Joy, Hope, Love, and Peace of Christmas
Early in our marriage, Greg and I took a trip to Acapulco, Mexico. I wanted a
souvenir and selected a nativity scene. The figures had faces of children. Their
clothing was plain, white, and bordered with gold paint. The crŤche scene
included Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus, with a manger, donkey, cow, and sheep.
The one nativity set led to many gifts of nativity sets with various textures
and designs. Some were from my parentsí travels. My twin sister started a set
made by embroidery just before her death at age thirty-seven. Family members
arranged its completion as a memorial to Lindaís life and giftedness. I received
other nativities made from wood, cloth, pottery, resin, and crystal. Each gift
was precious because it came from someone special.
Our family Christmas rituals included displaying the collections. The various
nativity settings blended the different stories of Jesusí birth from Matthew 2
and Luke 2. The Gospel of Matthew tells of the star and the wise men. Lukeís
Gospel records singing angels and the simplicity of shepherds responding to the
ďgood news of great joy that will be for all the people.Ē
The past several Christmas seasons, I pondered why the nativity experience was
such a big part of our family decorations. I grieved over how Christmas is more
about gift giving than the biblical story. I read and studied the Gospel stories
of Jesusí birth, life, and resurrection. Because of this intentional study, the
nativity depictions became only one expression of Godís glorious messages
expressed through the entire life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Beginning with the birth of Jesus, the Gospel stories contribute to our
understanding of the ďjoy, hope, love, and peaceĒ promised through Godís reign
among us. Godís gift of this precious life is simply the beginning of a greater
story. Similarly, we experience great joy when new life comes into our families.
Whether this precious life comes through birth, adoption, foster care, or union
with another parent with children, each life is an expression of Godís joyful
joining with human parents to raise faithful disciples for Jesus. Together, and
through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we strive to match Godís love and joy
for each individual life.
Because Jesus came as an infant, we have hope. Our infant-like understandings of
Godís love for each person have the potential to grow and mature. For us, hope
occurs when we share insights with one another, explore scriptural guidance, and
prayerfully engage in intentional meditation and spiritual practices. Through
these disciplines, we hear and recognize Godís directions and
our contributions to Godís promises.
Jesusí birth and temple blessing brought peace to Simeon and the prophetess
Anna. The blessings of insight through the Holy Spirit allowed Anna and Simeon
to recognize the infant Jesus as the promised Savior. We share in the blessings
of peace when we align our lives with Godís direction. Doctrine and Covenants
156:5a directs us to the pursuit of peace. When we listen, reconcile, and
forgive each otherís sin and failures we are contributing to the peaceable cause
When we move beyond the nativity, we recognize Jesusí life as an expression of
love. He expressed love through care for the poor, needy, and neglected outcasts
of society. He invited all to come and learn of Godís infinite love and grace.
Our contribution to Godís shared love comes from recent spiritual guidance and
the ďcall [for] the entire church to become a sanctuary of Christís peace, where
people...can be gathered into a spiritual home without dividing walls, as a
fulfillment of the vision for which Jesus Christ sacrificed his lifeĒ (D. and C.
Our challenge this Advent season is to see beyond the simplicity of nativity
scenes. Celebrate Jesusí birth and discover anew the greater meaning of Christís
ministry. Then consider and respond to the challenge to be faithful disciples.
The First Presidency
December Herald 2008