Here is the talk. One three hours' sleep:
LOOKING FOR CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS
INTRODUCTION ABOUT MYSELF – WHAT I AM DOING IN TX
SERVE TO BRING JOY
If we want to find Christ, we need to go no further than service. Many people will sit at home and many will feel lonely at this time of year. The anti-dote for that is getting out and rubbing shoulders with others. As we serve others that may be less fortunate than ourselves, we lose our own sorrows in seeing joy in others’ faces and realizing that our own problems may be quite diminutive, in comparison
17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.. Mosiah 2:17
When we serve God, we have a confidence about us that waxes strong. Young men, if you want to appear even more handsome to a beautiful daughter of God, perform service. I promise you that, even if you are a little homely, that service will make you all the more handsome. After I was married, if I wanted to score points with my wife, all I had to do was go out and use my Priesthood in the service of others – and it covered my other flaws in her eyes. Women love a man who loves to serve God and his fellow man. The flip side is also true to the young ladies. There is a glow about a woman who has learned to look beyond herself and serve others. This is the glow that ultimately attracts a righteous son of God.
As an old family tradition, our family has always celebrated the coming of Christmas by putting up a manger and talking about the various roles of the porcelain or paper or salt dough characters, enjoying delicious homemade goodies, and reading passages of scriptures that center on the Christ.
I am grateful for the miracle of recording devices that capture simpler times when faith and simplicity came so easily in young children.
READ THE SCRIPTURES ABOUT THE LIFE OF CHRIST TO BRING HIS SPIRIT INTO THE SEASON
My great concern about this time of year is that we do not spend enough time going over the scriptures. When we talk of Christ and rejoice in Christ – the Spirit of God testifies and brings light and love into our lives. You cannot testify of Christ and not have the Spirit of God enter the room. When His name is mentioned, all evil flees – for where there is light, darkness CANNOT dwell. The two are mutually exclusive.
We read accounts of ancient prophets who yearned for the coming of the Messiah. We read scriptures that proclaim the wondrous story of His birth – specifically Luke 2. In it we read about how Jesus was the one to open his mother’s womb.
STORY OF DALLIN’S LIFE – HOW HE CAME INTO OUR LIFE AND HOW WE LOST HIM
In that our Dallin, who passed away, was the first to open my wife’s womb as the first two were born C-section. When our boy was about 6 months old back in 2001, he was the perfect candidate to play the baby Jesus in the Ward Christmas play and one of my favorite photos of our young family is the two older kids playing an angel and a shepherd boy while Dad was “Joseph” and Mom played “Mary”, holding her baby “Jesus”. And a great baby Jesus he was. No crying he made (though this is not doctrine – but a hymn). Hymns and great Christmas music piped into the home bring the glorious feelings associated with Christmas. Those who are even jaded against Christ do not comprehend the light and the love we feel each Christmas. They will call it the delusions of a deluded, fanatical and a brainwashed people. Yet, the reality is that they cannot easily dismiss it and are defied to rationally explain it away. The magical feelings associated with it – the love, the warmth, the light all come because we have chosen to celebrate the birth of the person who most affected humanity. One who overcame sin and death – so that ALL who have received a body in this mortality, will indeed rise again and be united in eternal felicity to fall no more, forever.
When we prepare for Christmas by pondering its real meaning, we prepare to experience the Christ and His message. May I suggest three things we may want to study, ponder, and apply in this season of preparation.
REJOICE IN THE BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOR – AND WHAT THAT BIRTH SET IN MOTION
First, rejoice in the birth of our Savior. We celebrate the birth of the Son of God, the Creator, our Messiah. We rejoice that the King of kings came to earth, was born in a manger, and lived a perfect life. When Jesus was born, the joy in heaven was so great it could not be contained, and angelic hosts parted the veil, proclaiming unto shepherds “good tidings of great joy, . . . praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”3
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.
Wise Men “rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when . . . they saw the young child with Mary his mother, [they] fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts.”4
It is only fitting that we—like the Wise Men, shepherds, and angels—take time to rejoice and celebrate that glorious first Christmas Day.
