The gift of love comes alive at Christmas

By Sanoe Harrison

Branch President

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

When I was a very young bishop in 1950, there was a tap at my door and a good German brother from Ogden, Utah, announced himself as Karl Guertler.

He said, “Are you Bishop Monson?”

I answered yes.

“My brother and his wife and their family are coming from Germany. They are going to live in your ward. Will you come with me to see the apartment we have rented for them?”

On the way to that apartment, he told me he had not seen his brother for something like 30 years. Yet all through the holocaust of World War II, his brother, Hans Guertler, had been faithful to the Church — an officer in the Hamburg Branch.

The apartment was cold, it was dreary, paint was peeling from the walls and the cupboards were bare. What an uninviting home for the Christmas season! I worried about it and prayed about it, and then in our ward welfare committee meeting we did something about it.

The group leader of the high priests said, “I am an electrician. Let’s put good appliances in that apartment.”

The group leader of the seventies said, “I am in the floor-covering business. Let’s install new floor coverings.”

The elders quorum president said, “I am a painter. Let’s paint that apartment.”

The Relief Society representative spoke up, “Did you say those cupboards were bare?” They were not bare very long.

Then the young people, represented through the Aaronic priesthood general secretary, said, “Let’s put a Christmas tree in the home, and let’s go among our young people and gather gifts to place under the tree.”

You should have seen that Christmas scene when the Guertler family arrived from Germany in tattered clothing and with faces that were drawn by the rigors of war and deprivation! As they went into their apartment, they saw a transformation — a beautiful home.

We spontaneously began singing, “Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright”. We sang in English; they sang in German.

At the conclusion of that hymn, Hans Guertler threw his arms around my neck, buried his face in my shoulder, and repeated over and over again those words which I shall never forget: “Mein Bruder, mein Bruder, mein Bruder.”

As we walked down the stairs that night — all of us who had participated in making Christmas come alive in the lives of this German family — we reflected upon the words of the Master: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).


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