Tag Archives: inspiring Christmas story

Abdul’s Christmas

by Seth Doty

Abdul and his son, Atheer, were two of my interpreters I had my first tour in Iraq. I spent a lot of time with them on different missions. One time, on a base called Al Qime, while we were waiting for the convoy to offload, I saw Abdul quietly sitting, reading a small book. I assumed it was the Koran. I walked over to him and asked, “Put that Koran down and play some cards Abdul?” He looked up at me, smiled and said, “This is not the Koran Sgt. Doty. This is the Holy Bible. I am a Christian man, not a Muslim.” I was shocked! We had a long conversation about how he went to school in the States back in 1977. There he was introduced to the Christian faith and brought it back to his family where they had to practice their faith in secret.

All he had was that little Bible. It was too dangerous to keep anything else around the house. He went on to tell me how he wished he had more, now that he was able to safely show his family, and not just tell them what Christmas was and how we celebrated here in America. They had never seen a Christmas tree or Christmas lights, or hung their stockings, had a candy cane, or even saw a picture of the nativity scene.

On the convoy back to base I got to thinking. We had so many things for Christmas back at the barracks. It was all just sitting there. When I got back I asked the other squad leaders to ask the Marines to give me anything having to do with Christmas they didn’t want. They gave me a lot of things like toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and all their extra candy. I got some pictures of the nativity scene and some others of Jesus from the chaplain and I even got my hands on a string of lights.

My parents had sent me a stocking with some candy in it, a little Christmas tree and a bag of my mom’s caramel. I put everything in a box to give to Abdul to take to his family. I called Abdul and told him to stop by the barracks before he left for his home in Baghdad for Christmas. He was so happy to look through the box and see all the things that we put together. He placed the box in the trunk of his car, looked up at me with tears in his eyes, smiled and said, “Thank you. Now I can give my family a real Christmas.”

After a few days Abdul was assigned to my squad and I asked him how his Christmas went. He said his family was so happy and, “…it was worth everything to be able to give that day to them.” His youngest son (6 years old) loved the stocking and his wife enjoyed the caramel.

My platoon left the country a few months later. Before we left, Abdul thanked me again and told me he would never forget what we gave him and his family. It was a great feeling to be able to help this man give his family their first real Christmas together.

It didn’t hit me when Abdul told me that “it was worth everything” to give his family that day. To me Christmas was just something that happened every year. I knew what it was, that it was special, that it’s a time for family and friends. But we also get caught up in the presents and the shopping. We all dread the lines and the price of it all. And let’s not forget how hard it is to make it to everyone’s house to visit and exchange cards or presents.

When I get stressed about it all, I stop and think about Abdul and his family. I think about how Abdul gave everything for that first and last Christmas with his family. Two weeks after I left Iraq, he was captured and killed by insurgents. He died helping us free his country so that he and his family could practice their faith openly and celebrate one of his favorite holidays just as we are doing tonight. It’s my wish that we stay calm and not stress about it all. Just enjoy the family and the people you love. I think to myself, what would I give for this?

Photo source: LDS Media Library

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Two Christmas’s and a changed Heart

By Todd Doty, POE Stake President

In my fifty-five years on this earth I have had several Christmases that stand out in mind.  I would, however, tell you of two during which I came to an understanding of the love of Christ.

In 1973 I was sent to England as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In December of that year I was assigned to work in the industrial city of Watford.  I was a young and very self-centered young man.  I was living in the home of an inactive member.  She had three little girls, all under the age of nine.  The house was a Council house, meaning it was owned by the city and the city charged small amounts of rent for those who were poor.  This family fell into these circumstances.  They had about one or two lumps of coal to heat their home per day.  The electricity was provided by a shilling box.  You would deposit shillings in the box and receive a limited amount of electricity.  This would run out at the most inopportune times.

I was homesick and very unsympathetic to the problems of the family we lived with.  I often thought of my home and our own family traditions.  I thought of Christmas dinner and the great feast I was going to miss.  I thought of all the gifts around the tree and how I was not going to be there to take part as my family would sit around and open them all.   I thought of me and what I was missing.

The mother of this family came home one day with a Christmas tree.  It was about two feet tall.  It reminded me of the tree Charlie Brown brought back to his friends and they all laughed at him.  I thought how pitiful that she could not even provide a decent tree.

