last year i spoke in church on christmas eve. this year christian and i both spoke on christmas eve eve. i’m beginning to think this is going to be a pattern. although with the rumors swirling about potential boundary changes for our congregation, i think i’m pretty much in the clear for any speaking assignments next christmas eve eve eve.
christian spoke of the discrepancy in the bombardment of holiday shopping versus our spiritual preparation on this holiday. he spoke of the outward and selfless service several in our circle had performed this month. including the sweet treats that continue to appear on our porch. he may have also requested more salted caramel, popcorn balls and toffee from the pulpit.
we have enjoyed the fellowship of others this christmas. we are grateful to the generosity of friends who have opened their homes and shared their families with us. i wish i had a picture of little grant quickly putting christian to work this morning. running upstairs, both in pajamas, they got to work assembling his freshly opened avengers lego set.
i am also thankful i have gotten to worship more fully these past two christmases with my special speaking assignments.
2012′s talk to give you a little more christ this christmas day:
isaiah says, jehovah has borne our griefs and sorrows. he will raise me, he will save me thru his love. isaiah says, jehovah was wounded for all our sins. he will heal me, he will seal me thru his love. isaiah says, Jehovah can wash red sins to whiteness. he will cleanse me, he will claim me thru his love. he will claim me thru his love.
throughout our canon of scripture we are given signs, types, prophesies, and testimonies all pointing to christ. in the old testament he led the children of israel through the wilderness. in the day he was in a cloud. by night he was in the fire. in the book of mormon alma rebukes the sign-seeking korrihor – alma explains he has had signs enough declaring christ’s existence. specifically he had had the testimonies of all the holy prophets, the scriptures and nature. in the doctrine & covenants we find repeated latter-day revelation that powerfully proclaims christ lives. a vision unfolds for enoch in the pearl of great price spanning the dispensations. enoch rejoices when he sees the coming of the savior.
this time of year we turn to the new testament. the gospels, though similar, each offer a slightly different view of the savior. bible scholar merrill unger explains, “… matthew presents christ as king. mark presents him as servant. john presents him as the son of god and luke presents him as the son of man. luke narrates those events that demonstrate the humanity of christ. his lineage is traced to adam and a detailed account of christ’s mother and his infancy and childhood are presented. the parables provided by luke have a human touch.” some describe luke’s theme as found in luke 19:10 “for the son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.”
i am fascinated by luke – he did not personally witness christ’s ministry, but he becomes fully converted after hearing and believing the word of those who had lived and walked with christ. he speaks of those eyewitnesses who taught him early on and states his position, “it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first.” (luke 1:3)
luke was non-jewish by birth. he was well versed in greek culture and language. he was a physician. he is also the author of acts. paul chooses luke for his missionary companion. all of these attributes play a huge role in his gospel, which is the longest in the new testament. he adds a unique perspective. the material often focuses on women, the poor and the lower class. luke wanted all people to come to the same knowledge of truth that he had. luke provides a message of hope to all readers, helping us to understand and believe the good news about the redeemer.
luke highlights specific testimonies of christ throughout his first three chapters. we are familiar with the humble shepherds who glorified and praised god, but do we think about the angels and heavenly hosts in that story? their good tidings were surely a testimony.
only luke gives us the intimate account of mary; her visit from gabriel where she learns she is to be the mother of the Son of God and her obedient acceptance.
we’re introduced to a righteous couple who is given a miracle after decades of heartache. zacharias and elisabeth both bare testimony of their redeemer upon discovering they are to be john the baptist’s parents, but i want to share elisabeth’s. an angel had not visited her like her husband – and yet, she understood and believed. when her cousin mary comes to visit, she does not know mary’s news. mary had been keeping it all in heart and pondering. i love what happens next:
and it came to pass, that, when elisabeth heard the salutation of mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and elisabeth was filled with the holy ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. and whence is this to me, that the mother of my lord should come to me? for, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. (luke 1:41-45)
all of these testimonies focus on the savior, just as jesus christ should be the foundation of ours.
in elder bednar’s talk, converted unto the lord, from october conference he said, “knowing that the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony. consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion. we should know the gospel is true and be true to the gospel. the gospel of jesus christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through the savior’s atonement. true conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of god and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of christ.”
i believe the strongest tool we possess to protect our families and teach our children is to be valiant in our testimonies of christ.
when i was new to relief society, before i left for byu, i remember a specific lesson. the women were bemoaning the woes of earthly life and how hard it is to be a member of the church and live the gospel. the teacher asked for me to chime in with all the knowledge an 18-year old. bit nervously, i told them that living the gospel is not hard, but it can definitely be lonely. a talk by elder bruce r. mcconkie gave me strength during my youth. he says that, “To be valiant in the testimony of jesus is to believe in christ and his gospel with unshakable conviction. it is to know of the verity and divinity of the lord’s work on earth. but this is not all. it is more than believing and knowing. we must be doers of the word and not hearers only. it is to live our religion, to practice what we preach, to keep the commandments.”
the church handbook states the role of the church is to provide the organization and means for teaching the gospel of jesus christ to all of god’s children.
jesus christ is the example we are to follow. he knows what it is to be lonely. he knows our pains. he knows our burdens. he will carry them if we lay them on his altar. this baby christ we celebrate grew to be the adult christ we remember and worship.
“with the birth of the babe in bethlehem, there emerged a great endowment—a power stronger than weapons, a wealth more lasting than the coins of caesar. this child was to be the king of kings and lord of lords, the promised messiah, even jesus christ the son of god. born in a stable, cradled in a manger, he came forth from heaven to live on earth as mortal man and to establish the kingdom of god” (president thomas s. monson)