This is the Christmas season, and children invite the magic of Christmas into our hearts. We miss something if we don’t see Christmas through a child’s eyes, for children see the lights, they hear the music, and they smell the fragrance of Christmas trees and candy canes with real anticipation. We see their rosy cheeks and little noses pressed against the glass of store windows as they dream of Christmas morning, and their tiny fingers count the days until December 25. Parents also count the days until December 25. They dream of being ready for Christmas morning as they plan and create surprises for their children.
When I was a child, my mother would often sew a Christmas surprise for me and for my twin sister. She would set up the sewing machine in her bedroom and begin the project a month in advance, careful to keep the bedroom door closed while she worked. As Christmas Day approached she would sew late into the night. When the items were almost finished—except for fitting them to us and marking the hems—she would devise a plan to preserve her surprise. That’s where the blindfold came in. Our mother would blindfold us one at a time, take us into her bedroom, and slip the item over our head, always keeping the blindfold in place. Now that worked well … except for the time the phone rang in the other room.
Her parting words were, “I’ll be right back, and don’t you dare peek.” You may ask, “What happened next?”
I’ll tell you: it was a red velvet jumper.
Let me share how that question, “What happened next?” has real Christmas meaning.
It happened one mid-December day as Amy Johnston, a Cub Scout den leader in Gilbert, Arizona, took the opportunity to teach a group of energetic eight-year-old boys about the birth of Jesus. She felt impressed to set aside the Scout activity she had planned and talk to her Cub Scouts about the first Christmas. She gathered the boys around her on her family room floor and read several passages straight from the scriptures while using pictures to help tell the sacred story of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the star, and the baby Jesus’s birth in the stable in Bethlehem.
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; …
“To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. …
“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 Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”1
As she spoke of the birth of Jesus, she noticed that all the boys were listening part of the time, but one boy, John, was waiting on every word. John was a rambunctious boy who almost never sat still, but as she was telling the story, he listened intently and then asked, “Well, what happened next?”
So she continued telling the boys about the boyhood of Jesus. She said, “Jesus was a boy, much like you. He liked to run and play. But he also grew ‘strong in spirit.’”2 She told them that when Jesus was just 12 years old, he traveled with his family to Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph were returning home when they realized their son was not with them. They quickly returned to Jerusalem and found Jesus in the temple speaking with scholars and teachers who were asking Him their questions, and the scriptures say that all who heard Him were “astonished at his understanding and answers.”3
“Well, what happened next?” asked John. Amy told the boys about Jesus Christ’s ministry, how He was filled with the Spirit of the Lord. We read in the Bible that He taught the gospel to the poor, He performed miracles, He healed the blind and the sick, and He actually raised people from the dead. He taught, “Love your enemies, [and] do good to them which hate you.”4
John was visibly taken by what was said and wanted to know more. Again he asked, “Well, so what happened next?” She told the boys that some people rejected Jesus and did not like Him. They actually planned to take His life. She told those little Cub Scouts about the Last Supper, the garden of Gethsemane, and how Jesus was crucified and then resurrected. She could tell that all of these stories were new to John, who was anxious to learn more.
She then felt strongly to stop, call each boy by name, and say, “Jesus Christ died for you.” John listened intently as she spoke to each boy individually. Then she looked at him and said, “John, Jesus Christ died for you.” He looked at her and then asked in wonder, “He did that for me?”
Amy said, “The Spirit was strong in our family room that day as one young boy felt the stirrings of the Holy Ghost for perhaps the first time.” She said, “I don’t know what the future holds for John, whose family has since moved away. But I pray that the seeds that were planted in a Cub Scout den meeting two weeks before Christmas will grow and bring to him a full measure of the light of the gospel someday.”
After the season is over, the Christmas lights come down, the fragrance of pine dissipates into the air, and the Christmas music no longer plays on the radio, we, like John, may ask, “What happens next?”
The wonder and awe of Christmas is just a beginning. Christmas reminds us that the babe born in Bethlehem has given us purpose for living, and what happens next to us largely depends on how we embrace our Savior, Jesus Christ, and follow Him. Every day we invite His Spirit into our lives. We see light in others; we hear the joy of children’s voices that bring hope and anticipation for the future. We look for reasons to gather, to include, to serve, and to lift, while we learn what it really means to know our Savior, Jesus Christ. We find ourselves counting the days until the events in our lives when we more intently feel His influence—for example, the birth of a baby, a child’s baptism, a missionary departing, a marriage solemnized in the temple, and partaking of the sacrament each week. Through Christlike and childlike faith we seek Him and we feel His influence.
“Except ye … become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”5
It is a beautiful plan, this plan our Father has created whereby through His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, we can return and live with Him and enjoy all that the Father hath, for that is the ultimate answer to the question “What happens next?” The Savior said, “He that receiveth me receiveth my Father; and he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.”6
Being ready to receive Him gives all new meaning to being ready for December 25.
John, wherever you are, the living Apostles have said: “We solemnly testify that [our Savior’s] life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.”7
John, His gift to us is what happens next.
It is true, and He did it for you. Of that magnificent truth I testify in His name, Jesus Christ, amen.
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