I am grateful for this opportunity to greet you as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The prophet Isaiah spoke of Him centuries before His birth: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”1
This little child, born in a stable and cradled in a manger, was a gift from our loving Heavenly Father. He was the promised Redeemer of the world, the Savior of mankind, the Son of the living God. He was with His Father before He came to earth in mortality, the Creator of the earth upon which we stand.
The great Apostle John gives us a sense of the greatness of this child in the courts on high, from which He came: “Without him was not any thing made that was made.”2 Yet He came to earth in humble circumstances.
He worked as a boy and a youth in the carpenter’s shop of Joseph in Nazareth. In His mortal ministry He walked the dusty roads of Palestine, healed the sick, raised the dead, taught His gospel to people who rejected Him, gave His life on Calvary’s hill, and rose on the third day in what began the Resurrection to break the bands of death for us all and so became “the firstfruits of them that slept.”3
Above all, the Savior whose birth we remember this season of the year paid the price of all of our sins. Again the prophet Isaiah, long before our Lord’s birth, saw the gift beyond price of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
He gave us this description of what the Savior did for us:
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”4
Those who have felt that peace and healing have their hearts filled with gratitude. And so do those who love them. My wife and I read messages and see photographs sent by two of our granddaughters serving as the Lord’s missionaries in South America. They send us photos of smiling people with joy shining in their faces. My granddaughters send messages of gratitude and love for the effects of the Atonement in the lives of people they have taught and seen transformed by their choice to follow the Savior’s example to be baptized and receive the ministration of the Holy Ghost.
As Latter-day Saints, we feel our hearts drawn out in gratitude to a loving Father and His Beloved Son. We are thankful to feel that blessing because of the faith of a 14-year-old boy, Joseph Smith. His prayer on a spring morning in 1820 made possible our receiving the sure witness that the Father, the great Elohim, and His Son, Jehovah, live and love us. They appeared and spoke with him in the full light of day. They called him by name.
The gift of that glorious assurance that we are known and loved can sustain us in the trials life will surely bring. We need never feel that we are alone. We need never give up hope.
I saw that on a day when I visited my elderly aunt in a rest home a few years ago. She was a widow. The effects of age left her unable to care for herself. Though I had known her since I was a little boy, she did not recognize me or others of her family in the crowded sitting room of the rest home.
I looked into her face expecting to see the pain of loneliness and of loss. Yet her face shone with love and radiant joy. Her voice had the happy sound I remembered from the days of long before. Most of the time I was with her that day she just looked at us pleasantly as we spoke to her.
Then, every few minutes, she would repeat with a radiant smile these six words, as if they were part of the conversation: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” It seemed to me that her joy and a sound of gratitude in her voice grew with each repetition of that declaration.
I cannot know all the sources of that miracle of peace in her life. But I know one. Since she was a little girl, she had been in sacrament meetings. She had bowed her head and heard words spoken in prayer to our Heavenly Father. Uncounted times she had pledged to take upon her the name of the Son, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments that she might have His Spirit to be with her.5
And so, while the passing years had stripped away from her life so much of what had brought her joy, she retained the supernal gifts we can feel at Christmastime. She remembered her Redeemer. She knew that He lived. She felt His love. And she felt His love for all of Heavenly Father’s children, wherever they were and whatever their circumstances.
I realized, as we left her smiling presence, that she had been giving us the gift she had received. She knew the source of the peace she felt. And out of her gratitude and love for the Savior, she wanted us to share in the blessing with her. I had gone to comfort her and came away comforted.
That is the spirit of Christmas, which puts in our hearts a desire to give joy to other people. We feel a spirit of giving and gratitude for what we have been given. The celebration of Christmas helps us keep our promise to always remember Him and His gifts to us. And that remembrance creates a desire in us to give gifts to Him.
He has told us what we could give Him to bring Him joy. First, we can, out of faith in Him, give a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We can repent and make sacred covenants with Him. Within the sound of my voice are some who have felt His invitation to the peace His gospel brings but have not yet accepted it. You would give Him joy if you would act now to come unto Him while you can.
Second, you can give Him the gift of doing for others what He would do for them. Many of you have already done that and felt His appreciation. It may have been visiting a lonely widower. It may have been joining with others in a project to help those in need.
There is a long list of possibilities in the book of Matthew. There we read words from our Redeemer, which we all hope to hear and to speak when we see Him after this life:
“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
“When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
“Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”6
In those words the Lord makes clear what gifts we might give Him out of our gratitude. Each act of kindness to anyone becomes a kindness to Him because He loves all of Heavenly Father’s children. And because that brings joy to Him, it also brings joy to His Father, to whom we owe thanks beyond measure.
Many of you will in the Christmas season find ways to give food to people who are hungry. As you do, you bring joy to the Lord. Yet He taught us that there is a way to give an even more priceless and lasting gift. He said, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”7 With all the kindnesses we give for Him, the greatest we can offer is to point those we love and serve toward Him, the only source of eternal life.
The most precious gift I have to give is my witness of the Savior. I testify that He was born of Mary as the Son of God. He lived a perfect life. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, He restored His gospel to the earth and the keys of His priesthood to those who have passed them on to this blessed day. I know by the Spirit that Thomas S. Monson holds and exercises those keys in our time.
I leave you my love and my blessing. I am grateful for your inspiring examples of love, faith, and service, which bring joy to my life. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.