“…And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Imagine in your mind this great event. A “multitude of heavenly host”. How many individuals was that? I imagine a group the size of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, all in white, singing with all their energy because of the excitement of what had occurred. Jesus Christ had been born. The significance of the birth overshadowed only by the life and sacrifice he made for each of us. I don’t see my imaginary Mo-Tab singing just because a baby was born, but they were singing because of the chain of events that was about to unfold. The most important, long awaited event for the salvation of man was finally going to occur.
During the Great Council in Heaven it was decided we would all be blessed with the chance to come to earth, to learn, to grow, and to choose. It was also decided that our elder brother Jesus would choose to come to earth, suffer for our sins, and die for us all that we might live again. Do all this so that we might be together as a family forever again someday. THIS is why my Mo Tab was singing! This baby’s birth led to the events that would save us all from sin. This is one of the happiest times in the history of the world.
One of the challenges with the commercialization of Christmas is the overwhelming concept of “Enough”. We live in a world where the culture all around us is telling us the tree isn’t tall enough, there aren’t enough lights, it doesn’t sparkle enough, there aren’t enough presents under the tree, and we didn’t spend enough on those presents. The only way Christmas is going to be good is if the house looks perfect, my family is dressed perfect, the meal is perfect, and everyone is happy with the gifts they received. Any slight deviation from the “plan” and Christmas will be ruined!
Because of these unrealistic expectations, many feel extreme amounts of angst about the Holidays. There are feelings of inadequacy, unhappiness, depression, or even anger about what is supposed to be the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” How do we as followers of Jesus Christ rise above all this and make sure this year is the year we feel the true spirit of Christmas in our hearts and in our homes?
I was specifically asked to speak on a talk given by Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy from the April 2013 General Conference. It is titled Beautiful Mornings. In the talk, he repeatedly shared stories in the scriptures about intense challenges like that of the Savior’s suffering in Golgotha where He suffered for our sins as well as the difficult moment of his crucifixion. He also mentioned Brigham Young’s time when the Saints suffered great persecution, even death and destruction. All of these situations could have been times of horrible despair. Times where faith could give way to uncertainty or even disbelief. In each situation it could have led to an END of some kind.
Imagine if you will the line of history being a great sporting event. As each of these sad, dark times occur you can almost see the adversary and all his followers jumping to their feet, the cheers the waving of their flag in approval. The excitement of an eminent win!
But then can you see as they all look across the field to see the opposing fans. Our Father In Heaven, angels, our ancestors, and our other brothers and sisters. As each of these tragedies occur, you can see each of them wipe the tears from their eyes out of compassion and empathy for the suffering that occurred. But behind the tears you see a strong resolution, the confidence, the strength, the KNOWLEDGE, knowing that His plan will be fulfilled, we can’t lose and those who had to pass through sorrow and tribulation will rise above and grow greater than the challenge that beset them. This crowd begins to chant, a cheer of inspiration pulling us participants towards the next obstacle that leads us to an ultimate victory.
A few of these “Cheers” from the scriptures:
(John 16:33) “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”.
(D&C 68:6) “Be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you”
In some of the most difficult times of history we are commanded to be of good cheer. Is that commandment only for extreme times of trouble. No. No matter what trail has been placed before us. We are commanded to be of good cheer… Why, because we have knowledge of, faith in, and a testimony of He who rose about it all, our Savior Jesus Christ. And that is what he has asked us to do.
So how do we tie this back into the Holiday Season? How do we move past a Christmas that is never “Enough”, or that is lacking Christ, to a Christmas that is full of true Joy, Happiness, or Cheer?
I turned to President Monson’s Christmas Devotional talk from this December 2013. He instructed us that in order to make the Savior the focus of the season, we must GIVE to the Savior. We should be considering gifts that reflect the love and selflessness like that of the example our Savior set while he was here upon the earth.
1.) Seek out a bright particular star
Our prophet suggested we seek out a star. This translates in my mind to seeking out a direction. This may involve stopping where you are, dropping to your knees, and praying to our Father in Heaven. Plead with our Heavenly Father to help you know what to do this holiday season, and how he wants you to celebrate His son’s birth. Don’t be surprised if the way you receive an answer is to have the Holy Ghost place names and faces in your mind. These are the individuals you are called to serve. So what should you do for them?
2.) Journey to Bethlehem
The prophet asked us to Journey to Bethlehem. That doesn’t sound easy. If we were really going to do that it would take considerable time and effort. I think what President Monson was saying is it may require a little work. It may require some time (you already “don’t have”:). Which means it may require you to re-prioritize some activities you had planned this holiday season. Use the Good, Better, Best measuring stick. With the Lord’s hand, you will know what needs to be done, and what can be let go.
3rd: Give as the Savior Gave
Keep it simple. None of the Savior’s gifts had bows, pretty ribbon, or gold leafing on them. But each of them were laced with wonderful eternal consequences. Here are a few of the examples President Monson gave us to consider:
Show more interest in people than in things.
Help those less fortunate
Forgive our Enemies
Remember old friends
Obey God – simply give a gift of obedience. Perhaps just a change of your own personal behavior is the BEST gift you can give.
Give of yourself, give of your time, give gifts of understanding, compassion, service, friendship, kindness, gentleness.
Finally: A Special Gift
As Christ walked the earth… he had one goal: To be about His Father’s business. Christ spent each and every day preaching His Gospel. He taught everyday about Faith, Repentance, Baptism, the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. His words, His deeds, His every thought was for us. This was His Father’s business. This is what he would do again if he were on the earth. As Disciples of Christ, this is what he has asked each of us to do… especially at this time of year; to let all of his children know the way to return to their Heavenly Father.
The birth of our Savior was and is one of the greatest events in the history of this world. Let’s not get caught up into anything that doesn’t help us to have and feel that Joy this holiday season. Don’t let the adversary have the next three weeks of your life. This is your time to feel the Spirit of Christ in your life, grow your testimony, do our Heavenly Father’s will, and perhaps bring someone else closer to their Savior. Don’t miss out on it.
I want to share my testimony about Jesus Christ. I have often felt uncomfortable about sharing it, because I couldn’t put into words the way I felt. In the October 2013 General Conference President Uchdorf started out his talk with a story of a man asking all that is required of Latter Day Saints. At the end of this huge list showing requirements of time, talents, money, and sacrifices, the individual inquiring about our church he then asked: “Why would anyone want to join such a church?” I remember I was in the kitchen doing some dishes from breakfast as I listened to conference. I thought to myself how I would answer that question. A lump formed in my throat as I almost felt a bit of embarrassment for even asking that in my head. The answer: Because it is True, and I KNOW my Savior lives. Because He lives, I have no choice but to do all that he has asked of me. I pray that each of us will act as He would have us do as we celebrate His birthday. And that as we keep Him at the center of the holiday season we will feel the happiness and joy He has commanded us to.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.