One of the “Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Family Home Evening” in the Book of Mormon 2020: Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families lesson for December 21-27 recommends: “To help your family focus on the gift Heavenly Father gave us by sending His Son, you could wrap a picture of Jesus like a Christmas present. Family members could talk about favorite Christmas gifts they have received or hope to receive. Then they could unwrap the picture of Christ and discuss how He has been a precious gift for us. The video ‘He Is the Gift’ (ChurchofJesusChrist.org) could help you discuss how you can discover, embrace, and share the gift of the Savior as a family this Christmas.” These are two activities that have helped us better understand, prepare for, and commemorate the true spirit of Christmas in the year 2020.
A Precious Photo of Jesus
One of our favorite representations of Jesus is of the Christus statue located in the Temple Square North Visitors’ Center in Salt Lake City. (This star-studded dome was also where our engagement ring was given and accepted 48 years ago.) The Christus is modeled after Bertel Thorvalsen’s marble statue of the resurrected Jesus that is located in Denmark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen. As President Russell M. Nelson has explained, “It portrays the resurrected, living Lord reaching out to embrace all who will come unto him” (“Opening the Heavens for Help,” Ensign, May 2020, 73).
This photo reminds us of the following key phrases proclaimed in “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles” (Doctrine and Covenants 2021: Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families, Jan. 1, 2000, 221):
“None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.”
“He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New.”
“He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind.”
“We testify that He will someday return to the earth.”
“His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.”
This apostolic testimony strengthens our personal testimonies and helps us to know that Jesus is “The Living Christ.” During the months of quarantine restrictions and physical distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the inviting open arms of the Savior suggest an embrace of comfort to us. This photo helps us visualize that all peoples of the world are invited to “come unto Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:59). We can imagine Jesus saying to us: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
Jesus Is the Gift
The video “He Is the Gift” (ChurchofJesusChrist.org) is awe-inspiring to view.
It begins by portraying modern traditions now common during the Christmas season: rushing to buy gifts, seeing Santa, wrapping presents, paying bills, worrying that everyone will be happy, waiting in lines, decorating a Christmas tree, etc. Then, it reminds us of the authentic meaning of Christmas with powerful imagery and these thoughtful words:
“The first gift was not wrapped, had no bow, wasn’t purchased online, or in a store. The first gift of Christmas was a simple gift, a sacred gift. It wasn’t gold or frankincense or myrrh. It was a gift of love and life and peace and hope given by a Father to all His children. For God so loved the world, and so loved you and you and you and every single one of us, He gave His Son. He gave His Son! He is the Christ. He is Christmas. He is the gift. This Christmas season discover the gift. Embrace the gift. For ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). #ShareTheGift” (ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
The Firstborn of the Father
Each time we view this video, it touches our minds and hearts. It challenges us to seek ways to understand and appreciate who Jesus really is. In our premortal existence, Christ is the First to stand before the Father and propose: “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon we may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:24-25). Heavenly Father chose His Firstborn Son in the Spirit to be not only the Creator of all things but also His Only Begotten Son.
On this earth Jesus would grow, learn, teach, and finally suffer in the Garden of Gethsemane and “Upon the Cross of Calvary” (Hymns, no. 184): 'which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18). Christ’s vicarious sacrifice is a great atoning gift for all who would ever live upon the earth.
Jesus, Himself, confirms, “I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn; And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:21-22). He is and always has been our Advocate with the Father and our personal Savior. He has provided an eternal example of perfection for us to emulate and follow.
The Father’s gift of His Firstborn Son teaches what true love is: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). This Christmas let us pray that we remember and #GiveThanks that Jesus Christ is the first and only gift that can lead us to eternal life.