Christmas Eve came and there were three small gifts under the tree and nothing for me.  My companion woke up Christmas morning at the normal time. We got dressed, had a small breakfast and exchanged a gift with each other.  We then went downstairs.  The family was up; the little girls were filled with excitement over the small little gifts they had received.  To what I was accustomed to, they had nothing and I missed out.  All I could think about was me and what I had missed by not being at home.

Our Christmas dinner was comprised of some fish and chips.  I left the table hungry and disappointed.

Looking back, I missed Christmas that year because my heart was closed and my mind was thinking only of me.  I did not see the joy in the eyes of the children, the love their mother had for them or how she had to save to provide the small gifts she gave them and the “large” meal she fed her guests, the missionaries.  I missed it all.

The second Christmas was different.  We were invited to spend Christmas day with a family in Gilford England.  They lived in a Council house, just as the family I was with the prior year.  They heated their home with coal and had very little, just as the last year.  We arrived at their home and sat down in their living room.  They had a small, poor looking tree, just as the last year.  They gave us each a gift, small and inconsequential, but still something they could not afford.

We sat down for dinner; we had a small chicken and roasted potatoes.  It was the best they could do and they were happy to provide it.

I felt something that Christmas, something I don’t think I had ever felt.  I missed it the year before because I was all about me.  This Christmas something had changed, and it had changed in me.  I had gained a love of the people in England and for the work I was doing.  As Christmas was coming I felt the love of Christ and his Atonement.

I came to the realization that Christmas was not about me, but about sharing the love of Christ with others.  I was reminded of the heavenly choirs on the plains of Galilee as the shepherds received the announcement of the birth of Christ.

After dinner, I asked the family if I could share this scripture with them.  We sat down and I read:

AND it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them”.  (New Testament | Luke2:120)

From that day to this, the meaning of Christmas has taken on a much greater meaning to me.  It’s not about me; it’s not about boxes all wrapped within paper or a great dinner or feast.  It’s about a small child who came into this world to save the world and take upon Himself my sins.

It took me nearly two years to fully understand Christmas and now I have a perspective on it that has changed my life.  I had two experiences.  The circumstances of each were very close.  The difference was my heart.

God bless you, and have a wonderful Christmas.

Photo source: LDS Media Library

The Christmas Gift

by Donna White

On our second Christmas as a married couple, we lived in a small town in southeastern Arizona where my husband was teaching Seminary.  Everything was new and different for us at the time.  There were so many firsts.  This was my husband’s first job after graduating from college; our first home, which left a lot to be desired, having been converted from a TV repair shop to a rental; our first child, David, born just a few months earlier; the first time we had been away from our families for any holiday.  In addition, those first few months of teaching were difficult, as any new teacher can attest.

I was having my own challenges, too.  After being in the 3-room house for a short time we were able to find a larger home.  Even though it hadn’t been lived in for some time, we were glad to get it since there were few vacancies in the small town.  What we didn’t know at the time we moved in was that it was overrun with mice.  I was terribly afraid of mice.  After spending several days standing on a chair in the middle of the large kitchen shrieking while mice ran all around the floor I decided to be courageous and do something about it.  Armed with a sack of mousetraps from the store I set out traps everywhere.  For the next several weeks we could hear loud pops all day long, sometimes one right after another.  I spent my days taking care of a new baby, resetting traps and disposing of mice.  It took one month to get rid of the problem, and then everything in the whole house needed to be thoroughly cleaned.

That winter I was having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit.  I was lonely, being far away from family in the Northwest, dear friends from college, and hadn’t had the opportunity to make new friends.  Since I didn’t know how to drive yet, I was stuck at home most of the time.  It was depressing being in that drafty mice-ridden house day after day.

But, Heavenly Father, who has his eye on the sparrow, also has his eye on each of us, and knows our names and our needs.  Something happened one day mid-December that completely changed my attitude and outlook.  Early in the morning I opened the front door to take something outside.  There, hanging up on the porch, were two complete outfits of brand-new baby clothes with a note attached, “Merry Christmas to David Marcus White, Love, Santa”.  Rushing into the house, I called my husband, Marcus, to come and see what was on the porch.  We looked at the clothes, then at each other.  No words came for awhile.  Joy filled our hearts as we basked in that wonderful act of love, given freely and anonymously.

So it is in the eternal scheme of things.  Love of a Father and a Son, freely given to us.  As we experience, marvel, and are inspired by that love, we want to pass it on to others, just like our benefactors.

That morning, another note appeared.  Written on the board in the Seminary room were the words, “Dear Santa Claus, thank you so much for my new clothes.  Love, David Marcus White”.

Photo source: public domain