First Presidency Message

The Gift of Self

By President Gordon B. Hinckley

First Counselor in the First Presidency

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    This is Christmas, when we sing and speak of the great gift of God our Eternal Father who gave His Son to become the Redeemer of all mankind. It is a time when we meditate reverently upon the matchless gift of that Son, who gave His life to save the world. It is a time, too, when we reflect on how we might best honor Him.

    He, Jesus Christ, under the direction of his Father, was the Creator of the earth on which we live. He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; He was the source of inspiration of all the ancient prophets as they spoke as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost. They spoke of him when they rebuked kings, when they chastised the nations, and when as seers they looked forward to the coming of a promised Messiah, declaring by the power of revelation: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isa. 7:14.)

    “And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” (Isa. 11:2.)

    “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.)

    He, the Son of God, condescended to take upon himself a mortal body. His mother, the most beautiful of all virgins as Nephi saw her in vision, gave him mortality. His father, the Eternal God, vested Him with power over death.

    Gifts to the Newborn King

    He was born on earth in a manger when there was no room in the inn. Well did an angel ask Nephi, who had foreseen these things in vision: “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (1 Ne. 11:16.) I suppose none of us can fully understand that—how the great Jehovah should come among men, his birth in a manger, among a hated people like the Jews, in a vassal state of the Roman Empire. But at his birth there was an angelic chorus that sang of his glory. There were shepherds who worshipped him. There was a new star in the east. There were wise men who traveled far to bring tribute of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. One can surmise they touched those tiny hands in wonder and awe as they presented their gifts to the newborn king.

    Insofar as we know, His childhood and young manhood were not notably exceptional, although Luke tells us that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:52.) But the miraculous three years of His public ministry brought forth such teachings, given both by precept and example, as to enrich all mankind through all of the years that have followed.

    John the Baptist spoke by the power of revelation when he declared of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29.)

    It was the voice of the Almighty that declared above the waters of Jordan, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17.)

    A Man of Miracles

    Jesus was a man of miracles. He who had created the world and governed it as the great Jehovah understood the elements of earth and all the function of life. Beginning at Cana, where he turned the water into wine, he went on to cause the lame to walk, the blind to see, the dead to return to life—he, the Master Physician, who healed the sick by the authority inherent in him as the Son of God.

    He was the comforter of the oppressed people of his time and of all the generations who have come after who have truly believed in him. Said he to each of us: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28–30.)

    At the well in Samaria, Jesus declared the saving power of his teaching, saying: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him [it] shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13–14.)

    “I Am the Resurrection

    He is the Master of life and death. To the sorrowing Martha he declared his eternal power, saying: “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.)

    This, then, is the Christ whose birth we commemorate. The Creator of this world, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, he took upon himself mortality and became the Redeemer of mankind. His mortal ministry was one of service and self-denial—teaching, blessing, healing, lifting—culminating in that great and ultimate sacrifice which wrought Atonement, Redemption, Resurrection.

    If we would claim to worship and follow the Master, must we not strive to emulate his life of service? None of us may rightly say that his life is his own. Our lives are gifts of God. We come into the world not of our own volition. We leave not according to our wish. Our days are numbered not by ourselves, but according to the will of God.

    So many of us use our lives as if they were entirely our own. Ours is the choice to waste them if we wish. But that becomes a betrayal of a great and sacred trust. As the Master made so abundantly clear, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:35.)

    Why are missionaries happy? Because they lose themselves in the service of others.

    A Labor of Love

    Why are those who labor in the temples happy? Because their labor of love more nearly approaches the great vicarious work of the Savior of mankind than does any other work of which I know. They neither ask for nor expect thanks for what they do. For the most part they know nothing more than the name of him or her in whose behalf they labor.

    Of all times, it is Christmas when we must surely realize that there can be no true worship of Him who is the Christ without giving of ourselves.

    At this season let us, each one, reach out a little more generously in the spirit of the Christ. It is not enough to give toys and baubles. It is not enough to give alms to those in need. That is important, yes. But it is also important that we give of ourselves with our alms.

    May the real meaning of Christmas distill into our hearts, that we may realize that our lives, given us by God our Father, are really not our own, but are to be used in the service of others.

    President Spencer W. Kimball, who was such a great example of this principle, once said to me, “I feel that my life is like my shoes—to be worn out in service to others.”

    God bless each of you at this Christmas season, that it may be a time of joy, a time of gladness, but more importantly, a season of consecration.

    Ideas for Home Teachers

    Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:

    1. Christmas is a time when we can reflect on how we might best honor the Son of God whose mortal birth we celebrate.

    2. Jesus was a man of miracles. He who had created the world and governed it, understood all the functions of life.

    3. Our lives are a gift of God. Our days are numbered not by ourselves, but according to the will of God.

    4. Of all times, it is Christmas when we must surely realize that there can be no true worship of Christ without giving of ourselves.

    Discussion Helps

    1. Share your feelings about the Savior and the importance of his life in ours. Invite family members to share their feelings.

    2. Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?

    3. Would this discussion be better after talking with the head of the household before the visit?

    Painting by Bernardino Luini. Madonna of the Roses (16th-Century Renaissance); Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan

    Painting by Giorgione. The Adoration of the Shepherds (ca. 1510); National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

    Painting by Jacopo Bassano. Adoration of the Magi (16th-Century Renaissance); Pinacoteca, Sansepolcro