Posted by: 2thdocbob | 18 December 2016

The Divine Birth and Mission of Jesus Christ

Why is Christmas important to us? What is the real reason we celebrate this holiday?
It really is all about Jesus Christ, and his divine birth. But it was his atoning sacrifice that sanctified the silent night that we commemorate.
Everything else is fun, but compared to the significance of Christ’s life, it is just fluff.
May we remember the true meaning of Christmas as we celebrate it. 

I gave this sermon today, 18 December 2016 in Waterman Ward.

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I am thankful to be here today, representing our Stake Presidency. I bring you the love of our Stake Presidency, as well as their wishes to all for a merry Christmas and a happy and spiritual 2017.

At the close of a painfully contentious year, I am grateful for the Christmas holiday, when we join the angels in singing of peace on earth, goodwill toward men. I have always enjoyed Christmastime, and I wish you all the merriest of Christmases.

As many of you know, I love good music. I have collected a wide variety of Christmas music over the years. Sometimes we begin listening to Christmas music long before the season. Good music touches my soul, and I appreciate those who use scripture texts in their lyrics. I can’t read Isaiah without hearing the music of Handel.

“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) speaks Christmas to me. I like to think that we were a part of that angelic chorus that sang the night Christ was born.

The season makes the music special to us.

Why is Christmas so important?

President Monson taught: “Because He came to earth, … we [can] have joy and happiness in our lives and peace each day of the year. … Because he came, there is meaning to our mortal existence.”

President Hinckley gave an additional explanation: “There would be no Christmas if there had not been Easter. The babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary, and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection.”

Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem is not the beginning of the story, and Calvary is not the end. The scriptures teach that He was “in the beginning … with God” in the premortal Council in Heaven. We were there as well, where we knew Him as Jehovah, the Firstborn of our Eternal Father. We learned that He would perform the essential role as Creator and Redeemer of the world. We shouted for joy as we embraced our Father’s great plan of happiness. Although there were some who rebelled against God’s plan, each one of us is among those who placed our faith in Jesus Christ. We willingly accepted the perils of mortality because we had confidence that Jesus would accomplish the will of the Father—that through Him we would be saved.

From the beginning, Heavenly Father has sent prophets to teach his children the truths of the gospel. The primary obligation of these prophets was and is to testify of Christ and his mission. They understood the doctrine of Christ and its importance in our lives; not just in this mortal life, but in our premortal life, and in the eternities to come.

In beautiful, memorable language, they foretold the coming of Christ through mortal birth, where he would fulfill his mission as our Savior and Redeemer, and his second coming, when he shall come in power and glory to reign forever. Their prophetic teachings warn and prepare Heavenly Father’s children for Christ’s coming.

Why is this necessary?

We must remember that Heavenly Father has a plan for our eternal happiness. As a part of his plan, we came to earth, to learn, as Paul told the Corinthians, to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). The words of the prophets help us to walk by faith. As we read their revelations concerning Christ’s life and mission, our faith in Jesus Christ is strengthened.

Nephi described such a revelation in detail.

He saw in vision a tree that was exceedingly beautiful and white. When he asked to know the interpretation of his vision, he was shown the city of Nazareth and Mary, a virgin who was most beautiful and fair. The angel attending to Nephi then asked this most penetrating question: “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” In other words, “Do you understand why God Himself will come into the world, why He would condescend below all things?” Nephi’s response showed a degree of uncertainty: “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”

The angel then said, “The virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God.” Nephi saw Mary holding a child in her arms, and in joy the angel cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God, … even the Son of the Eternal Father!” Suddenly, the meaning of the tree—and the reason we celebrate Christ’s birth—became clearer to Nephi. Said he, “It is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.” “Yea,” the angel added, “and the most joyous to the soul.”

God’s love truly is joyous to our souls. Jesus did come to earth, and spent his brief mortal life engaged in his Father’s business. What was his Father’s business? To “fit us for heaven, to live with [him] there.” Or in other words, “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Mos. 1:39).

We are told that Jesus spent His life “doing good.” As we strive to live more Christlike lives, we should be trying to do good as well. The Light the World campaign this month encourages us to follow Christ’s example. The short daily videos each emphasize a way in which Christ blessed others, and encourages us to bless others in the same way. Each one last 30-40 seconds, and suggests ways that we can emulate Christ’s service. These videos make living a Christlike life seem doable.

Eventually, the Father’s business led Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane, to the cross on Calvary, and to the Garden Tomb.

Our eternal salvation hung in the balance as Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane and bore the weight of all our sins and afflictions. His infinite and eternal atonement frees us from the effects of our sins if we choose to have faith in Jesus Christ, which leads us to desire forgiveness of our sins.

