Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas talk 2011

I wondered what I could say regarding Christmas that hadn’t already been said, or regardless of that, would be inspirational to you who have come to hear and feel the word of the Lord in Sacrament meeting. I did a search on Google for Christmas messages. Then I added LDS and the Christmas Devotional last week came up on the Church’s website. I clicked on Pres. Eyring’s talk.

As I listened to him speak, I had a number of thoughts I wrote down. God’s gifts to us include our life and His Son. Christ’s gifts to us include the resurrection and the atonement. “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him (or through making use of the atonement He provided) might be saved (or find joy and eternal life).

Jesus sacrificed more than all the money in the world to provide the atonement. He literally sacrificed effort, blood, and pain to provide it. And what is the atonement? It is only partly forgiveness. The atonement is a process of continual cleansing coupled with covenants that give strength sufficient for obedience that changes us gradually to become as he is, thereby becoming able to live in His presence and experience the joy and power that he enjoys.

About halfway through his talk, Pres. Eyring said that Pres. Monson had directed that we should watch an overview of some of the Bible scene videos recently made by the Church, which were being made as a gift to all free of charge. He said that they would provide light to us. As I watched them I had perceptions that were new given to me.

I was amazed to consider what Mary must have felt as the angel told her that she was to be the mother of the Savior of the world, the great Messiah that all Israel had been looking for, for so many generations! Would that not scare you? What a responsibility to bear and raise the Son of God! And consider her response, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word.” There was none of this, “I’m not a good speaker.” “I’m not good enough.” Even the great prophets of Enoch and Moses protested when they were called, but not Mary. She just humbly said OK.

When the angel appeared to the shepherds, some of the lowest, I suppose, in social status back then, to announce His birth, he said, “And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager.” The sign was that they would find the Savior of all mankind wrapped in rags in the lowliest of places to be born! I wondered then at the love that was shown to us, and those shepherds, that He would be born in this way both as proof that He was sent to all and as a directional pointer for us to think on.

After the video Pres. Eyring said that we can learn many lessons from this video of the birth and early life of the Savior.

"Most of those lessons came as you watched and listened, not so much from the pictures and words as from the Spirit. You recognized and felt truth. You felt the love of the Savior and for the Savior. And you surely felt an increased desire to love as He loved.

"You felt your faith grow in prophets and in the servants of God, both the angels He sends to bear us up and those He calls to His service to guide us. You surely have felt greater faith that God is the same, without change, over time or space."

I felt each of those manifestations of the Spirit, just as he said, while watching it. Pres. Monson said, “To catch the real meaning of the “spirit of Christmas,” we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the “Spirit of Christ.” I believe that we can get that Spirit of Christ by watching those video clips, indeed by watching on our own those talks by the First Presidency in their Christmas Devotional, which are easy to find online at the Church’s website. I invite you to watch some or all again before Christmas.

Finally Pres. Eyring, referring to the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” said that, “You can have a Merry Christmas if you remember the gifts God has given you and as best you can offer them to others.” Combined with the gift of service and kindness, perhaps the best gift you can give to someone this year, or even to yourself, is the gift of forgiveness by means of the Savior’s gift to us.