At this Christmas season, may I share a few thoughts concerning him whose birth we commemorate—the Man of Miracles, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Although he healed the sick, raised the dead, caused the lame to walk and the blind to see, there is no miracle comparable to the miracle of Christ himself.
We live in a world of pomp and muscle, of strutting that glorifies jet thrust and far-flying warheads. It is the same kind of strutting that produced the misery of the days of Caesar, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, and Hitler. In this kind of world it is not easy to recognize that—
A babe born in a stable of the village of Bethlehem,
A boy reared as a carpenter of Nazareth,
A citizen of a conquered and subdued nation,
A man whose mortal footsteps never went beyond a radius of 150 miles, who never received a school degree, who never spoke from a great pulpit, who never owned a home, who traveled afoot and without purse
Truly, his coming, ministry, and place in our eyes is as foretold by the ancient prophet Isaiah: “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.” (Isa. 9:6.)
I ask anew the question offered by Pilate two thousand years ago, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” (Matt. 27:22.) Indeed, we need continually to ask ourselves, What shall we do with Jesus who is called Christ? What shall we do with his teachings, and how can we make them an inseparable part of our lives? In light of these questions, at this season we ask another: What does Christmas really mean? May I suggest some things that it should mean?
Christmas means giving. The Father gave his Son, and the Son gave his life. Without giving there is no true Christmas, and without sacrifice there is no true worship. There is more to Christmas than neckties, earrings, toys, and all the tinseled stuff of which we make so much.
I recall an experience I heard at a stake conference in Idaho. A farm family in the community had just contracted for the installation of an additional and much-needed room on their home. Three or four days later the father came to the building supply dealer and said, “Will it be all right with you if we cancel the contract? The bishop talked with John about a mission last night. We will need to set this room aside for a while.” The building supply dealer responded, “Your son will go on his mission, and he will find the needed room when he returns.” Here was the spirit of Christmas—a family sending a boy into the world to teach the gospel, and friends coming to help the family with their problems. What then, indeed, shall we do with Jesus who is called Christ?
Christmas means giving—and “the gift without the giver is bare.” Giving of self; giving of substance; giving of heart and mind and strength in assisting those in need and in spreading the cause of His eternal truth—these are of the very essence of the true spirit of Christmas.
Christmas means the Christ child, the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger while angels sang and wise men traveled far to bring gifts. It is a beautiful and timeless story, and I hope each of us will read it again this season.
When I think of the Savior, I think not only of the words of Matthew and Luke, but also of the words of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
“The same was in the beginning with God.
“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
“In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1–4.)
Here is something more than a babe in a manger; here is the Creator of all that is good and beautiful. I have looked at majestic mountains rising high against the blue sky and thought of Jesus, the Creator of heaven and earth. I have stood on the sand of an island in the Pacific and watched the dawn rise like thunder—a ball of gold surrounded by clouds of pink and white and purple—and thought of Jesus, the Word by whom all things were made and without whom was not anything made that was made. I have seen a beautiful child—bright-eyed, innocent, loving and trusting—and marveled at the majesty and miracle of creation. What then shall we do with Jesus who is called Christ?
This earth is his creation. When we make it ugly, we offend him. Our bodies are the work of our Creator. When we abuse them, we abuse him.
Christmas means eternity. As certainly as Christ came into the world, lived among men, laid down his life, and became the first fruits of the resurrection, so, through that atonement, all become partakers of immortality. Death will come, but death has been robbed of its sting, and the grave of its victory. “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:25–26.)
I remember standing before the bier of a young man whose life had been bright with hope and promise. He had been an athlete in his high school, and an excellent university student. He was a friendly, affable, brilliant young man. He had gone into the mission field. He and his companion were riding down the highway when a car, coming from the opposite direction, moved into their lane and crashed into them. He died in the hospital an hour later. As I stood at the pulpit and looked into the faces of his father and his mother, there came then into my heart a conviction that I had seldom before felt with such assurance. I knew with certainty, as I looked across that casket, that this young man had not died, but had merely been transferred to another field of labor in the eternal ministry of the Lord.
