Posted by: 2thdocbob | 16 December 2018

Seeking Christ and the True Meaning of Christmas

I gave this talk today in two wards. This is the text I used for the English-speaking ward. The talk for the Spanish-speaking ward was similar.

I felt blessed to speak on the true meaning of Christmas.

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My dear brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be with you today, to worship with you and to feel of the Spirit.

I am blessed to be here by assignment this morning. And I am grateful for my speaking companion.

I pray that Spirit will be with us, and that we may all be enlightened by the things we will hear and feel.

I love Christmas season. I have always loved Christmas season. The festive decorations, the gifts, and the friendly greetings make it a happy time. Most of us spend time with family, and this usually strengthens family ties as we enjoy traditions that have been passed down through generations.

Of course, the holiday music is my favorite part of the season. There are so many good songs, whether they are Christmas hymns, Christmas carols, or just seasonal songs. They all tend to make me feel happy.

We sing “it’s the most wonderful time of the year;” we dream of a white Christmas; sing of a blue Christmas and even a green Christmas. We sing about Santa, and dancing snowmen (until the alligators knock him down–seriously), and flying reindeer; about silver bells and how cold it is outside. We sing about gifts we want: my two front teeth, a hippopotamus, and a little baby doll that will cry, sleep, drink and wet.

Even Christmas movies seem to be all about love, family, and peace on earth: very desirable things.

But I think that all the fun tends to distract us from what we are really celebrating at this sacred season. Today is Beethoven’s birthday, but that’s not the reason we are celebrating.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a child, the baby Jesus, who came to earth to fulfill Heavenly Father’s plan for our salvation. No gift compares to that.

I am grateful to belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I was baptized, I covenanted to take the name of Jesus Christ upon me. As I took the sacrament with you this morning, I witnessed to Heavenly Father, along with each of you, that I am willing to take upon me the name of His Son and always remember him.

As I do this, I am identifying myself as one who seeks Christ.

We enjoy singing about those who are the best-known seekers of Christ: the Magi, or wise men. There is a great deal of Christmas mythology surrounding these men, but the fact is that we know very little of them.

Matthew tells us that they came to Herod some time after the birth of Christ, having followed a star that guided them.

We read that they asked: “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

“When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”[1]

This is just my own thinking, but certainly that star was visible to everyone. Did only this group of wise foreigners notice it and realize its significance? Will we pay attention to the stars in our lives and be led by them?

After Herod’s scholars searched the scriptures, they sent the wise men to Bethlehem in Judea. Herod requested that they return and inform him of the king’s whereabouts, so that he could also worship him.

Of course, that wasn’t why Herod was seeking Jesus. He was very insecure and was concerned about this other King of the Jews taking his place.

And so we discover that the wise men found Jesus and worshiped him, and gave him gifts that were appropriate to one of royal birth: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are not your typical baby shower gifts; they weren’t practical at all, but they were rich in symbolism.

We know that the wise men were warned not to return to report to Herod, so they took a different route home. Mary, Joseph and Jesus had to flee the country to escape Herod, and they became a refugee family for a time.

We should remember that even though Israel was in a state of apostasy at this time, there were many faithful Israelites, Jews, who knew the scriptures and were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah.

I believe that the shepherds, to whom the angel chorus appeared, were not ignorant, illiterate laborers. I think they were faithful, watchful Jews, who were aware of the prophecies and promises associated with Christ’s coming.

Having said that, let’s turn to Luke. He tells us that the shepherds said after the angelic chorus departed:

“Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

“And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”[2]

Their words show an understanding of what was happening. Notice that they “came with haste.” This suggests that they were very much aware of what the angels’ message meant, and hurried to see for themselves. And they did not keep the experience to themselves. They made it known abroad.

All they that heard it wondered; probably because they did not hear it from those who were considered the wise and formally trained, but from common folk. This seemed to be outside the norm for them. But we know that the Lord doesn’t work within man’s norms.

Simeon and Anna[3] were two devout Jews who sought Jesus. They both served in the temple. Both had been promised that they would see the Messiah. When Mary and Joseph took their infant to the temple to present him to the Lord, as the law required, they recognized Jesus for who he was, the Promised Messiah for whom the Jews waited.

The scriptures tell us of many others who sought the Christ, and not just to draw near to him, but to be like him. They understood the importance of becoming his disciples.

In our day, we have been commanded to seek Christ. Of course, our covenant to take his name upon us commits us to seek him.

