During this unprecedented year — when virtually every person in the world has suffered the effects of the global pandemic — “there is nothing more important we can do this Christmas than to rivet our focus on the Savior and on the gift of what His life really means to each of us,” said President Russell M. Nelson at the concluding address of the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 6, 2020.
President Nelson explained: “Our loving Heavenly Father ‘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) … The Son of God then promised us that ‘whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.’ (John 11:26). What unspeakable, incomparable gifts from the Father and the Son.”
President Nelson said he thanks God for the gift of His Beloved Son: “And I thank our Lord Jesus Christ for His incomparable sacrifice and mission. At His first coming, Jesus came almost in secret. But at His Second Coming, the Lord’s glory ‘shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together’ (Isaiah 40:5). Then He shall ‘rule as King of kings and reign as Lord of lords’ (Revelation 17:14).”
Continue to #GiveThanks
President Nelson began his address by offering his thanks for the response to his recent invitation to flood social media with expressions of gratitude. “Millions responded,” he said, “and I am especially grateful that you are continuing to pray daily to our Heavenly Father, to thank Him for His guidance, protection, inspiration, and most of all, for the gift of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.”
Silent Night Memories Bring Hope
Christmas evokes wonderful memories. President Nelson recalled the Christmas season one year ago and replayed a video he made with young Claire Crosby performing “Silent Night.”
President Nelson said: “Truly, that blessed night more than two millennia ago was a night made holy by the birth of One who was foreordained to bring peace to this earth and to inspire good will among men (Luke 2:14). Jesus Christ was born to bless all humankind, past, present, and future. Even as we sing ‘Silent Night,’ we know the life of that Babe of Bethlehem did not begin there, nor did it end on Calvary.”
President Nelson taught that in a premortal realm, Jesus was anointed by His Father to be the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior and the Redeemer of all humankind: “He was foreordained to atone for us. He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. He came to make immortality a reality and eternal life a possibility for all who would ever live. That means every one of us will be resurrected — including those dear to you who have departed during this turbulent year, and who now live on the other side of the veil. It means each of us can continue to progress. It means we can hope for better things to come.”
President Nelson asked the worldwide congregation if they have ever wondered why the Lord, who could have been born anywhere on earth, chose to be born where He was, explaining: “Jesus was born in Bethlehem. That word in Hebrew, bet lehem, means ‘house of bread.’ How appropriate that He, the ‘bread of life,’ would come from the ‘house of bread.’”
President Nelson continued that Jesus’ birth occurred in humble circumstances among the animals: “There the ‘Lamb of God’ was born during Passover season among animals being prepared for Paschal sacrifice. And one day, He would be ‘brought as a lamb to the slaughter’ (Isaiah 53:7). He was both The Lamb and The Shepherd.”
President Nelson spoke further about the great symbolism of the Savior’s birth:
“At the birth of Him who is called the ‘Good Shepherd,’ shepherds were the first to receive the announcement of His holy birth.
“At the birth of Him who is called the ‘Bright and Morning Star,’ a new star appeared in the heavens.
“At the birth of Him who called Himself the ‘Light of the World,’ darkness was banished worldwide as a sign of His holy birth.”
President Nelson noted that Jesus was baptized in the lowest body of fresh water on earth: “symbolizing the depths to which He would go in order to save us, and from which He would rise above all things — again, to save us. From His example, He taught that we, too, can arise from the depths of our individual challenges — our sadness, weakness, and worries, to reach the heights of our own glorious potential and divine destiny. All this is possible by virtue of His mercy and grace.”
To Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness
And amid the dry and dusty wilderness of a desert, the Savior taught lessons that could be fully appreciated only by those who knew what it was like to be parched with thirst, said President Nelson. This reminded him of a tender experience he had with Elder Mark E. Petersen, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who died in 1984.
Prior to his own call to the quorum, President Nelson accompanied Elder Petersen to the Holy Land just before the latter’s death. Elder Petersen was suffering greatly from cancer and was able to eat and drink only a very little bit.
Still, after a long hard night, Elder Petersen delivered an address on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Teaching from the Savior’s Sermon on the Mount, Elder Petersen — referencing the passage to “hunger and thirst after righteousness” in Matthew 5:6 — asked, “Do you know what it is really like to hunger and to thirst? When you can really hunger and thirst after righteousness, then you can become more Christlike.”
President Nelson added that he knew that Elder Petersen knew what it was literally like to hunger and thirst, and he was also a living example of hungering and thirsting to be more like Jesus Christ.
Ready and Blessed for Christmas
President Nelson said this year he and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, got an early start working on their Christmas errands of love for their family. In early November, Sister Nelson announced that they were ready for Christmas.
President Nelson said his instant response was, “Oh, good! Now we can focus on the Savior.”
President Nelson closed his remarks by invoking a blessing on all of God’s children: “May you and your families be blessed with peace, with an increased ability to hear the voice of the Lord, and receive revelation with an enhanced capacity to feel how much our Father and His Son love you, care for you, and are ready to guide all who seek after Them.”
Other Devotional Speakers
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described the setting and circumstances surrounding the Christ Child’s nativity, “where truly, ‘the hopes and fears of all the years’ were met in ‘the dreams of Bethlehem’.”
Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy read letters from his father’s Christmas experiences during World War II, helping him learn that Jesus Christ—“The Prince of Peace”—“brought peace and joy and happiness to him in a world full of confusion and pain and suffering.”
Sister Becky Craven, second counselor of the Young Women general presidency, recounted personal experiences that taught her that gentle words, acts of compassion, and kindness can be like wrapping another in a warm, swaddling blanket (see “A Swaddle and a Heavenly Hug”).
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