I love this time of year when we gather as families and loved ones to remember the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ and give thanks for His life and His infinite atoning sacrifice. I love the countless reminders of this special season all around and can still feel the excitement and anticipation of Christmases from my childhood, whether they were in a chilly England or a sweltering Arabia.
Probably like many others, last week I wrestled with the Christmas lights, struggling to find the one bulb that was causing a whole string to go dark. When the bulb was finally found and replaced, all the lights came on, and there was that relief and delight that comes from a minor triumph.
One of my favorite things to do as Christmas approaches is to sit by our Christmas tree, with all the other lights off, and let my vision go blurry as I look at the tree covered in tiny white lights. With my eyes out of focus, the glow of each individual light expands and softens as it reflects off the shiny red ornaments. The effect is enchanting. We often have music playing in the background, proclaiming, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”1 and that “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”2
As my eyes let the lights move in and out of focus on the tree, I am reminded once again of the divine mission of our Savior, which comes sharply into focus in these still moments. He said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”3 I ponder the holy night that He was born, filled with gratitude for the Father’s gift of joy, hope, and love sent to the earth in His Only Begotten Son.4
These kinds of quiet moments of meditation and reflection can be all too rare for us in the build up to Christmas Day. December brings with it parties and concerts, gatherings and gifts. Schedules fill up, and sometimes the expectations we impose upon ourselves actually take away from the joy of the season rather than magnifying it.
So President Nelson’s teaching is vital: “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation … and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy.”5
This is the perfect occasion for us to prayerfully consider our focus. What are your hopes for this Christmas season? What are your sincere desires for yourself and your loved ones as you gather together for this most holy of holy days?
In two and a half weeks, Christmas Day will be here. Consider what you have on your calendar for the next two and a half weeks. You may feel overwhelmed by too many commitments and all that you have to do. Is your schedule too packed? Are certain cultural traditions and pressures causing you undue stress and preventing you from receiving and reflecting the joy of Christ’s birth? How might you simplify your calendar this Christmas and plan better for next?
We must be careful not to be so busy and tired from trying to do too much that we miss the focus of the season and are unable to figuratively kneel at the manger, worship the newborn King, and bring our own personal gift to Him.
Young mothers, and all of us, are you overwhelmed? Where is your focus? Perhaps this year you don’t send those Christmas cards, or you let go of some other perhaps media-inspired expectation you have of yourself. The cost in either time or money will take away some of your ability to focus on the Savior and feel His Christmas joy.
Young fathers, and the rest of us, where is your focus? Perhaps this year you have a simplified Christmas with more homemade gifts and gifts of service because the pressure and cost of trying to buy it all is too great—and unnecessary—and it will take away some of your ability to focus on the Savior and feel His Christmas peace.
Temple service at Christmastime can be especially meaningful. The temple corrects our focus, magnifies our joy, and unites families here and on the other side of the veil. Consider temple service instead of another Christmas activity that may not help you in your longing for Christmas stillness. Those holy ordinances—the peace and priesthood power they hold for all who cherish them—are only made possible because of the Only Begotten Son of the Father, this “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,”6 whose birth we now celebrate.
As this Christmas approaches, let us do more of what matters and much less of what doesn’t. Let us seek to do the works of Jesus of Nazareth—lift up the sorrowing, heal the brokenhearted, visit the prisoners, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and give voice to the voiceless, the marginalized, the forgotten, and the despised.7
For those of you in crisis this Christmas, may you find the Savior’s gift of love that is uniquely for you. Many are, at this moment, in the throes of losing loved ones to disease, old age, or some awful accident. Many are remembering past losses that occurred at Christmastime, and this will be a painful anniversary for you. Some are mourning the choices their loved ones are making at the moment. Others are lonely, without family, experiencing turmoil, or for whatever reason face a very different Christmas to the ones they have celebrated in the past.
Believe that there is a particular gift in this season for you. Seek for quiet, solitary moments when you can ponder, pray, and feel the loving-kindness of the One whose birth makes any joy in any life possible. The promise is that one day, “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.”8 “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more. … For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”9
Take time to be still, to breathe, to wonder. Look up. Focus in on His great gift—the knowledge of who you truly are, and the understanding that trials here are fleeting and that joy here is just the beginning of joy to come. Remember, “the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”
“And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever.”10 That we might say, “Yea, Lord, we greet thee, Born this happy morning. … Oh, come, let us adore Him.”11
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.