Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas 1966

1966 will always have a special place in my heart. Surprisingly enough this has nothing to do with English football (soccer)!. ( In 1966 the England Football team beat Germany and won the world football championship. This victory, which is over 42 years in the past, is still talked about with some pride by football supporters herein the UK. Sadly the England Football team has never won a world cup since. It is a source of both pride and sadness that this victory has not been repeated since.)

I was five years old and my parents allowed me to stay up past my bed time on a Thursday evening. There as a new television show on from 8-9pm. This was a show that had clear cut morals taught, Good triumphed over evil. Plus the series was set in outer space. I fell in love with Star Trek, there were many times when I fell asleep watching it.

The second event that took place in 1966 happened on Christmas.

My parents had given me the ultimate toy....Major Matt Mason. He was an astronaut. This was three years before the moon landing, and space ships and men on the moon were still the stuff of dreams for little boys like me.

This gift that my father and mother gave me was fantastic. I had an octagonal two level space station that had clear plastic frames that surrounded a flashing beacon which lit up a picture of the galaxy. There was a "moon walker" a tractor really that was used to travel over rough surfaces, a rocket pack, and of course there was the Major. He was only six inches tall, but he was to me what Buzz Lightyear and Woody, from the film ToyStory were to my son Joseph.

Over time my love and use of the Major faded. Until finally we no longer blasted into space together.

Years passed, but somehow the memory of that precious gift from my parents remained with me. My dad and mom would give me many more presents for Christmas, but for some reason only that one remained in my mind.

When my son Joseph was 2 ½ years old, we flew out to California in February to have a late Christmas. We exchanged gifts with my family. Joseph was given a stuffed Mickey Mouse that was nearly as big as he was. One day as Joseph was running around with it I was talking to my dad about Christmas’ past. I asked "Do you know what the best present you and mom ever gave me?"

Almost before I finished asking the question, my father answered immediately "Yes. Major Matt Mason."

It had been over two decades since I had unwrapped that gift, and to my knowledge we had not spoken about the Major since.

But somehow that night in 1966 had as much an effect on my father as myself.

I began to reflect on that gift, choice above all others that I had, but had let slip through my fingers. I could not get another I though because the good Major was not being made anymore.

A phone call to the toy company got me a photo-copied sales brochure and I could look at the Major and the Space Station. But, somehow it was not the same. I felt that if somehow I could get the action figure back I could almost reclaim my past, and have a link with my father and with my late mother.

A few years ago I came across an internet site that dealt exclusively with auctions of toys. Almost as an afterthought I typed in "Major Matt Mason".

I was suddenly presented with ten pages of the good Major and his accessories. I was in heaven. I downloaded a picture of the Major and used it as a desktop picture, but still I was not happy. I read from page to page on the site and came across an action figure that was made in 1966, the same year as the one that I had.

It was a bit dinged up with age, a leg wire was broken, a bit of the tip of the nose was missing, but it was still the Major. My desire to get back that lost link to my youth got the best of me. I entered the bidding war that was in progress.

Finally, after a week of nervous bidding, I won the bidding war. Two weeks and twenty five pounds later I had him. Major Matt Mason was home. He has pride of place in my study, alongside of a black and white picture of my father and I playing with the space station. That gift, once lost, that meant a lot not only to me, but to my father was back home. It serves as a memory of a joyous time with my parents.

Each of us has been given a precious gift from a loving Heavenly Father. Like myself when I was young; each of us has the choice of either cherishing this gift from a loving Father in Heaven, or allowing the meaning of that gift to be lost. We then have the challenge of trying to reclaim that gift. I testify that if we do find ourselves having to reclaim that gift, it will be a struggle, we will need many plasters to hide the bruises.

How much better would it be for us if we never lose this choice gift, the love and light of the Lord Jesus Christ.

How precious was this gift? John the Apostle tells us in John 3:16:

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The Father has given us the life of His eldest Son Jesus Christ. Two thousand years ago He came down to mortality to take upon His shoulders the sins from all, from the days of Adam even to this present day. Not only that He willingly gave up His life so that we might have the blessed opportunity to live forever, as well as to live with our Heavenly Father. What a blessing. What a gift, choice above all others. But what have we done with it? Have we laid it aside, and are we now searching for it again? Or have we nourished and cherished this gift as we should, in applying the teachings of the Saviour in our daily lives?

I think of two peoples who since the days of Jeremiah the Prophet had knowledge of this gift, yet one group were more blessed than another.

The Lord told the Prophet Nephi on the very first Christmas even in 3rd Nephi 1:13:

13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.

I have sometimes wondered why He told the people of Nephi directly through a Prophet about his advent, and yet in the land of His birth the message was broadcast only to some shepherds who were abiding in the fields, on the night of His birth. Luke records in Luke 2:8-18:

8 ¶ And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 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.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 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.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen [it], they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard [it] wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Both peoples had been taught by mighty Prophets of God that the Lord would come. Both had been given the same opportunity, yet only one people were blessed with the personal announcement of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Then I came to a possible conclusion. Only one of these two people had faith enough and were humble enough to repent when called upon to do so. Only one group was, to paraphrase Nephi, "past feeling" and their hearts were hardened.

The angel and the heavenly host who announced that the Lord was born "this day" went not to general public, but to poor humble shepherds.

As we commemorate the birth of the Lord, and as we give thanks to our Father in Heaven for

This great and glorious condescension of God, to allow His eldest Son to take upon Him the sins of the world, can we also give thanks that we have been given a living Prophet of God?

I testify that Thomas S Monson is the Lord's chosen Prophet, and that if we can abide by the gospel truths that are taught us we need never fear about being past feeling, and we never need fear what man can do for God will be with us forever.

I am always gratified to know that, in the words of the X Files: "The truth is out there." I stand amazed at how the scriptures and the teachings of the Prophets and Apostles provide a rich tapestry of wisdom that can and does answer those questions that can come to the heart and soul of a child of God seeking light in the midst of darkness.

May we always cherish this gift that a loving Heavenly Father has given us. Let us remember that the true spirit of Christmas is not in the gifts, tinsel, trees, or food, but in the birth in a manger of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a gift beyond value and is a living reminder of how much our Heavenly Father loves each of us.