PONDER HIS INFLUENCE ON OUR LIVES TODAY
Second, ponder His influence in our lives today. The more commercialized and busy the Christmas season becomes, the easier it is for the sublime message of the Savior’s life to get lost along the way. If we notice that planning for parties and scrambling for presents begin to detract from the peaceable message of Jesus Christ and distance us from the gospel He preached, let us take a step back, slow down a little, and reconsider what matters most. One question we can ask ourselves, is “When was the last time we have mentioned Jesus outside of the rote prayers we often mechanically offer over food and for basic safety and protections?” Could we not do better in bringing the discussion of the “reason for the Season” into our lives? I think most of us could.
Christmas is a time for remembering the Son of God and renewing our determination to take upon us His name. It is a time to reassess our lives and examine our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Let this be a time of remembrance, of gratitude, and a time of forgiveness. Let it be a time to ponder the Atonement of Jesus Christ and its meaning for each of us personally. Let it especially be a time of renewal and recommitment to live by the word of God and to obey His commandments. By doing this, we honor Him far more than we ever could with lights, gifts, or parties.
For one day, we shall rise and see Him as He is – for He shall come with healing in His wings and though…….. I shall see him in the flesh.
LOOK STEADFASTLY FOR HIS COMING
Third, look steadfastly for His coming. The early disciples of Jesus Christ yearned for the time when He would come again. For them, mortality was a time of preparation and growth, of sifting and refining, a time for trimming their lamps and preparing for the return of their beloved Savior.
Brothers and sisters, 2,000 years later we also stand as His disciples. We are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The term latter-day is significant. We live and serve in a time prior to the Lord’s triumphant return. Our work is to prepare ourselves and the world for the coming of the Messiah in glory!
Not long after His mortal ministry, Christ said to the Apostle John, “Surely I come quickly.” And John answered, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”5
We live in the 11th hour before the coming of the day of our Lord. Let us therefore look forward to that blessed day when the King of kings descends with a shout, takes away death, dries up tears, and ushers in a new era of peace, joy, and learning.
While the Christmas season is typically a time for looking back and celebrating the birth of our Lord, it seems to me that it should also be a time of looking to the future. Let us look forward. Let us prepare for that blessed day when He will come again. Let us be as wise as those ancients who watched for His coming. As His disciples, let us have in our hearts and minds the words of John: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
I pray that during this season and always, we will see the purity of the story of the Savior’s birth and feel sincere gratitude for His life, teachings, and saving sacrifice for us. May this gratitude cause us to renew our determination to follow Him. May it also lead us to draw closer to our family, our church, and our fellowmen. And may we look steadfastly forward to that blessed day when the resurrected Christ will walk the earth again as our Lord, our King, and our blessed Savior.
What a joy and a blessing it is to know that we will yet see our loved ones in eternal felicity – that ALL of those who have received a body, shall receive it again in perfect form.
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
That one day, we shall stand before the perfect judge to be judged of all for our acts in the flesh:
13 Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.
14 And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.
15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.
16 Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul.
17 Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?
18 Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.
19 Now, if there was no law given—if a man murdered he should die—would he be afraid he would die if he should murder?
21 And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?
22 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.
24 For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.
25 What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God.
26 And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes, which were prepared from the foundation of the world. And thus cometh about the salvation and the redemption of men, and also their destruction and misery.
27 Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds.
28 If he has desired to do evil, and has not repented in his days, behold, evil shall be done unto him, according to the restoration of God.
29 And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance.
30 O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.
THIS is the great message of hope that is in me this Christmas season as I go to lay my father to rest. I know that there is faith and power in the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood – and that he will be raised by one with authority and that he will unitedly raise my mother. And that they will jointly raise me (if required) and then my father and I, my wife. And then the sweetest moment of all; the sweet, sweet moment when we, bearing our Priesthood unitedly, raise our boy from the grave where his mortality has slept for almost 15 years. And he is brought forth, just as he was laid down, to become whole with the spirit never to separate from a perfected body, where we can raise him to maturity in a renewed and perfected world - and with felicity - watch him grow up as the calves in the stall (without worry about any mortal needs), to marry and raise a family of his own in Millennial bliss – unmolested by the evils that surround us in this fallen world.
THIS, my friends, is the hope I have in my Savior.
I am so grateful for His birth that we celebrate. There is NO greater treasure or present that I can receive than this. I give all glory and praise to God, whose wisdom it was to give man his Agency that allows us to choose Him and His Son FREELY – so that, “without compulsory means” that glory will flow to them forever and ever.
In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen!