One of the Come, Follow Me “Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Family Home Evening” for the week of December 16-22, 2019 is for family members to look for “ideas for ornaments or decorations” that remind them of Jesus Christ.”
Among the special blessings that I was privileged to have while serving as a full-time missionary in Germany was to be twice welcomed into the homes of German Latter-day Saints to celebrate Christmas Eve. “Heiliger Abend” is celebrated on December 24, and many people spend the afternoon and evening decorating their Christmas trees, attending church services, eating traditional foods, lighting their Christmas trees—often with real candles—and opening Christmas presents. It is a common belief that Martin Luther (the 16th-century Protestant reformer): “first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles” (“History of Christmas Trees,” History.com editors, Dec. 15, 2012).
Viewing a Christmas tree with fire-lit candles is an awe-inspiring sight. It requires complete adoring attention until the flames are safely extinguished. Those inflamed candles remind me that Jesus Christ is “the light, and the life, and the truth of the world” (Ether 4:12).
“Christ Sees Us in Our Tree”
At the April 2019 general conference, Sister Sharon Eubank entitled her address “Christ: The Light That Shines in Darkness” (Ensign, May 2019, 73-76). Her comments help us understand how Jesus Christ lights our lives. As one of her examples, she refers to the New Testament of experience of Zacchaeus who, because “he was little of stature … climbed up into a sycomore tree” in order to catch a glimpse of Jesus walking by (Luke 19:3-4). When Jesus saw Zacchaeus, He called to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). After hearing how Zaccheaus helped the poor and was honest in all of his interactions, Jesus saw the goodness and love for others in Zacchaeus’s heart and blessed him, “This day is salvation come to this house” (Luke 19:9).
In her talk, Sister Eubank explains, “Jesus extends the same kind of invitation to us that He did to Zacchaeus: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if [you] hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to [you], and will sup with [you], and [you] with me’ (Revelation 3:20) … It is the unwavering requirement of Christian disciples and Latter-day Saints to show true love to one another” (Eubank, 74).
I am so grateful for those German families who invited homesick missionaries to share Christmas in their homes. Their examples and the example of Zacchaeus prompt me to look for opportunities to follow the counsel of Mormon: “every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God” (Moroni 7:13).
“Christ Is Light to See”
In her conference address, Sister Eubank describes an experience she had one night in February 2019. She looked out her office window and could not see the spires of the Salt Lake Temple.
She explains, “Seeing darkness where I expected to see light reminded me that one of the fundamental needs we have in order to grow is to stay connected to our source of light—Jesus Christ. He is the source of our power, the Light and Life of the World. Without a strong connection to Him, we begin to spiritually die” (Eubank, 73). This thought caused her to wonder if it is too dark to see very far how are we to “keep on the covenant path” (Russell M. Nelson, “As We Go Forward Together,” Ensign, Apr. 2018).
Sister Eubank asked herself how she could have faith like the Brother of Jared. She explains that he “had patiently melted stones into clear glass. Glass is stone that has undergone a state change. When the Lord touched the stones for the brother of Jared, they glowed with light” (Eubank, 74). As Moroni explains, “The Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness” (Ether 6:3). The light from these divinely touched stones never lost their charge but radiantly beamed and comforted for 344 days and nights (Ether 6:11).
Sister Eubank concludes that for her and all of us living today, God will guide and light our ways even if we feel like we are temporarily in the dark. She explains: “If you feel that the beacon of your testimony is sputtering and darkness is closing in, take courage. Keep your promises to God. Ask your questions. Patiently melt stone to glass. Turn to Jesus, who loves you still. Jesus said, ‘I am the light [that] shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not’ (Doctrine and Covenants 6:21). That means no matter how hard it tries, the darkness cannot put out that light. Ever. You can trust that His light will be there for you” (Eubank, 75).
Be a Candle of Faith for All to See
Individually, we may only appear like one small bulb or candle on a Christmas tree. But when we help one another, we can all shine together. Collectively, we can be like Temple Square at Christmas time.
The beaming lights of Temple Square at Christmas invite millions of people to the house of the Lord. Let us all strive together to follow the counsel that Jesus gave during His Sermon on the Mount: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick [or a Christmas tree]; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father [who] is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16; see also 3 Nephi 12:14-16).
During the Christmas season we need to keep our eyes and hearts open to opportunities for service as we celebrate and remember the birth of Jesus Christ.
For more information, go to: www.comeuntochrist.org/christmas/light-the-world/2019 or www.canada.lds.org. On these websites you can:
View a new 2019 Nativity video. This provides a natural way for members to view this compelling, personal, and engaging version of the Nativity and to discuss the #LighttheWorld initiative.
“Come and See” Worship with Us. Members are encouraged in December to find opportunities to invite friends and family to attend a sacrament meeting that is welcoming to those of other faiths.
“Come and Help.” Members can download a Customizable #LightTheWorld Calendar and Modeling Videos. The intent of the calendar and videos is to show how easy, normal, and natural it can be to engage in Christ-centered service during the Christmas season.