He is the Gift

December 8, 2014

This transfer has flown by – I can’t believe that transfers are next week, and that Christmas is the week after. It hit me when we had a big zone conference this week with all the English/Korean/ASL missionaries in the San Fernando Valley with President and Sister Hall. It was all Christmas themed (and rain themed – it rained half the week, hallelujah!), which was pretty fun. Zone Conferences feel a lot like a giant family reunion with all your mission friends. It was so good to see some of the elders from my MTC district, past companions, and other missionary friends and spend the day learning together. It was hard, however, to see the elders that I’ve come to really love over the past 15 months get up to bear their departing testimonies as part of the conference. Everyone was in tears, I think. You become such good friends – more like brothers and sisters – here in the field, it’s hard to see people head home. You’re excited for them, but it’s bittersweet. Two elders that have served as my zone leaders are heading home next week, and then one of my zone leaders and district leaders head home in January. And then Sister Bishop! She’s heading home too, which is crazy. We were pen-pals before we got to the field, so it’s nuts to think that she’s already packing up. The only word that really fits is bittersweet. Part of our training was focused around the new media push from the Church for Christmas – He is the Gift. It is based around John 3:16, “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.” It’s always been one of my favorite scriptures, but really helps focus on what Christmas is all about – the gift of God’s Son to His children. Not the presents, not the tinsel, not the music. It’s about Christ, and always should be. I love the “He is the Gift” media push because it revolves around just that. If anyone was on YouTube this past Sunday (12/7), you’ll have noticed that “He is the Gift” was the only advertisement. It is estimated that 220 million people saw the thirty-second version of the video! That’s the power of social media for you. We’ve been encouraging our members and investigators to tag it with the hashtag #ShareTheGift to help spread the true message of Christmas throughout the world, so now I’m encouraging you to do the same on whatever social media platform you choose. We’ve seen a lot of cool things happen with it so far and are excited for the weeks leading up to Christmas to bring a little more joy into the homes of families and friends across the globe. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how Christ is the greatest gift, and what gifts we give to Him in return for all He did for us. It’s taken a lot of thought and prayer, and has been so rewarding to reflect on the past months and think about the future. I found this quote in the December issue of the Ensign that sums up my thoughts about what we bring perfectly: “This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise.Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to
understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the
heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.” (Howard W. Hunter) The Mormon Tabernacle Choir did a beautiful music video that we watched in Zone Conference that asks that same question, “what do we give to the Savior of the world?” in their rendition of “What Shall We Give?” that you should check out. Talk about the Christmas spirit! And the cutest little lambs anyone has ever seen. :) Give it a listen, it’ll give you a lot to think about. (also, starting December 11th, if you check out mormontabernaclechoir.org you’ll find 24/7 commercial free Christmas music playing!) Studio City hosted their annual Christmas party this past weekend, which was a hit. We were able to help out by manning a craft table for the kids. We made ornaments that went with the Primary song “Once There Was a Snowman” by filling little ornaments with fake snow and snowman parts. A little morbid, but I don’t think the kids realized they were making dead snowmen… The things missionaries come up with, right? ;) It was a lot of fun to see them all dressed up on stage performing Christmas songs at the top of their lungs and seriously off-key.  We also had the opportunity to go and take two of our investigators (Jeanine, and Hunter and his mom) to the Nativity festival hosted by another ward in the stake. There were hundreds of nativities set up for display from all over the world, and they also had a live nativity which was beautiful. The community really supports it – they have hundreds of people show up to participate. It’s a really special experience for everyone involved. Two of the boys/young men in our ward are in it every year. Zayne is the angel and does a fantastic job (but all the girls have a crush on him, so I started cracking false idol/ we don’t worship angels jokes. He and his sister are crack-ups. I had to try really hard not to laugh when I heard a girl standing next to me sigh when he appeared and did his part. I’m such an irreverent missionary). And then Eddie was a shepherd who looked a little grouchy, but did a great job of bringing the Spirit into the scene with the shepherds (and kept all the Primary aged shepherds in line). It was a really cool experience for those we brought with us, to help them focus on the true meaning of Christmas.  At the end of the nativity, there were copies of The Living Christ for people to take home, which was really cool. I love the testimony it is of the reality of Christ’s birth and resurrection, and the witness of the Atonement. Sometimes we separate Christmas from Easter, and forget that it is two parts of one whole – Christ came to earth to die for us, in order that we might live with Him forever.  Christmas time as a missionary is the best – I love being able to talk about Christmas with everyone we meet, it helps me to focus on what it’s all about. Even if it’s rainy and cold and we’re soaked through to the bone (i.e. last Tuesday), I still love it. You’ll never find a happier sister missionary than one who’s freezing, but talking about Christmas. :) And for your pleasure, lots of pictures!

Have a wonderful week! Love,

Sister Redner

Photo 1 – Fuzzy socks and PJs after a day in the rain. :)

Fuzzy socks

Photo 2 – A comic I made of our awkward law of chastity lesson.
law of chastity

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