Christmas Devotional: Remember Significance of Atonement This Season, Elder Oaks Says
Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer
- Christmas is a celebration of the birth of the Savior and a time to remember Him and His teachings.
“As we prepare for His Second Coming, and as we stand in holy places, we persist in observing Christmas not just as a season of ‘Greetings’ or ‘Happy Holidays,’ but as a celebration of the birth of the Son of God and a time to remember His teachings and the eternal significance of His Atonement.” —Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Christmas is a celebration of the birth of the Savior and a time to remember Him and His teachings, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught during the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional held in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City on December 4.
“At Christmastime, we believers celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, the Eternal Father,” he said. “As part of this First Presidency Christmas Devotional that sets the pattern for our celebration, I will speak of the prophetic announcements of His birth.”
Drawing from the experience of Mary in the scriptures, Elder Oaks spoke of when the angel appeared to her to tell her she would conceive and bring forth a son, named Jesus.
“No announcement was more significant than the angel’s appearance to Mary,” Elder Oaks said.
Recognizing the mortal birth, life, and death of the Son of God as an “essential” part of Heavenly Father’s plan to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), Elder Oaks taught that before the earth was created, Jesus Christ was chosen to experience mortal life and be the Savior necessary to carry out that plan.
“God the Father commanded us to repent and be baptized ‘in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men’ (Moses 6:52).”
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah announced the coming birth of the Messiah when he prophesied, “A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Isaiah’s words in the Old Testament continue, “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.”
The birth of Christ was also revealed to Book of Mormon prophets, Elder Oaks taught. Lehi, Abinadi, and Nephi all testified of the Savior.
“Six hundred years before the Savior’s birth Lehi taught that God would raise up among the Jews ‘a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world,’” Elder Oaks said. He later said, “The prophet Nephi recorded how an angel showed him a virgin in the city of Nazareth, declaring, ‘Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh’ (1 Nephi 11:18).”
Referring to the familiar first announcement to the shepherds after the birth of Jesus, Elder Oaks spoke of the significance of the group who, “we are told, were the most humble of the social order of that time.”
The Savior’s birth was followed within a few days by separate announcements to two very holy persons—Simeon and Anna—both of whom were in the temple.
“The prophecies and announcements just quoted tell of the first coming of the Savior,” Elder Oaks said. “We are now preparing for the Second Coming of the Lord, a time eagerly awaited by believers and dreaded or denied by unbelievers. We are commanded to ‘stand … in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold it cometh quickly’ (D&C 87:8).
“Those ‘holy places’ surely include the temple and its covenants faithfully kept, a home where children are treasured and taught, and our various posts of duty assigned by priesthood authority, including missions, temples, and other places where callings are faithfully fulfilled in branches, wards, and stakes.
“As we prepare for His Second Coming, and as we stand in holy places, we persist in observing Christmas not just as a season of ‘Greetings’ or ‘Happy Holidays,’ but as a celebration of the birth of the Son of God and a time to remember His teachings and the eternal significance of His Atonement.”