“First Presidency Focuses on Serving Christ,” Ensign, Feb. 2009, 74–75
Members of the First Presidency used the December 2008 First Presidency Christmas Devotional to teach members to serve the Savior and His children by making room for Him, establishing traditions that honor Him, and learning to give as He gave by loving as He loves.
President Thomas S. Monson and his counselors, President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, spoke from the Conference Center. Music was provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.
Retelling the story of the innkeeper in Bethlehem, President Monson warned members not to let the opportunity pass by to make room for Christ in their lives.
“The innkeeper missed the greatest opportunity that an innkeeper could ever have had,” President Monson said. Years later it would not do him any good to say, “‘If only I had known who they were.’”
Some homes today have rooms for eating, rooms for sleeping, play rooms, sewing rooms, television rooms, but no room for Christ, he said.
“Do we experience a pang of conscience as we recall His own words: ‘Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head’ (Luke 9:58)?” he asked.
“In our busy lives, with ever so many others competing for our attention, it is essential that we make a conscious, committed effort to bring Christ into our lives and into our homes.”
President Monson outlined the Savior’s ministry of service. “During His earthly ministry, He taught men the higher law. His glorious gospel reshaped the thinking of the world. He blessed the sick. He caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear. Why, He even raised the dead to life.”
However, there were only “a precious few who appreciated Him. They bathed His feet. They learned His word. They followed His example.”
President Monson explained, “As we follow in His steps today, as we emulate His example, we will have opportunities to bless the lives of others.”
But while the opportunities to give of ourselves are limitless, President Monson said those opportunities are also perishable. “Is there someone for whom you should provide service?” he asked.
“There is yet time this year to extend the helping hand, the loving heart, and the willing spirit—in other words, to follow the example set by our Savior and to serve as He would have us serve,” President Monson said. “As we do serve Him, we will not forfeit our opportunity, as did the innkeeper of old, to make time for Him in our lives and room for Him in our hearts. … May we follow Him, serve Him, honor Him, and receive in our lives His gifts to us.”
Disciples of Jesus Christ establish family traditions that honor the Savior’s life and teach who He is and what He has done for us, said President Eyring.
Each Christmas Eve, the Eyring family performed a family Christmas pageant based on the scriptural accounts of the Savior’s birth. Through the years, the children filled the parts of Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus, shepherds, angels, wise men, and even sheep. The annual experience helped teach them about the Savior, why they should love Him, and how they should honor Him.
But looking back, President Eyring wished he had taught them more about what an important part they were playing as lambs. “They were following the shepherds to honor the baby Jesus, born to be the infinite sacrifice, the priceless gift of Heavenly Father to all His children,” he said.
As John the Baptist said, the Savior was “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
“The Savior, the Lamb of God, was the greatest gift ever given,” President Eyring said. “His perfect life and His unimaginable suffering made possible our forgiveness from all sin and the possibility to choose eternal life; to be lifted up to live forever with God, in families, and in glory.”
President Eyring explained that for us to receive that gift, “we must try with all our hearts and strength to do what He did. We cannot give the great gift to others that He gave, the gift of the Atonement … but we can try to do His works and help Him serve others as He would serve them.”
For many disciples of Christ, that service is part of their family traditions, President Eyring said. Though each family’s traditions may differ according to circumstances, he encouraged every family to create traditions with some things in common: “They will draw hearts to the Savior,” he said. And “they will include acts of kindness, which in the world to come will merit the approbation of the Savior as He welcomes those He honors with the title of being His sheep.”
President Uchtdorf encouraged members not to be distracted from the real meaning of Christmas by the getting and giving of gifts but rather to learn how to give from the example of the Savior.
“In our modern world, we often think of giving and receiving gifts when we think of Christmas,” he said. “Although this can be part of a cherished tradition, it can also detract from the simple dignity of the season and distract us from celebrating the birth of our Savior in a meaningful way. … It doesn’t take expensive gifts to make Christmas meaningful.”
In considering simplicity, President Uchtdorf encouraged members to “think of the simple yet dignified way our Heavenly Father chose to honor the birth of His Son. On that holy night, angels appeared not to the rich, but to the shepherds. The Christ child was born not in a mansion, but in a manger. The child was wrapped not in silk, but in swaddling clothes.”
President Uchtdorf taught that the simplicity of that first Christmas foreshadowed the modest, humble life of the Savior.
“He had no place to lay His head, and He walked ever among the poor, the sick, the downcast, and the heavy laden. Though He was a King, He cared neither for the honors nor for the riches of men. His life, His words, His daily activities were monuments of simple yet profound dignity.”
President Uchtdorf explained that “Jesus the Christ, who knew perfectly how to give, set for us the pattern of giving.
“To those whose hearts are heavy with loneliness and sorrow, He brings compassion and comfort. To those whose bodies and minds are afflicted with illness and suffering, He brings love and healing. To those whose souls are burdened with sin, He offers hope, forgiveness, and redemption.”
With the Savior’s example in mind, President Uchtdorf invited members: “As He gave to us, let us give to Him by loving as He loves. …
“May we remember the humble dignity of His birth, His gifts, and His life. May we, through our simple acts of kindness, charity, and compassion, fill the world with the light of His love and His healing power.”