In Light of His Birth

You can almost feel the light as you walk through the gate of Temple Square. Light surrounds you. A myriad of Christmas lights—hundreds of thousands of them—shine in the trees. Patterns in light shine beneath the snow on the ground. Lights bob in plastic bubbles on the reflecting pool in front of the Salt Lake Temple. Luminarias light your way along the walkways of the Church Office Building plaza.

It is Christmas on Temple Square, and you are among the thousands who come to appreciate the beauty of this place at this season. Temple Square is the most visited tourist site in Utah. About one-sixth of its annual visitors come between the last week in November, when the Christmas lights are turned on, and the end of December. Nearly half a million people passed through the gates during December 2001.

The decorations speak to the hearts of members and other visitors from many lands. Words on some of the luminarias say “Feliz Navidad,” “Joyeux Noël,” “Frohe Weinachten”—“Merry Christmas” in many languages, including sign language. On the plaza, you see large nativity scenes from Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, and other countries. In the Church Museum of History and Art on the west side of Temple Square, a display of crèches depicts the nativity as seen through the eyes of different cultures. In a brightly painted Swedish scene, the three Wise Men arrive on horseback dressed as fine gentlemen. From Ecuador and Nigeria come manger scenes carefully carved in natural wood. From Italy come carved wood Renaissance versions of Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child in the manger, sculpted and painted in fine detail.

There seems to be something to delight every eye and every heart. Overhead colors reflect off the silver in the hair of an older couple strolling among the lights and lanterns, gloved fingers intertwined. With wide Christmas eyes, a toddler riding his daddy’s shoulders ponders the kings on camels’ backs and a babe in a manger. Inside the North Visitors’ Center, a lone woman pauses to look up into the face of the Christus statue, reflecting the serenity she sees there.

For the most part, visitors on the square keep moving because of the cold. But you may pause at the focal points—that manger scene with its recorded narration about the Savior’s birth in mortality, and the Christus statue with the great expanse of the heavens depicted behind it. While the beauty of the lights on Temple Square will linger in the mind, what you feel as you think about the birth and mission of the Savior will linger longer in the heart.

You can feel it strongly in this place when you think of Him, the source of all light.

Welcome to this celebration of His birth. Feel the peace of knowing that He lives, and that because of Him you too can live.

[photos] Photos by Craig Dimond and Don Searle; some photos courtesy of Museum of Church History and Art

[photos] Below: The nativity is portrayed with Japanese characters on Temple Square. Right: The traditional portrayal of the nativity is depicted in a crèche carved in the Holy Land. Far right: Lights adorn trees around the Assembly Hall.

[photos] Below: A carved Nigerian nativity scene on display in the Church Museum of History and Art. Right: Shepherds “abide” in lighted fields on Temple Square. Top inset: A carved nativity scene from Mexico. Bottom inset: One of the many luminarias lining walkways.

[photos] Left: Christmas tree in the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Far left: A traditional crèche from Italy. Above: Wise Men on camels in the life-size manger scene outside the North Visitors’ Center.