Posted by: 2thdocbob | 13 December 2020

For Unto Us A Child is Born

I spoke virtually today in Highlands Ward’s worship service. It was a pleasure to speak to so many old friends. It is a blessed responsibility to talk about the birth and mission of the Savior. I recorded a condensed version of the talk for the missionaries to use that can be seen here. It is not the entire talk.

This sermon is a Christmas message that I felt provides context to 2020 as prepare to leave it behind. Thank you for reading it.


 

Christmas time is a magical time of year. I think it is a time that all of us, young and old, look forward to. There are so many different traditions and expectations associated with Christmas that make it a happy time.

I think everyone will agree that we need the Christmas spirit to help us end this year on a good note. We need to immerse ourselves in the holiday traditions that bring us joy; we need to have a Christ-centered Christmas.

Next to being with family, the music is my favorite Christmas tradition. I have a large collection of Christmas music, and I started listening in October. One of my oldest favorites, which we sang in our ward choir way back when I was a young man, is “For Unto Us A Child Is Born,” by Handel. The text was taken from Isaiah 9:6, which is repeated in 2 Nephi 19:6.

“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.”

I can’t read this verse without the music beginning in my mind.

Isaiah was probably the foremost among the many prophets who prophesied and testified of the Christ who would come. He certainly was in Nephi’s eyes.

Beginning with Adam, and on up to Russell M. Nelson, all the prophets have testified of Christ.

We have been blessed this year to study the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ in our homes. In it, we have heard the words of many of the prophets whose testimonies were recorded in this wonderful book of scripture. From these writings, we know that the prophets foresaw the life of the Savior in great detail.

In Nephi’s vision, recorded in First Nephi, chapters 11 and 12, we share in his conversation with a heavenly messenger.

“And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white. …

“And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

“And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!

“And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.

“And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! …

“And … he said unto me: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men; and I saw many fall down at his feet and worship him. …

“And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him. And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.

“And I beheld that he went forth ministering unto the people, in power and great glory; and the multitudes were gathered together to hear him; and I beheld that they cast him out from among them. …

“And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.

“And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.” (1 Nephi 11;13, 18-21, 24, 27-28, 32-33)

Some five hundred years later, Alma also testified of Christ:

“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

“Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.” (Alma 7:11-13)

I’m grateful for Alma’s testimony that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is far broader than we generally think. It does more than just help us overcome our sins and weaknesses. He reminds us that it covers our pains, our sicknesses, and our infirmities. What a great blessing that is!

President Nelson reminded us that there are over 2200 scriptures that testify of Christ.

With all this information, we might well ask ourselves the question Pilate asked long ago: “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” (Matt. 27:22) What shall we do with his teachings, and how can we make them an inseparable part of our lives? How can we always remember Him, as we covenant to do each Sunday as we partake of the sacrament?  In light of these questions, at this season we ask another: What does Christmas really mean?

I will share some thoughts about this from President Hinckley, and add my own comments.

Christmas means giving. We are reminded in this season of the great gift the Father gave us: the gift of His Son, and of the gift that Jesus Christ gave us through His Atonement and Resurrection: the opportunity to overcome death and to overcome our sins. As we commemorate Christ’s birth, we should give to others in remembrance of these infinitely important gifts we have received.

Christmas means the Christ child, the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger while angels sang, and wise men traveled far to bring gifts. It is a beautiful and timeless story, and I hope each of us will read it again this season.

I suggest that you make the video “The Christ Child” a part of your Christmas traditions. If you haven’t watched it yet, you need to do so. (You can view it here.)

Christmas means compassion and love and, most of all, forgiveness.“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29.)

Right now, we need compassion, love and forgiveness more than ever before. We need to receive it, but we have a greater need to offer it to those around us. If everyone were to emulate Christ’s example of love, our world would be a better place. We can love others in spite of political, cultural or religious differences. Our example of love for others can bring light to a very dark world.

We need to be the leaven that helps to lift the world. We can do this as we share our light and our spirit despite the ugliness that prevails.

We need to do as the Apostle Peter described Christ’s activity, that He “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38)

What shall we do then with Jesus who is called Christ?

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8.)

Christmas also means peace. This is the message of the angels on the night of Christ’s birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)

As we strive to love and forgive others, we will more easily find peace in our hearts, and good will toward men.

The only way to lasting peace in our world is through Jesus Christ and his gospel. As we learn to hear Him, we will be guided in our search for peace. After all, He is the Prince of Peace.

At the beginning of the year, President Nelson invited us to consider how we “hear Him.” Many of our general Church leaders have shared the different ways in which we hear Christ. As 2020 draws to a close, I invite you to ponder this invitation. Ask yourself how you have heard the Savior speak to you during this year of unprecedented challenges. You might want to discuss this with your family. It is likely to strengthen your faith and theirs as you share.

I feel certain that as you ponder the blessings that have come into your lives this year, you will begin to focus on the positive aspects of 2020 and find that it actually has been a good year.

I also invite each of you to prayerfully consider what you can do to make 2021 a year of personal growth and positivity through the Spirit and through “hearing Him.”

I testify that the child whose birth we celebrate is Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. I know that He lives. He is the true gift, from our Heavenly Father to each one of us. Accepting that gift gives us the key to a wonderful, peaceful life.

Jesus Christ truly is “Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” and He invites all “to come unto Him … [and] buy milk and honey, without money and without price.” (2 Nephi 26:25)

I know that as we trust Him, we will find true joy and peace, regardless of our current circumstances.

May the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a spirit-filled New Year, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


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