Alice's 1998 Christmas Letter to All Her Posterity
by Alice Isom Gubler Stratton

DECEMBER 1998

Dearest Children, Grandchildren, and Great-Grandchildren,

This year I will celebrate my 88th Christmas. I still marvel over the charm of that one particular day each year. I remember my excitement as a child when my cousin Cliff Spendlove stopped his team and wagon at our front gate and left us a little pinion pine tree. He was returning from the hills with a load of firewood. We didn't always have a tree for Christmas because Papa was crippled, and he didn't own a wagon and horses. Cliff put a base on the little tree so it would stand alone.

On Christmas Eve we put the tree in the center of the living room table. We decorated it with apples, strings of popcorn, and twisted wax candles clipped to the tips of the branches. Christmas morning after family prayer, Mama lit the candles. In wonder, we sat around the table eating our steaming bowls of cornmeal mush in the magic glow of the little candle flames. This was before electricity had come to our town.

After breakfast Mama blew out the candles, and the precious tree was lifted out onto the front porch. Our excitement mounted as we waited breathlessly to see what Santa Clause had brought. My gift that year was a rag doll named Polly. I thought all rag dolls were named Polly!

The spirit of each Christmas day still clings to my memory. Just what is it? The plates of homemade candy? The steamed puddings? The hosts of aunts, uncles, and cousins going in and out? The oranges we received only on that special day?

It can only be one thing:
It is the day we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus.

And now, my children, I thank you for taking Grandpa and me on the yearly tours to see Christmas lights. We have enjoyed both the humble and the extravagant display. I especially loved seeing family groups strolling reverently among the nativity scenes on the St. George temple grounds. Each light has been a tribute to Christ, who is the light and life of the world,i and the source of the very light of the sun.

Now I must mention one display that is unique to our area alone. That is the light display on Harrisburg hill. Because some of you live too far away to see it, I will try to describe it to you. The freeway on Interstate 15 runs parallel to the hill just west of Harrisburg. The hill is the easel upon which is written a Christmas message to all the world. It shines forth its greeting to all the people who pass. At the base of the hill, the rows of trees and homes festooned in rainbow colors frame the picture above. Up on the slope is a 400-foot long by 200-4oot high message in lights.

Two years ago the message read, "Peace on earth begins with love at home." Conversations between truck drivers came over channel 19 on the CB radio. "Be sure to slow down when you go through the bottom of that dip, yso you can see the light display," one driver said.

Another driver responded, "If all the world could get that messge, we would have peace." Last year's message was "His name was Jesus; Wise men still seek him."

Jesus Christ is the central figure of the world's greatest music, literature and art. He set the perfect example for all mankind to follow. Instinctively the honest in heart look forward to his return as was promised at the time of his ascension.ii

As the time of His ascension drew nigh, the Lord said unto the eleven apostles:iii "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world, Amen.iv

"The Lord lifted up His hands, and blessed them; and while yet He spake, He rose from their midst, and they looked upon Him as He ascended until a cloud received Him out of their sight."v

"And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven."vi This is the promise. And so it shall be. In my mind there has never been any doubt or debate about the Savior's second coming.

The other night as we turned on the TV for the news, the reporter announced: "Earthquakes, fires and floods." Following were stories of worldwide commotion, of drought, hunger, wars and plagues. My heart yearned within me. Yearned, yet rejoiced, for in spite of the adversities that distress our troubled world, we are aware of the great goodness of the knowledge explosion in which we are immersed. Light and knowledge floods the earth at an accelerated speed. Daily we see miracles of lives that are extended, and doors of opportunity that are opened.

Having faith in the second coming of the Savoir makes us aware of the signs that point to the reality of this approaching great event. Now is the time to prepare ourselves by keeping our lamps trimmed and burning. I'm writing this Christmas letter to each of you to expres my testimony that Jesus Christ will come again. I'm asking each of you to prepare for that great and dreadful day. It will be great for those who are prepared; and dreadful for those who are not. Keep the commandments. Remember the promise: for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.vii

I suppose the reason I'm writing this Christmas letter to you is becaue of an urgency within me. Time is running out. Since this is my 89th year, I'm really cramming for finals. The certainty of the Savior's second coming is the brightest of all my earhtly knowledge. I want to greet him with joy.

From my candle-lighted childhood to the flourescence of today seems but a moment. I want to reach out to each of you and say, "Prepare for his coming. Keep all of Heavenly Father's commandments. Today is the time to prepare. Tomorrow may be too late. Love your fellowman. See all the good about you. Scatter sunshine. Comfort the sad. Know the joy of work. Roll up your sleeves and beautify your surroundings. Be like the wise virgins and keep oil in your lamps."

My life has spanned the creaking of wagons and the clopping of horses, to space travel; from telegraph messages to the lightning speed of the internet. The light and knowledge that flow down from heaven makes inventions of today obsolete by tomorrow.

When Dickens wrote, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times," he must have had today in mind. Each day that is filled with tragedy and despair is also richly laden with wonders and marvels. God is in his heaven. Truth and righteousness will triumph over sin. The earth will be renewed at the coming of our Savior.

"Cry repentance unto a crooked and perverse generation, preparing the way of the Lord for his second coming; for behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, the time is soon at hand that I shall come in a cloud with power and great glory. And it shall be a great day at the time of my coming for all nations shall tremble."viii

"With Christ shall come those who hae already been resurrected; and His approach shall be the means of inaugurating a general resurrection of the righteous dead, while the pure and just who are still in the flesh shall be instantaneously changed from the mortal to the immortal state and shall be caught up with the newly resurrected to meet the Lord and his celestial company, and shall descend with Him."ix

Your Grandpa Ermal and I were in the mission field in Kansas at the time my mother, Annie Isom, passed away. We could not go to her funeral, but she left a message to all of her children. "Tell them to search the scriptures." And now I relay this message on to you.

I want to bear my testimony to you that Jesus Christ will come again. It will be a grand and glorious occasion. Angels' music will fill all of heaven. The living righteous will ascend to meet him, and the righteous who have already gone on will descend with him, and glorious will be the reunion. I am hoping and planning on seeing all of you there. You are a singing people. Your voices will join in the Heavenly Choir.

My letter to you is rough shod. I cannot rewrite it because my sight is dim. The important thing is that this is my testimony to all of my posterity. Jesus Christ will come again. Above all else that I know, this is the most important of all. I love all of you, forever and ever.

Alice Stratton
Mother, Grandmother,
GreatGrandmother

P.S. An afterthought:

The main focus of my letter is that I have faith that Jesus Christ will come again. Of this I am more than sure. As you search the scriptures, you will see the warnings of the terrible calamities that will plague the earth prior to his coming. The Lord has said, "All the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts."x In this same reference he says, "For he that is tithed shall not be burned."xi That is enough! If there are any among you who think you cannot afford to pay tithing, you'd better think again!

Merry Christmas to all of you. May you all lift up your hearts and rejoice in the beautiful, bright Millennial day.

i Alma 38:9 ii Talmage, James E., Jesus the Christ, p. 695 iii Talmage, James E., Jesus the Christ, p. 695 iv Matthew 28:19,20 v Talmage, James E., Jesus the Christ, p. 697 viThe Acts 1:10,11 vii D&C 64:23 viiiD&C 34:6-8 ixTalmage, James E., Jesus the Christ, p. 787 xD&C 64:23-25 xiIbid.