I am grateful for this opportunity to celebrate with you the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. His birth was a gift to all of us. John the Apostle, quoting the Savior, wrote of His birth in these stirring words:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” 1
And then the Savior made clear that true faith leads to keeping God’s commandments and that in turn qualifies us for the gift of eternal life, which is to live with God forever in heavenly light.
The Savior warned, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” 2
He then went on to teach, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” 3
He praised those who, rather than hide in shame, chose the right and to walk in the light: “But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” 4
One of the most beautiful symbols of the birth of Jesus Christ into this world is light. The appearance of the long-promised Messiah brought light to a darkened world.
We know from the true record in the Book of Mormon that God’s prophets had long taught the people that light would be a sign of the birth of the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. Samuel the Lamanite prophesied years before the birth of Jesus:
“Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name.
“And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.
“Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.
“And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.
“And behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven.
“And it shall come to pass that ye shall all be amazed, and wonder, insomuch that ye shall fall to the earth.
“And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall believe on the Son of God, the same shall have everlasting life.
“And behold, thus hath the Lord commanded me, by his angel, that I should come and tell this thing unto you; yea, he hath commanded that I should prophesy these things unto you; yea, he hath said unto me: Cry unto this people, repent and prepare the way of the Lord.” 5
Just as beautiful lights in this Conference Center tonight help us remember the wonderful blessing of the birth of our Redeemer, so does hearing the words of angels sent from God. No recounting of the Christmas story is complete without hearing words of an angel sent to prepare the way for His arrival. At the heart of the account of the birth of Jesus Christ is the testimony of angels, as recorded by the Apostles Jesus called and ordained.
God sent the angel Gabriel to Zacharias. The angel told him of the birth to the righteous and barren Elisabeth of John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for Jesus. Mary received the same heavenly messenger to prepare her to become the mother of the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah. These righteous individuals knew and believed the sacred scriptures. Mary knew and loved this scripture, a prophecy by Isaiah:
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
“Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” 6
And Elisabeth knew well that the Messiah would have a forerunner to prepare the way for Him. Isaiah, the poet-prophet, had written, “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” 7
Both Elisabeth and Mary looked forward with confidence that the Savior of the world would come and that a great prophet would be His forerunner. But in their deep humility they were prepared by the Spirit for their sacred part in the greatest events in the history of all creation.
The First Presidency has authorized the creation of a facility in the deserts of Utah in which scenes from the Savior’s ministry could be re-created and filmed. The objective in that effort has been to remain true to the scriptural text. Like the scriptures which these short films follow faithfully, they may seem to you quiet. Your faith and the Holy Ghost will create the emotion these world-changing events deserve.
The Church has nearly 50 such video vignettes in the editing stage. They will be placed on an Internet website to be available without charge. They will be a free gift to all from the First Presidency. You could learn more on the website LDS.org.
President Monson has asked that for a few minutes tonight we watch some of the scenes from those videos that will bring you feelings of light and the joy of angelic visitations that marked Heavenly Father’s gift of His Beloved Son as our Redeemer.
As you saw and heard, it was light and angels that gave guidance to those blessed to be a part of those transcendent events. The Wise Men were directed by a star to Jesus to worship Him. They opened their treasures and gave Him precious gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. They spoke of Him as the King of the Jews. 8
The Wise Men were warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod because he sought the life of the child. They chose to go back to their countries another way.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel warned Joseph to flee to safety in Egypt with Mary and the Christ child. The angel said, “Be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” 9
And Matthew records, “And [he] was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.” 10
The angel, as he promised, did appear again to Joseph after Herod died. The angel warned and guided the holy family to safety, this time to Nazareth, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” 11
Now, as we have remembered the birth and early life of the Savior tonight, there are many lessons to learn. Most of those lessons came as you watched and listened, not so much from pictures and words as from the Spirit. You recognized and felt truth. You felt the love of the Savior and for the Savior. And you surely felt an increased desire to love as He loved.
You felt your faith grow in prophets and in the servants of God, both the angels He sends to bear us up and those He calls to His service to guide us. You surely have felt greater faith that God is the same, without change, over time or space.
And so you may have felt the Spirit testify to you of the Prophet Joseph Smith, whose birthday approaches in just a few days. His unwavering testimony that the angel Moroni, an ancient prophet, came to him is in perfect accord with the experiences of the Wise Men; of Zacharias; Elisabeth; Mary, the mother of our Lord; Joseph, and innumerable others.
The lesson is not that we can have such marvelous experiences whenever we wish for them—nor that they will come even when we feel great need for them. The lesson is that God knows our every need, that He loves us, and that He watches over us.
He gave us the gift of a Savior, His perfect Son, the Lamb without blemish. By personal appearance of the Father Himself and of the Son, and through angels, He has restored the Church of Jesus Christ in the latter days. He has called prophets and apostles to guide us to safety in this life and eternal life in the world to come. Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected that we may live again, that we may be purified and cleansed from sin, prepared for the glory of eternal life.
Those are gifts to us that we can offer to others for Him. We do that by remembering Him and trying with all our hearts to do what He would do and love as He loves.
There was a song in a film years ago with the line “Have yourself a merry little Christmas.” 12 Well, you can give a great and wonderful Christmas if you remember the gifts God has given you and, as best you can, offer them to others as He would. That is the spirit of Christmas and of true happiness every day.
I testify that Jesus is the living Christ, in His sacred name, amen.