I grew up poor ... very poor. My dad repaired farm machinery, and never made very much money. Add to that a family of 9 kids - and we
truly had no money at all for even some of the basics, like rent, or food, or utilities. So Christmas was not a really happy season. We
always put a tree up on the 19th. My dad said it was because that was my brother's birthday, but the real reason was the lots were giving
the oldest, driest trees away by then. I came to see Christmas as a sad reminder of our poverty - and I hated it.
In December of 1976, I was in my senior year at Boise State, attending the married student branch, and full of all kinds of left over sorrow
from my youth. But I was also married, an Army veteran, with two sweet little kids, and very converted to the gospel. I went home
teaching just a few days before Christmas that year, but my "Christmas-is-sad" attitude was showing ... I guess to see if I could find
sympathy - or something.
The first family we visited in student housing was a recently married couple, experiencing their first Christmas together. The apartment
had no decorations, the heat was way down, the place was cold - and very un-Christmassy. I felt at home, and commented about the
futility of the season and how it makes a lot of people sad. The husband agreed with me a seemed to relish the cold, anti-Christmas
atmosphere. But I also saw a sadness in his wife's eyes that revealed she had grown up in a home where Christmas was warm, open and
enjoyed. I was touched by her sadness - but held my own - Christmas is not meant to be enjoyed. We left with a prayer, and stepped just
across the hall to visit the next family.
At door number 2, I expected the worst. The couple we were visiting had been married for 3 years, and desperately wanted to have
kids. Just the week before, she had miscarried - again. I was not looking forward to the sorrow they must be feeling. But the door opened
instead onto a warm, well lit, delightful room, with a huge tree, lots of home made decorations ... and music, happy Christmas music. We
stepped in and I was overcome by the warm smell of hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies. I'm pretty sure I saw an angel in the corner
of the room smiling and blessing this sweet family. I sat down, and just soaked in the best Christmas atmosphere I had ever felt in my entire
life! That night, I was forever converted to the spirt and meaning and pure joy of the Christmas season.
40 years later, I still see that home in my mind, I can feel the warmth, and smell the cookies .... I can see the happy, smiling faces of
two people in love with each other and in love with Christmas. I have never let the season get me down since that day. I am a total
Christmas fan ... the tree ... the decorations .... the baking ... the gifts ... and of course, the Savior. Fortunately, I am married to a
woman that becomes an excited, little girl at Christmas. Now we have the happy home, filled with Christmas joy. And I love it.
May the Lord bless you all this season. May the Savior's birth and the wonderful celebration we enjoy bring you happiness and
warmth. And may God bless us ... every one!
The Night I Began to Love Christmas
Rich Mabe, 2nd Counselor