man. He was exceptionally successful in his career and has awards from all sorts of important people. He's highly intelligent, holds many patents, and is still sought after for consultation in matters of our nation's defense.

    I'm humbled by his service and want to follow in his footsteps.

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