Like many of you, my cute husband, Craig, and I absolutely love sacred Christmas music. If we were to make a list of our favorites, near the top would surely be “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful.” Its “joyful” and “triumphant” lyrics beckon us to “come,” “behold,” and “adore” our Savior, Jesus Christ—the “King of angels.”1 I feel certain that, as premortal spirits learning of the plan of salvation, we not only beheld and adored but also shouted for joy when He voluntarily and humbly offered Himself as the Savior of the world.2 In five of the most profound words ever uttered, He meekly said, “Here am I, send me.”3
Along with the Apostle Peter, President Monson has often admonished us to “be ready always to give … a reason of the hope that is in [us].”4 As I share a couple of personal Christmas memories, I hope you can see the reason why I have hope in the Savior, in “God [our Eternal Father, who] so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,”5 and in the Father’s perfect and glorious plan of happiness.
When I was 14 years old, our family lived in New Zealand. My father was a young man in his 30s when he was called to serve there as a mission president.
Christmastime came, and my five siblings and I were still trying to adapt to our new home away from home. It was a challenge for me—an immature teenager—to be away from home, friends, and family. I moped about, missing the familiar sights, sounds, and celebrations of Christmas—the music, the lights, the Christmas tree, the snow, and especially family. I missed beloved cousins, aunts, and uncles who I knew would soon be gathering at Grandpa Kjar’s house in Salt Lake City for the annual Kjar family Christmas party.
It was Christmas Eve in 1966. I had reluctantly joined my family and the missionaries for a family home evening in the mission home, convinced this gathering would be, at best, a very poor substitute for the Kjar family party for which I was so homesick. I can’t quite recall at what point the phone rang, but that phone call instantly changed my teenage heart, filling me with compassion for my dear daddy and remorse at my having previously been so self-absorbed.
The call came from my uncle Joe, informing us that our beloved, selfless, hardworking, covenant-keeping Grandpa Kjar had just suffered a major stroke and was lying unconscious in the hospital. Memories flashed through my mind of this camera-toting, musical, fun patriarch we all loved so dearly! Dad was visibly shaken as he returned from the phone call, but he composed himself, squared his shoulders, and bore his fervent witness of the Father’s plan and his faith in the Savior’s vital role in it. His testimony touched my aching heart.
Sadly, Grandpa did not recover. He quickly passed away the next day. It was Christmas Day in New Zealand but Christmas Eve, Grandpa’s favorite day of the year, in Salt Lake City. His passing was my first experience of losing someone so close and so dear to me. Although I mourned his loss, I was blessed and comforted in my knowledge of the glorious plan of happiness. I felt assured I would again see Grandpa if I lived the way he had. I don’t think I fully understood, at that point in my life, the vital part the Savior and His atoning sacrifice played in making it possible for me to reunite with loved ones someday. But I knew enough to rejoice in the plan. I knew enough to adore Him whose birth we celebrated.
Since that Christmas so long ago, I have learned more of our Savior, Jesus Christ. President Harold B. Lee taught: “The Son of God … came here as the Only Begotten Son to fulfill a mission, to be as a Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, to bring about salvation to all mankind. By giving His life He opened the door … and taught the way by which we could gain eternal life. … That was who Jesus was in all His grandeur.”6
Another poignant Christmas memory occurred in 1984, causing my gratitude for the Savior and the glorious plan of salvation to grow significantly. I was 32 years old, married to my beloved, faithful husband, and the mother of four cherished little children, ages three to ten. Six weeks prior to Christmas, we received news from the doctor that rocked our world when he pronounced the diagnosis of cancer. Craig and I looked at each other in disbelief, both of us fighting tears, wondering what the future would bring. The very next feeling, however, was that sweet “peace … which passeth all understanding”7 because of our faith in Jesus Christ and the Father’s plan.
Although Craig was serving as the bishop of our ward at that time, we opted to share the news only with our family in order to keep things as normal as possible for our little children. During those six weeks prior to Christmas, I drove almost daily through snow and ice for outpatient treatments at the hospital—while our selfless mothers and sisters took turns helping out at home. It was a trying time, but I think back to that Christmas with words inadequate to describe the depth of my gratitude for the atoning sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and “the merciful plan of the great Creator.”8
Realizing perhaps better than ever before how fragile life was, Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness became more personal than ever before. Christmas was different that year. As much as I love everything about Christmas, the only things that seemed to matter were my eternal marriage, my family, and my faith in and testimony of my Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the plan.
One day while I was resting at home, wondering about the future of our four little children, I thumbed through the Friend magazine and a piece of music caught my eye. I sat down at the piano, and I wept as I sang and felt the message of the song penetrate my tender heart. I knew I needed to teach this song not only to the hundred Primary children in our ward, where I was serving as the Primary music leader, but more importantly to the four precious children who lived in our home.
How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?
He sent his Son, a newborn babe, with peace and holiness.
How could the Father show the world the pathway we should go?
He sent his Son to walk with men on earth, that we may know.
How could the Father tell the world of sacrifice, of death?
He sent his Son to die for us and rise with living breath.
What does the Father ask of us? What do the scriptures say?
Have faith, have hope, live like his Son, help others on their way.
What does he ask? Live like his Son.9
This inspired song gave me a glimpse as to how I could show my Heavenly Father my gratitude for His Son and for His plan. I felt that even if I might not be allowed the privilege of seeing our children grow to maturity, if they could come to understand and know and live the simple but profound doctrine contained in this sacred song, they could become true disciples of Jesus Christ.
There was a special spirit that hovered over our home that year, blessing us with peace and love for one another that I will never forget. It felt to me as if our children were given an exceptional sense of the sacred that Christmas. Never before and never since have they reenacted the nativity with such reverence, awe, and love that exceeded their tender years. As we were stretched in our circumstances, we seemed to more keenly feel spiritual impressions as we pondered and gave thanks for the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and for our Heavenly Father’s glorious plan of salvation.
I have often wondered how people can live without the hope that comes from understanding the plan of salvation and the central role of the Savior’s Atonement in that plan. I gratefully add my testimony to that of our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, who powerfully testified: “Of Him who delivered each of us from endless death, even Jesus Christ, I testify that He is a teacher of truth—but He is more than a teacher. He is the Exemplar of the perfect life—but He is more than an exemplar. He is the Great Physician—but He is more than a physician. He who rescued the ‘lost battalion’ of mankind is the literal Savior of the world, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, the Holy One of Israel—even the risen Lord—who declared, ‘I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father’ [D&C 110:4].”10
As we consider His incomprehensible suffering for us, surely among the saddest five words our Savior ever uttered were these: “Will ye also go away?”11 When times are difficult, we can make the choice to turn away from Him and struggle through our afflictions alone, or we can make the choice to turn to Him and the Father’s plan, finding that we will “suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ.”12 My prayer for each of us is to accept the invitation of the sacred Christmas hymn to “come, let us adore him” and our Heavenly Father for His glorious and perfect plan! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.