Good evening, my dear brothers and sisters. I feel blessed for the opportunity to address you tonight as we celebrate the most glorious event in human history—the coming of God’s Son into the world. Christ’s birth, life, and Atonement are our Heavenly Father’s gift to all of us.
As we celebrate the Savior’s birth at this joyous time of the year, God’s continuing and endless love seems to permeate our souls more abundantly, helping us to turn our hearts to our family, friends, and neighbors, and helps us to be more sensitive to those who may be feeling alone, lonely, or who are in need of comfort and peace.
I have always been impressed that, in its telling of events surrounding the birth of Jesus, the Gospel of Luke shares several examples of comfort and peace being provided to those who had found themselves in these circumstances. Such examples can be seen when our loving Heavenly Father sent His angels to visit the socially isolated shepherds during the night to announce the birth of His Son, and when the shepherds in turn visited Mary and Joseph, who were caring for a newborn baby far from their home in Galilee.
Joseph and Mary’s long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be registered for the tax was not a mere coincidence, because for centuries, it had been prophesied by ancient prophets that the Savior of the world would be born in Bethlehem, the City of David.1 We see that our Heavenly Father was very much aware of and involved in every detail surrounding the birth of His Only Begotten Son. “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.”2
As I think about the social circumstances of the shepherds and the young couple, Mary and Joseph, I wonder how the appearance of the angelic host to the shepherds in the fields and the arrival of the shepherds to where Mary and Joseph were staying brought into their individual lives comfort, peace, and joy.
For the shepherds, the angels may have brought the needed comfort that God was aware of them and saw value in them as the chosen first witnesses of the newborn Lamb of God. For Mary and Joseph, the shepherds may have brought much-needed comfort that others knew of the divine miracle that they were a part of.3
Certainly, among us are modern shepherds—men and women who labor late into the night and early morning to make a living. Some of these modern shepherds may include security guards, hospital and emergency personnel, all-night convenience store and gas-station employees, and news broadcasting teams. Sometimes those working a night shift may feel isolated from social interactions with those who typically work during regular workday hours. In addition to that, there are also modern Josephs and Marys who have moved away from their homeland and who are trying to adjust to a new life as they celebrate important days like Christmas, birthdays, marriages, and deaths.
As we approach Christmas, I wonder if we could become more like the angelic host by visiting modern shepherds to provide the good news of Christ, peace and comfort. And I wonder if we can become more like the shepherds by responding to the call to visit and minister to the modern Josephs and Marys in our neighborhoods and communities to provide reassurance that God loves them and is watching and caring for them.
My family and I have experienced on several different occasions the feelings of comfort and peace that a modern-day angelic host can bring. Tonight I would like to reflect on one of those occasions. In 2003, we moved away from our home country to Utah. That winter, we had one of the biggest snowstorms Utah had had for several years. We had never seen anything like that in our lives, as we were raised among palm trees and sandy beaches. Our home was located on a corner on a hill in Bountiful that had a very long sidewalk. When the snow started, my wife courageously started snow blowing the driveway and sidewalks because I had slipped on ice and broken my wrist a few days before as I walked up a driveway to visit one of our neighbors. That accident resulted in a surgery and a large cast on my arm for a couple of months. As she started snow blowing the area for the first time in her life, my dear wife had no clue that she had to change the direction of the chute after cleaning one side of the driveway. So, when she went to the other side to clean, that was where the chute directed the snow. Back and forth she went, to no avail. What a mess! Because of her prolonged exposure to cold, she got a double ear infection and was almost completely deaf for two months. At the same time my sixteen-year-old boy injured his back while sledding and had to stay in bed so his injury could heal. So there we were, one bedridden, one deaf, one in a cast, and all freezing. I’m sure we were quite a sight for our neighbors. On one of those early, frigid mornings at about 5:00 a.m., I woke up to the sound of a snowblower outside my window. I looked out the window and I saw my neighbor from across the street, Brother Blaine Williams. At nearly seventy years of age, he had left his warm and comfortable home and quietly came and cleaned up our driveway and sidewalk, knowing that we were not able to do it ourselves. And just as he came in his quiet and simple way, another friend, Brother Daniel Almeida, showed up at our home to drive me down to Salt Lake for work, as I could not drive with my very cumbersome cast. They kindly and quietly were there for me every morning until my family healed and we were again able to do things by ourselves. During that cold Christmas season of 2003, these angelic brothers were sent to us, just as the ministering angels were sent to the lowly shepherds of old. These two brothers followed our Savior’s example and thought of our needs before they thought of their own.
Dear brothers and sisters, the Savior’s life was the perfect example of love and goodwill toward men. He always forgot Himself in behalf of others. His selfless acts were expressed in all He did every day of His life and were not limited to a specific season or holiday. As we turn our hearts outward like the Savior did, I promise that we can better experience the meaning of Christmas. As we do so, I can assure you that we will find limitless opportunities to give of ourselves quietly and kindly to people who need us. This will help us to come to know the Savior better and find for ourselves peace on earth and good will toward men, which will, in great measure, determine the love, peace, and renewed strength that we can feel and share toward others. As we follow the Savior’s footsteps, may we ever listen for the sound of sandaled feet and reach out for the Carpenter’s steady hand. As we search for the Savior in all we do, Christmas won’t be just a day or a season but will be a condition of heart and mind, and the joy and love felt at Christmas will always be near. I testify that Jesus Christ, the infant born in Bethlehem, is in fact the Savior and Redeemer of the world.
Merry Christmas to all of you. I say these things in the name of the Jesus Christ, amen.