As the Christmas season begins, each of us should open our heart to receive once again a witness that Christ was born as the Savior of the world, that He lives, and that because of Him, we will live again. This opening of our hearts was encouraged by President Thomas S. Monson; President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor; and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor, during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional on December 4, 2011.
President Monson: No Better Time Than Now
“There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus Christ,” President Monson said. He spoke of witnessing the annual commercialization of Christmas, of seeing Christmas become less about Christ and more about sales, parties, and presents.
And yet, President Monson said, “Christmas is what we make of it. Despite all the distractions, we can see to it that Christ is at the center of our celebration. If we have not already done so, we can establish Christmas traditions for ourselves and for our families which will help us capture and keep the spirit of Christ.”
Three Christmas Stories
President Monson said that each year for Christmas, he reads the story of the birth of Christ as told in the Gospel of Luke. He also reads A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke, and he remembers the change of heart undergone by Ebenezer Scrooge and the lessons about the true meaning of giving learned by John Weightman. Both characters learned that a reward in heaven is based on forgetting oneself and not seeking worldly gain or recognition.
President Monson pleaded with each of us to not spend Christmas but to keep Christmas in our hearts and lives.
“Because when we keep the spirit of Christmas,” he said, “we keep the spirit of Christ, for the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit. It will block out all the distractions around us, which can diminish Christmas and swallow up its true meaning.”
President Monson then summarized some of the many gifts we receive because Heavenly Father gave us the gift of His Son, sending Him to earth as our Redeemer.
“Because He came to earth, we have a perfect example to follow. As we strive to become more like Him, we will have joy and happiness in our lives and peace each day of the year. It is His example, which if followed, stirs within us more kindness and love, more respect and concern for others.
Because He came, there is meaning to our mortal existence.
Because He came, we know how to reach out to those in trouble or in distress, wherever they may be.
Because He came, death has lost its sting, the grave its victory. We will live again because He came.
Because He came and paid for our sins, we have the opportunity to gain eternal life.
Because He came, we are gathered tonight to worship Him in bonds of brotherhood and love.
May His precious Spirit be with us, and may He ever be the center of our celebrations and indeed of our very lives.”
President Eyring: Gifts We Can Offer to Others for Him
President Eyring related miraculous stories from the scriptures regarding the signs of Christ’s birth. He also told of scriptural accounts of visitations by angels preparing the way for the Redeemer’s arrival. But, he said, the lesson within his message was not about having marvelous experiences.
“The lesson is not that we can have such marvelous experiences whenever we wish for them,” President Eyring said, “nor that they will come even when we feel great need for them. The lesson is that God knows our every need, that He loves us, and that He watches over us.”
Heavenly Father Gave Us a Gift: The Savior
Heavenly Father gave us the gift of a Savior, President Eyring said, and by personal appearance of the Father and the Son and through angels, “He has restored the Church of Jesus Christ in the latter days. He has called prophets and apostles to guide us to safety in this life and eternal life in the world to come. Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected that we may live again and that we may be purified and cleansed from sin.”
Those, he said, are gifts given to us that we can offer to others for Him.
“You can give a great and wonderful Christmas if you remember the gifts God has given you and, as best you can, offer them to others as He would.”
Watch and Share New Videos
President Eyring also announced that nearly 50 video vignettes will be placed on the Internet site BibleVideos.ChurchofJesusChrist.org, free of charge for all to use and share. created by the Church to help members of the Church and others throughout the world to develop increased understanding of and faith in the divinity of the Savior, His mission and ministry.
He said the videos were created with the hope that all who view them will feel the “light and joy of angelic visitations that marked Heavenly Father’s gift of His Beloved Son as our Redeemer.”
President Uchtdorf: Christmas Is about the Christ
Commenting on the pressure and anxiety often felt by those who focus on the temporal side of the Christmas season, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency said, “We have in our minds a picture of how everything should be—the perfect tree, the perfect lights, the perfect gifts, and the perfect family events. … [But] sooner or later, something unpleasant occurs … and the picture-perfect Christmas we had imagined, the magic we had intended to create, shatters around us.”
Scripture References 2
However, if we focus our hearts and minds on the true spirit of Christmas, President Uchtdorf said, “we will recognize wonderful things happening around us.”
See Christmas for What It Truly Is
He continued, “It is usually something small—we read a verse of scripture, we hear a sacred carol and really listen to its words, or we witness a sincere expression of love. In one way or another, the Spirit touches our hearts, and we see that Christmas, in its essence, is much more sturdy and enduring than the many minor things of life [that] we too often use to adorn it.
“We realize in these precious moments what we feel and know in our heart—that Christmas is about the Christ.”
What We Can Give
President Uchtdorf said that we, “like the Wise Men of old, should seek the Christ and lay before Him the most precious of gifts: a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We should offer Him our love. We should give Him our willingness to take upon ourselves His name and walk in the path of discipleship. We should promise to remember Him always, to emulate His example, and to go about doing good.”
We cannot offer perfection, and the Savior does not expect it, President Uchtdorf said. “But He does require that we bring as gifts our best efforts to move ourselves, one foot in front of the other, walking in the ways He has prepared and taught.”
The Savior’s Gifts to Us
“The Savior’s gifts to us are breathtaking,” President Uchtdorf said. He explained that through the Atonement, the Savior offers us immortality, forgiveness, and eternal life.
Though some of Christ’s gifts to us will be given only when our time on earth ends, President Uchtdorf emphasized the many gifts that the Savior gives every day. “He promises to be with us, to come to us when we need comfort, to lift us when we stumble, to carry us if need be, to cry, laugh, mourn, and rejoice with us. Every day He offers to take us by the hand and help transform ordinary life into extraordinary spiritual experiences.”
Christ the King Has Come
President Uchtdorf concluded, “Of course, we do not need a Christmas holiday or Christmas traditions to remember Jesus Christ, the Savior. … May each Christmas season remind us to lift up our voices and fill our hearts with joy and gratitude that Christ the King has come! Christ lives! He is real. He is our Redeemer at Christmas and always.”