But in the Doctrine and Covenants, we are told:

“ye shall call upon me while I am near—

“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”.[4]

Please note that the Savior promises us that we shall find him. (And note that the imperative shall adds extra weight to the promise.)

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Amaleki summarizes the core message of the Book of Mormon when he counsels:

“And now, … I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved”.[5]

Moroni closes the Book of Mormon with similar counsel:

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

“And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot”.[6]

That is the message of the Book of Mormon, and the invitation our missionaries offer to the world: “Come unto Christ.”

At Christmas time, it is appropriate to ask: Is my Christmas celebrating helping me to come unto Christ? Do my Christmas activities demonstrate to others that I am seeking Christ?

Please understand that I am not suggesting that we abandon our beloved holiday traditions; but I am suggesting that we remember those things that give deeper meaning to our Christmas celebrations.

I believe that what people desire most at Christmastime, whether they are Christians or not, is peace and happiness. These can be very elusive in this society.

Can we give this gift to others?

Yes! Yes, and it only costs our time and commitment!

But we must first possess it ourselves. So where can we get it?

I believe, in fact I know, that the prophetic directives we received in October Conference will lead us in this direction.

As we begin our home-centered, Church-supported gospel learning journey next month, we will take personal responsibility for our own spiritual growth and development. We will put our feet on the path to discipleship, and witness through our actions that we desire to take the Savior’s name upon us and follow him.

This will be a challenging path, but the promises are many. President Nelson promised us that as we do this, it “has the potential to unleash the power of families, as each family follows through conscientiously and carefully to transform their home into a sanctuary of faith. I promise that as you diligently work to remodel [and any of you who have done remodels, is it a quick, simple process?] your home into a center of gospel learning, over time your Sabbath days will truly be a delight. Your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior’s teachings, and the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease. Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining”.[7]

I don’t know exactly what “unleashing the power of families” means, but it sounds powerful, and it sounds miraculous. I hope to discover at least a portion of what that means in the coming months and years.

I do know that as we grow, we will have a positive influence on those around us. Some will desire to have the peace and joy that we will radiate. We will become more effective ministers to our friends in and out of the Church.

So how do we start?

A good starting point is to take a look back at the past year, which is something many of us do anyway as we face the New Year.

As we reflect on the old year, we would do well to ask “Have I shown the Savior through my actions that I love him?” A follow-up question could be “How can I show my love for the Savior effectively in the coming year?

Another reflective question could be “What motivates me to follow the Savior?” Yet another question might be “How can I invite the Savior into my life this year?

Here are many things we can consider. There is great value in reflecting as a part of the learning process. And as disciples of Christ, aren’t we always learning?

I would like to echo the words of our Prophet in suggesting four steps we can take to come unto Christ.

First, commit fully to the spirit and intent of the home-centered Church-supported curriculum. Study the New Testament with your spouse, your family, or with others. Really seek to know the Savior and to grow closer to him. Study with intent, and gospel truths will be revealed to you.

Second, prayerfully seek ways to be a more effective ministering brother or sister. As we seek to serve as the Savior did, we will become more like him. The Lord expects us to seek revelation as we strive to minister.

Third, spend time in the temple. Visiting the House of the Lord will enable us to receive revelation and power from him as we serve there. President Nelson said that our need to be in the temple has never been greater.

Fourth, use the correct name of the Church. Now more than ever, we need to stand up and be counted as followers of Christ.

President Nelson said “I promise that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s church, He whose church this is will pour down His power and His blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen”.[8]

Of course, there are also many other ways we can come unto Christ.

But now, let us enjoy the Christmas season. Let us relish the peace and happiness that come as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Let us also remember that he entered into mortality just as we did. Abinadi testified that he “should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth.”[9]

May we stand all amazed as we consider the life and mission of our Savior Jesus Christ, and recommit to follow him, and may we let our lights shine before men that they may glorify not us, but our Heavenly Father, who sent his Son that we might live and enjoy the blessings of his eternal plan.

I testify that Christ lives, and that he is our loving Redeemer and Savior. He ransomed us from our sins to empower us to return to Heavenly Father’s presence, if we will be true to our covenants. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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[1] KJV, Matthew 2:2-3, ff.

[2] KJV, Luke 2:15-18.

[3] KJV, Luke 2:25-38.

[4] Doctrine and Covenants 88:62-63.

[5] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ; Omni 1:26.

[6] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ; Moroni 10:32-33.

[7] Nelson, RM; Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints; October 2018 General Conference. Parenthetical note mine.

[8] Nelson, RM; Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives: April 2018 General Conference.

[9] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ; Mosiah 7:27.

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