First Presidency Shares Meaning of Christmas
February 1997

“First Presidency Shares Meaning of Christmas,” Ensign, Feb. 1997, 72

First Presidency Shares Meaning of Christmas

“Christmas is more than trees and twinkling lights, more than toys and gifts and baubles of a hundred varieties,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley at the First Presidency Christmas Devotional held 8 December 1996 in the Tabernacle on Temple Square. The devotional was broadcast in 11 languages on the Church satellite network and was rebroadcast locally on KBYU-TV.

“We honor [the Savior’s] birth,” President Hinckley said, “but without His death that birth would have been but one more birth. It was the redemption which he worked out in the Garden of Gethsemane and upon the cross of Calvary which made His gift immortal, universal, and everlasting.”

Christmas is “faith in God and His Eternal Son,” President Hinckley said. “It is faith in His wondrous ways and message. It is faith in Him as our Redeemer and our Lord. We testify of His living reality. We testify of the divinity of His nature. In our times of grateful meditation, we acknowledge His priceless gift to us and pledge our love and faith. This is what Christmas is really about.”

President Hinckley also expressed appreciation for the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith, “which we celebrate this same month of December, two days before Christmas. … He is the great prophet of this dispensation. He stands at the head of this great and mighty work which is spreading across the earth. He is our prophet, our revelator, our seer, our friend. Let us not forget him. Let not his memory be forgotten in the celebration of Christmas.”

President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, said: “This is a glorious time of the year, simple in origin, deep in meaning, beautiful in tradition and custom, rich in memories, and charitable in spirit. … This joyful season brings to each of us a measure of happiness that corresponds to the degree in which we have turned our mind, feelings, and actions to the spirit of Christmas.”

Since the time of the wise men, President Monson said, “the spirit of giving gifts has been present in the mind of each Christian as he or she commemorates the Christmas season. Our Heavenly Father gave to us His Son, Jesus Christ. That precious Son gave to us His life, the Atonement, and victory over the grave.”

After giving four descriptions of Christmas—“Christmas is children,” “Christmas is remembering,” “Christmas is giving,” and “Christmas is prophecy fulfilled”—President Monson asked, “What will you and I give for Christmas this year? Let us in our lives give to our Lord and Savior the gift of gratitude by living His teachings and following in His footsteps. It was said of Him that He ‘went about doing good’ [Acts 10:38]. As we do likewise, the Christmas spirit will be ours.”

President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, remarked that “the observance of Christmas varies considerably from country to country. In some cultures, fragments of pagan celebrations are still included. Although much commercialism is apparent in our modern celebration, underlying it all is a marvelous, life-enriching spirit.”

After sharing several Christmas stories and traditions from around the world, President Faust concluded by saying: “We celebrate Christmas principally to commemorate the birth of our Lord, Redeemer, and Savior, who is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. In doing so we also open our hearts and souls to show our love for our families, friends, strangers, and all creatures of God. In this way we honor Him in the most important way we can—by keeping His commandment to ‘love one another’ [John 15:12]. For He has said, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ [Matt. 25:40].”

The First Presidency and other General Authorities attended the Christmas devotional. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed several numbers. (Photo by Tamra Hamblin.)