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Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Christmas Message to My Readers

Hello again, everyone! The last couple of days have been somewhat crazy for my wife and myself, as we have been dealing with colds or low-grade viruses. For that reason, I have not been able to blog about some of the Church news that has come out that I feel deserves to be focused on in a post dedicated to that subject. I may go back in a day or two and share some of those; a lot will depend on how much time and energy I can devote to that. In the meantime, before moving to the topic of this post, I wanted to note for any that are not aware that I did finish my series of posts on the Mexico Area, and if any of you would be willing to give me your feedback on the possible sites I mentioned, I would love to hear from you.

In the meantime, as I'm sure you all are aware, the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional is set for tomorrow evening, and tomorrow is also Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's 77th birthday, so at minimum, I will be doing posts covering both of those milestones at some point tomorrow. And if I can get it done, I also hope to post an update on apostolic age information. If I can make all that happen tomorrow, I will.

For now, because there has not been any reported temple developments, I wanted to take the opportunity to share a Christmas message with you, my readers, who so faithfully look at any new content I post here.

In doing so, after offering a few preliminary thoughts, I will do what I have done in the past couple of years: share a poem that was featured on the December newsletter of my parent's ward years ago when I was a teenager. I will then pass along a link to the First Presidency's Christmas Message, and close with my testimony. Let's get into all of that.

Before sharing the poem, I wanted to note a couple of things. I have heard it said by many beloved Church leaders that, without Christmas, there would be no Easter. Were it not for the baby born in Bethlehem, there would have been no Atonement, crucifixion, or resurrection. Christmas day is the one day per year where we celebrate the Savior's birth. While scripture and religious scholars have clarified that the Savior's birth took place in April (the Doctrine and Covenants tells us that April 6 is His actual birthday. But because a majority of Christian religions mark his birthday on December 25, that day is set aside for that reason.

However, in recent years, Christmas has become more commercial in nature, and so many people who are either not religiously active or who are not associated with any religion whatsoever, and even many who are very religiously minded, lose sight of the reason for the season, and focus more on what they are receiving from others, rather than what they are giving to both their fellowman and the Savior. If that attitude describes any of us, I hope with all my heart that we will ever remember that Christ is the reason for the season.

Additionally, it is not enough for us as Latter-day Saints to merely celebrate the birth and resurrection of the Savior. As we have been taught frequently, all of us should be hoping and preparing for the time when the Savior will come again and begin His millennial reign on the earth. We know that, in that day, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is the Christ.

With all of that in mind, the poem I want to share speaks volumes about the importance of our personal preparation for that sacred day when He will come again. The poem follows below:

‘Twas the Night Before the Savior Came

‘Twas the night before Our Savior came and all through the house,
Not a person was praying, not one in the house.
Their scriptures were lain on the shelf without care,
Thinking Our Savior would not come there.
And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap
Was watching the late show, while I took a nap.
Where out of the East there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But angels proclaiming that our Savior was here!
With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray,
I knew in a moment it must be the day!
The beauty of His face made me cover my head,
It was Our Savior returning just like he said....
And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth,
I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.
In the Book of Life which He held in His hand,
Was written the names of every saved man.
He spoke not a word, as He searched for my name.
Then He said, “It’s not here.” My head hung in shame.
The people whose names had been written with love,
He gathered to take to His father above.
With those who were read, He rose without a sound,
While all the rest were left standing around.
I fell to my knees, but it was too late.
I had waited too long and thus sealed my fate.
I stood and cried as they rose out of sight,
“Oh, if only I’d been ready tonight.”
In the words of this poem, the meaning is clear,
The coming of Our Savior is drawing near.
There is only one life and when comes the last call,

We will find that the scriptures were true, after all....

With the words of that poem in mind, I would like to offer a couple of observations. First, as I have mentioned a few times, my patriarchal blessing tells me that we are in the Saturday evening of time, which I term to be sometime between 5-8 pm. That means that in a few short hours (however long they may seem to us), the Savior will come again. I hope and pray that each of us will be ready when that happens.

As has been the custom for longer than I have been alive, the First Presidency of the Church sent out a Christmas message for this year, which can be found here. I think their own wording of that message speaks more of the importance of Christmas than I could.

I wanted to end with a final thought and my testimony. The Christmas season is meant to be a time of "peace on earth" and "good will to all men". But the only way it will be so is if each of us, in whatever way we are able to do so, retain in remembrance the vital link between Christmas, Easter, and the eventual Second Coming of the Savior. 

As this Christmas season commences, I gratefully and wholeheartedly testify that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, bore our sins, sorrows, and trials in Gethsemane, was crucified on the cross at Calvary, and rose again the third day after breaking the bands of death for all mankind. His incomparable gift means for all of us that death is not an end, that separation from our departed loved ones is only of a temporary duration, and that one day, each of us will be called upon to answer for how well we have remembered and served Him in our daily lives. 

And the best way we can do that in this Christmas season and during the rest of each year is by reaching out to rescue those who cannot do so themselves, by sanctifying ourselves through service, and by retaining in remembrance that Christ is the reason for this Christmas season. That this may be our blessing and privilege during this Christmas season and always is my humble prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.