I love everything about Christmas time. I love the music, the lights, the food, the stories, the gifts, the excitement of my children, and being around family. Though these things will always be important to me, the older I get, the fundamental meaning of Christmas rises above the rest.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us, a son is given: . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
The coming of Christ had been foretold for centuries. But why did Jesus come, and why do we celebrate His birth? Why do we look forward to His return?
That I Might Draw All Men unto Me
In His own words, Jesus said that He came into the world, 'to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me . . . and for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me' (3 Nephi 27:13-15).
Our hearts are drawn to Christ as we begin to grasp the scale of what He did on our behalf. Jacob taught that Jesus Christ prepared a way for our escape from 'that monster, death and hell' or 'the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit' (2 Nephi 9:10).
Alma taught that 'he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities . . . the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance' (Alma 7:11-13, emphasis added).
More Than a Minimum Payment
Christ's offering included so much more than the minimum payment required by sin and death, as impossible as this payment would be for any of us. Jesus willingly took upon himself sin, death, and the rest of what humanity would experience to draw our hearts and minds toward Him. Jesus completely understands the weakness, temptation, betrayal, and physical pain we experience because He experienced it. He understands the unfairness of life because His experience was entirely unfair. Could you imagine realizing that the purpose of your life is to suffer the consequences of sins you did not commit. Yet, this is what Jesus willingly did for us, all the while maintaining His love for us.
I want to be more like Jesus, but I have to admit it is difficult to love those who cause me, or those I love, pain. If the only thing I feel from someone is the consequence of their poor choices, I might be tempted to hate them. But if, like Jesus, I seek to understand them; if I set aside anger and resentment and strive to understand even the most unrepentant soul; if, before judging another, I am willing to walk a mile in their shoes, I might feel differently about them. I think that is what Jesus is doing by taking upon Himself our infirmities. By taking our physical and mental weakness upon Himself, He fully understands why we act as we do. He understands that many of our behaviors are based on experiences we have had that are beyond our control. With this understanding, His bowels are filled with mercy toward us, and He can help us overcome things we could never overcome on our own. He can help us change. He can help us heal. Indeed, He was 'wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed' (Isaiah 53:5).
It is Finished
At the close of His earthly ministry, while Jesus hung dying on the cross, He cried out, 'It is finished' (John 19:30). What exactly did He finish?
One of the things Jesus finished had to do with His relationship with us. Through revelation to the prophet Joseph Smith, Jesus said, “I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; . . . which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain . . . and would that I might not drink the bitter cup. . . Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men' (Doctrine & Covenants 19:16-19, emphasis added).
Having paid the penalty for our sins, born our griefs, carried our sorrows, and conquered death, Christ has drawn us to Him and will forever be our Savior.
Jesus gave us everything. He walked a path that led Him to Gethsemane and Calvary. But before He was ever in Gethsemane or Calvary, He was born of Mary in a manger.
His birth was of little consequence in His day. Regardless of these humble beginnings, He touched the lives of thousands around Him and billions after. He cared about ordinary people like you and me. He became one of us and lived among us that He might have compassion on us.
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus again this Christmas season, I pray that we experience the love and healing that His life and sacrifice offers us.