Because of the Atonement of Christ, we must still repent of our sins. But we do not have to bear the full burden and suffering for own sins: Christ has paid an incredible price for us so that we will not have to suffer as he did!

Through his Atonement and his grace, we can eventually overcome our sins, our weaknesses, and our afflictions, if we have sufficient faith and if it is in accordance with Heavenly Father’s will.

Christ’s suffering and death in our behalf would be incomplete without his resurrection. Just as his birth was not the beginning, his death was not the end. Beginning with Mary Magdalene, thousands have witnessed the resurrected Christ and borne witness of him. The light of the world lives and continues to light the world!

The prophet Mormon taught that “the firstfruits of repentance is baptism” (Mni. 8:25). When we are baptized by one having authority from Jesus Christ, we make sacred covenants with our Heavenly Father. Each week, we are blessed to receive the sacrament at the hands of worthy priesthood bearers and renew the covenants that we have made. Ordinances and covenants are a vital part of the doctrine of Christ.

We cannot live in this wicked world and be true and faithful to our covenants without some help. We have been offered a wonderful gift that won’t break or wear out: the gift of the Holy Ghost. As we take advantage of the blessings of the promised companionship of a member of the Godhead, we will be able to focus on our covenants and always remember Jesus Christ and move ever closer to him. This focus is what the scriptures refer to as having an “eye single to his glory.”

The Holy Ghost is called to assist us in our quest for eternal life through inspiration, comfort, and even strengthening our memory.

Each time we receive the Holy Ghost into our lives through faith, repentance, ordinances, Christlike service, and other righteous endeavors, we are changed until step by step, little by little we become like Christ.

In Heavenly Father’s plan, accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior is not just a one-time event. We become like Christ just as he became like his Father: step by step, line upon line, precept upon precept. The race that Paul speaks of that has been laid before us is not a sprint or even a middle-distance run. Rather, it is an ultra-marathon, and more.

It is a challenging race requiring superhuman endurance. We are expected to endure until we reach the finish line. As I have come to know Mel Behunin better, I know that he would be quick to tell you that the finish line is much farther away than he ever expected.

But we run this race based on faith. And that is why Mel is still running. Even though his legs are giving out on him, his faith in Jesus Christ and in Heavenly Father’s plan is carrying him forward. He is a great example to all of us.

This same faith can carry us forward. We cannot endure to the end without continually strengthening our faith in Jesus Christ, which will lead us to continue to repent of our sins and to repeatedly renew our covenants through partaking of the sacrament. This will lead us to a closer companionship with the Holy Ghost, who will enable us to endure to the end.

Nephi, in his final recorded testimony, declared:

“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

“And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end” (2 Ne. 31:20,21).

Joseph Smith testified:

“And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—

“That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;

“That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him; …” (D&C 76:40-42).

These are the “good tidings of great joy” that we celebrate at Christmas – not only that Christ was born, but that He lived among us, gave his life for us, was resurrected, and ultimately “finished the work which [His Father gave Him] to do.”

We rejoice because the chaos and confusion of this world can be attenuated by the promise God made to us from the very beginning – a promise fulfilled by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Because of this, the story of Christmas is not complete without the story of Easter.

The Savior’s atoning sacrifice made that silent night a holy night for each of us. The Christmas light we love has its origin in the Light of the World, the Savior, Jesus Christ. The gift that makes the Christmas season sacred is His life, which He gave that we might have everlasting life.

Just as the Jews and the Nephites were expected to prepare for the first coming of Christ, we are now preparing for His second coming. Both have been times eagerly awaited by believers and dreaded or denied by unbelievers.

As we celebrate Christ’s birth and prepare for His return to the earth in power and great glory, we are commanded to “stand … in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord” (D&C 87:8).

What are these holy places? We first think of  the temple, with its covenants faithfully kept; this chapel, where renew our covenants and worship the Lord; our homes where children are treasured and taught; and our various posts of duty assigned by priesthood authority, including callings faithfully fulfilled by each of us.

As we prepare for His Second Coming, and as we stand in holy places, we continue to observe Christmas not just as a season of “greetings” or a “happy holiday,” 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.

I testify that our Heavenly Father lives, and that He loves us. I know that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins and make it possible for us to return to His presence. I know that Christ lives. I know that He is our Savior: my Savior and your Savior. This is the true Church of Jesus Christ, with all the keys and the authority necessary to bring us back into Heavenly Father’s presence.

May we commit to do as the repentant Ebenezer Scrooge, and “honour Christmas in [our] heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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