Nearly 2,000 years ago, a young woman named Mary lived in the little village of Nazareth in Palestine. We know nothing of her immediate family except that she was engaged to marry Joseph, a descendant of King David.
Much to her surprise, she was visited one day by the angel Gabriel, who came from the presence of God. He greeted her with: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
“And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying,” and wondered what kind of greeting that was. The angel then told her that she had found favor with God and had been chosen to be the mother of His Only Begotten Son.
The babe would be born of her through the power of the Holy Ghost, the angel explained, and would be holy Himself. His name was to be Jesus, for He would save the souls of all who would accept Him.
“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest,” Gabriel said. He would become a king and reign over the House of Israel forever. But he also would be the divine Redeemer of the world.
Mary did not understand and said, “How shall this be?” The angel explained that it would all come about miraculously by the power of the Holy Ghost (see Luke 1:26–35).
The angel also visited Joseph, to whom she was engaged. He was understanding. She, therefore, would be the virgin mother of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
As the time came near for the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem, another hamlet in Palestine. They wanted to stay at the inn, where the child could be born, but there was no room for them. Others also had come to Bethlehem for the taxing of the people at the command of the government. They arrived earlier than Mary and Joseph and took up all the accommodations.
Since the birth of Jesus was near, the couple found refuge in a cave or stable, where Mary brought forth her child. There were no cribs or other conveniences. The little infant was placed in a manger to sleep.
This was the first Christmas. There were no tinseled Christmas trees, no family gatherings, no children at play. But there were carols, the greatest ever sung.
The angels of heaven joined in a great chorus rejoicing at the birth of God’s Son. Now the redemption of the world could take place. Salvation could come to all mankind. Death would be overcome, for this little child, when he became a man, would bring about the Resurrection. All mankind could then live again.
Christmas gifts? There were none at that time. The Wise Men came later with their offerings.
But God now gave His gift to the world—that of His Only Begotten Son. And this divine Son by His very birth on earth gave Himself as the greatest Gift of all time.
He would provide the plan for our salvation. He would give His life that we might rise from the grave and have a happy life in the eternities, forever. Who could give more?
What a gift this was! Think what it means to us! We can learn patience, devotion, and faithfulness such as Mary had. And like her Son we can follow the true gospel principles, being in the world but not of the world.
Mary offered her gift also—the gift of nurturing and rearing the Son of God from infancy to manhood. What hours and days and months of care, what years of devoted service!
Through this first Christmas, and the birth of Jesus the Messiah, we can adopt in our own lives the traits that made Jesus great.
We can be kind and thoughtful. We can be honest and fair to others. Mercy can be an important part of character. And then there is purity. He taught, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Each of us can be clean and pure in all we do. Sheer cleanliness! There is nothing to compare to it.
Through Him we can enjoy the dearest of our associates forever. We can have eternal families. We may be sealed to our parents and be a part of their loving circle eternally. Isn’t that a priceless gift? It, too, comes from that first Christmas.
And when, through our holy form of matrimony, we are blessed with children of our own, they too shall be ours always. What could we desire more than that? It is part of the blessing we receive through Mary’s Son who was born on that first Christmas night. Is it any wonder that the angels sang for joy over this marvelous event?
All of the worthwhile things in life may be ours through Him. But He asks us to be selective and choose those gifts which will last. Said He:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:19–21).
With this very thing in mind He said further:
“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
“Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
“And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
“And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
“Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
“(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:26–33).
These are true Christmas gifts. These are blessings that come from that first holy night.
They may be ours if we truly remember the meaning of Gabriel’s greeting to Mary. They may be ours if we become a part of the saving mission of her Son—and God’s—the Creator, Redeemer, and Savior of all.