I am grateful to share in this celebration of Christmas with you. Our purpose is to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. Our hope is to capture the true spirit of Christmas for ourselves and for those we love. That spirit is characterized by peace—not political peace, for the Savior was born at a time of fear and unrest so great that His family had to flee as refugees into Egypt; not economic peace, for He was born in a stable and laid in a humble manger; and not even the peace that comes when all the packages are wrapped, the trees decorated, and the table set, because that peace is only momentary. The peace of Christmas is “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.”1 It is the peace that the Apostle Paul promised would “keep [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”2 And Paul was right. That peace we seek is only through and because of Jesus Christ.
Some of us live in beautiful and peaceful surroundings, yet we are experiencing inner turmoil. Others feel peace and perfect serenity in the midst of great personal loss, tragedy, and continuing trials.
To all who have come into mortality, the Savior said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation.”3 Yet He gave this wonderful promise to His disciples during His mortal ministry: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”4 It is a comfort to know that this promise of personal peace continues for all of His covenant disciples today.
It is a promise given even on the very night of His birth. When heavenly messengers heralded the birth of the Savior, they declared, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.”5
At this blessed season of the year, we—more than ever—seek peace through the Giver of all gifts. I desire tonight to share just a few of the many ways we can increase the peace we experience this season, throughout the year to come, and throughout our lives.
First, like the angels who sang on the night of His birth, we can feel peace as we celebrate our Savior, Jesus Christ. We can “come [and] adore him.”6
Christmas is the celebration of a birth. All of us have felt the wonder of seeing a newborn child. We feel humbled as we see the miracle of the tiny features and the promise of the future. We feel tenderness. We feel gratitude. We feel peace. And there comes a feeling of love into our hearts that makes us want to give and to be gentle as we remember whose birth we celebrate. For Christmas is a celebration of a birth like no other. The birth of Jesus had been foreseen by God’s prophets for ages. This birth was the fulfillment of a promise made to us in the spirit world by a loving Heavenly Father. It was the birth of the promised Messiah.
Words come back from memory and down into my heart every Christmas season. I can hear in my mind exultant voices of a great choir singing: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”7
The first time I can remember hearing those words was as I sat in the balcony of the Salt Lake Tabernacle. A choir was singing the music of Handel. I can remember feeling something in my heart. I was young then. I am older now, and I know what that feeling was. It was the Holy Ghost, whose companionship I had been offered when I was eight years of age. The Spirit confirmed to my heart that the words I heard sung that night were true.
The baby born in Bethlehem long ago was and is the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father. Those who knelt before Him came to worship the Savior. He was the Lamb of God, sent to break the bands of death by His atoning sacrifice. He came with the power to bear our sorrows and our grief that He might know how to succor us. And He was born to atone for all of our sins as only He could:
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King!8
The feeling I had in the balcony of the Tabernacle that night was of faith and hope. I felt faith that because “unto us a child [was] born,” I could have hope in my heart that death would not be the end. I would be resurrected, and the sting of death would be removed for all of Heavenly Father’s children.
And yet I felt more, so much more. I felt hope that because of Him, I could follow and serve Him and so be born to a newness of spiritual life. Because of the gift of His birth, my heart, your heart, and all human hearts can be changed to become again like that of a little child—pure, clean, and fit to go home again to the God who gave us a Savior and provided the way back to Him in His heavenly home. I felt gratitude and peace, and so can we all because of the gift of the Father and of the Son.
Second, like the shepherds who saw the Christ child and “made known abroad”9 the glad tidings of His birth, we can teach peace to our families and others whom we love. We do so best when we open the scriptures to their minds and hearts.
When our children were little, we created a family Christmas pageant with all the words drawn from scripture. We performed the pageant on Christmas Eve. Many of you have done something similar.
The early drafts of our pageant called for a limited number of players, all playing parts from scripture. I was Joseph, my wife was Mary, and a doll was the Christ child. The cast filled out over time. We added a small actor who portrayed the baby Jesus, then came shepherds—dressed in bathrobes—to worship at the manger, and next we were able to add kings bearing jeweled boxes to honor the newborn King.
After a few years, we opened the pageant with a child who portrayed Samuel the Lamanite standing to testify with prophetic power of the future birth of the promised Messiah. In time, we added a disbelieving crowd armed with aluminum foil balls to throw at Samuel as he stood before them. Each year, as the members of the angry mob grew stronger and more accurate, we had to remind them forcefully that Samuel could not be hit because he was God’s protected servant—and because we were inviting and celebrating peace!
We needed parts for the smaller children, and so we added sheep and lambs to crawl behind the shepherds to the manger.
But then time passed—as it does. The players grew up, and now we are back to the beginning. I have watched those Josephs, Marys, shepherds, sheep, lambs, and kings move on to teach their own loved ones of the Savior and about the peace His birth makes possible.
They were blessed to learn in the parts they played in our pageant something about the Savior and why we love Him. I am grateful that our children and their children saw us honor the baby Jesus, born to be the infinite sacrifice, the priceless gift of peace Heavenly Father gave to all His children.
Third, like the Wise Men, we can give gifts of love and peace as disciples of the risen Lord.
Bishop Sellers in Rexburg, Idaho, did so in the years after he was called as a bishop long ago. His ward chapel was close to the highway that passed through the small town. In those days of unemployment, many destitute people moved from place to place, hoping to find some way to sustain themselves. They would often seek out one of the Latter-day Saint bishops for help. Often, the bishops they approached would send them to the home of Bishop Sellers.
There was a reason for that. The Sellers family welcomed strangers in need. Instead of dinner being only a family meal, one or two, or sometimes more, strangers were at the table. After the guests enjoyed the delicious meal prepared by Sister Sellers, the bishop gave them a coat from the supply of surplus army coats he had purchased.
Once fitted in a warm coat and holding a package with another meal prepared by Sister Sellers, they would go out into the winter day with warm hearts. The sights and the sounds and the feeling of the day would stay with them on their way. Because some of the coldest times in Rexburg were in the Christmas season and because of the family’s tradition of year-round charity, the children in the Sellers home carry a memory of having done what the Savior would have done—and of doing it for Him.
You and your family will have built your own Christmas traditions to fit your circumstances, but they will have some things in common. They will draw hearts to the Savior. And they will include acts of kindness that will merit the approbation of the Savior. He said:
“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
“Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”10
And He will say, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”11
Angels, shepherds, and Wise Men sought and found peace from their faith in Jesus Christ. So will you. The Savior’s birth is the gift that makes it possible for the Father to give us “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.”12 We shouted for joy in the spirit world when we heard of that promise. Peace and joy come to us again when we hear words sung proclaiming that God’s loving promise was kept:
All is calm, all is bright. …
Glories stream from heaven afar;
Heav’nly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Savior, is born!13
I pray that peace will come and abide with each of us as we remember, love, and worship our Heavenly Father by keeping our covenants with Him. May we always remember the service and kindness Jesus Christ gave during His mortal ministry—and resolve to do the same.
I testify that Jesus is the Christ, the beloved Son of the Father. I bear witness that President Thomas S. Monson is the living prophet of God. His wish, and that of the First Presidency, is that you will have in this season and always the feelings of joy, love, and peace that the Savior promised to His faithful and submissive disciples. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.