Indeed, what shall one do with Jesus who is called Christ? Let us live with the certain knowledge that some day “we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt” (Alma 11:43.) Let us live today knowing that we shall live forever. Let us live with the conviction that whatever principle of intelligence and beauty and truth and goodness we make a part of our life here, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
Christmas means compassion and love and, most of all, forgiveness. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29.) How poor indeed would be our lives without the influence of his teachings and his matchless example. The lessons of the turning of the other cheek, going the second mile, the return of the prodigal, and scores of other incomparable teachings have filtered down the ages to become the catalyst to bring kindness and mercy out of much of man’s inhumanity to man.
Brutality reigns where Christ is banished. Kindness and forbearance govern where Christ is recognized and his teachings are followed.
What shall we do then with Jesus who is called Christ? “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8.)
“Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.” (D&C 64:9.)
Christmas means peace. I remember being in Europe a number of years ago at the time tanks were rolling down the streets of a great city, and students were being slaughtered with machine-gun fire. I stood that December day in the railroad station in Berne, Switzerland. At eleven o’clock in the morning, every church bell in Switzerland began to ring, and at the conclusion of that ringing, every vehicle stopped—every car on the highway, every bus, every railroad train. The great, cavernous railway station became deathly still. I looked out the front door across the plaza. Men working on the hotel opposite stood on the scaffolding with bared heads. Every bicycle stopped. Every man and woman and child dismounted and stood with bared, bowed heads. Then, after three minutes of prayerful silence, trucks, great convoys of them, began to roll from Geneva and Berne and Basel and Zurich toward the suffering nation to the east, laden with supplies—food, clothing, and medicine. The gates of Switzerland were thrown open to refugees.
As I stood there that December morning, I marveled at the miraculous contrast of the oppressive power mowing down students in one nation and the spirit of a Christian people in another who bowed their heads in prayer and reverence, then rolled up their sleeves to provide succor and salvation.
What shall we do then with Jesus which is called Christ? “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” (Matt. 25:35–36.)
He whose birth we commemorate this season is more than the symbol of a holiday. He is the Son of God, the Creator of the earth, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, the Redeemer of mankind, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace.
I thank our Eternal Father that mankind in these latter-days has been so blessed to know of Christ with added certainty and added knowledge. I rejoice with thanksgiving that he has reaffirmed his matchless gospel truths in their fulness, and that he has restored his priesthood power and church to prepare a people and make ready for his eventual coming in great glory and power in the opening of the Millennial era.
I rejoice at Christmas time that as a people, we Latter-day Saints know of his existence and reality, and receive certain direction from him.
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (D&C 76:22–24.)
This is our testimony to all mankind. It is our gift and blessing to the world. He is our joy and our salvation, and we will find Christmas of greater meaning in our own lives as we share these truths with others.
What shall we do with Jesus who is called Christ? Learn of him. Search the scriptures for they are they which testify of him. Ponder the miracle of his life and mission. Try a little more diligently to follow his example and observe his teachings. Bring the Christ back into Christmas.
Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:
1. We need to continually ask ourselves, What shall we do with Jesus which is called Christ? What shall we do with his teachings, and how can we make them an inseparable part of our lives?
2. Christmas means giving. The Father gave his Son, and the Son gave his life. Without giving there is no true Christmas, and without sacrifice there is no true worship.
3. Christmas means the Christ child, the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. But it also means Jesus, the Creator of all that is good and beautiful.
4. Christmas means eternity. Christ became the first fruits of the Resurrection. Because of him, all men live eternally.
5. Christmas means compassion, love, forgiveness, and peace.
6. As a people, we Latter-day Saints know of Christ’s existence and reality, and receive intimate and sure direction from him in our behalf.
1. Relate your personal feelings about the Savior and the meaning of Christmas. Ask family members to share their feelings.
2. Are there scriptural verses or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
3. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop to the household head concerning the meaning of Christmas?