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Lloyd D. Newell|Dec. 9, 2014 I am grateful to be with you on this cold December morning. I pray that the warmth of the Spirit will bless us that we might be edified during our few moments together. Today I want to talk with you about the greatest story ever told—and one of its less obvious but most important themes. You could probably recite much of this story by heart. It occupies little more than a page of scripture. It begins with the familiar duty of paying taxes. It continues with a journey that was not unusual for the time. The plot thickens when no room can be found “in the inns”;1 it culminates when the Son of God is born of Mary, “a precious and chosen” virgin.2 We know little about the real people and few details regarding the true events. And yet, no matter how many times we read the story of the first Christmas, there always seems to be something new we can learn from it. That is because, as prophets have taught, “the word of God is quick,” or living.3 It takes on fresh and deeper meaning whenever we are spiritually ready to receive it. Something that stands out to me in the account of the Savior’s birth is that on four separate occasions an angel appeared with the message “Fear not.” When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias with news that his wife would bear a son, the forerunner of the Messiah, he said, “Fear not, . . . for thy prayer is heard.”4 Later the same angel visited “beautiful and fair”5 Mary to tell her that she would be the mother of the Son of God, assuring her with similar words: “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.”6 Shortly thereafter an angel appeared to Joseph the carpenter in a dream and said, “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife.”7 And then, on that holy night, as all eternity watched in reverent silence, the angel came upon humble shepherds keeping watch over their flock. The shepherds, who “were sore afraid,”8 heard the angel proclaim, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”9 So much of what happened during those pivotal moments in the nativity narrative depended upon the courage of people like Zacharias, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. God had a monumental task for each of them; their lives were about to change forever. Imagine if they had let fear overcome them. What if they had pulled back, doubted, and failed to do what God needed them to do? This less obvious theme from the account of the first Christmas intrigues me because I, like you, have fears, and I need to be reminded at times to fear not. I don’t know what your fears are. Like Zacharias, who feared that he would never have children, you may have fears about your family. Or maybe your fear isn’t that you won’t have children but that you will have children, whom you will have to r
Scott E. Ferrin|Dec. 10, 2013 In conclusion, brothers and sisters—the Plausible Evasion Research Institute, an institute I made up, has found that “in conclusion” is the most welcome phrase for most audiences, after “there will be refreshments after this meeting.” So, in conclusion, I love Christmas and I love BYU devotionals. I am grateful to be with you, and my older siblings, graduates of BYU, are here, having traveled from Arizona and Idaho. They must have thought I was graduating today. I’m not saying my older siblings are old, but there were no history classes on campus when they attended, just current events. The deodorant Old Spice was then known as New Spice, and the Dead Sea was just mildly sick. Since my academic focus is education law, and since much of that discipline and practice is focused on protecting the rights and persons of children, I’d like to discuss what it means in the perfect economy of the Lord’s kingdom to become as a little child. I believe Christmas and the birth of the Christ child help us explore this concept. Becoming as a Little Child When our Heavenly Father wanted to save the world, He didn’t take over a country or develop a militia. He sent a helpless child to a choice and worthy woman and a humble and believing man living in insecure circumstances in a conquered land occupied by a hostile force. The harsh geopolitical and military circumstances of Christ’s birth should remind us that Heavenly Father can bless us even if the external circumstances of our lives aren’t necessarily easy or peaceful. Herod the Great ruled over that land, under Rome’s ultimate control. He was mighty and built magnificent monuments—at least one of which overshadowed the land when Christ was born, being visible in all directions for miles. We can’t help but contrast Herod’s mighty palace with the stable. If we knew for sure where the stable was, wouldn’t we wish to visit the site of that sacred birth? But who cares as much about anything Herod built, besides perhaps one or two of our learned faculty members? Most of us with a normal threshold for boredom ignore Herod. Christ is infinitely more important. We seek Christ’s words and probably have many of His words memorized. Well, not everyone does apparently, because I’m always surprised on Jeopardy when those brainiacs often seem to know nothing about the scriptures. We Mormons, in turn, are continually lost on the “Potent Potables” category. We celebrate and rejoice in the words and the happenings of Christ’s birth. Does anyone, even the most bookishly versant among us, celebrate the words or circumstances of Herod and his birth? The New Testament shows us something of the Christ child we celebrate at Christmas in the perfect young adult He has become. He hasn’t become full of Himself and self-important, careworn, and brusque. Although Isaiah described Him as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted wi
Bruce D. Porter|Dec. 9, 2008 Beloved students, faculty, and friends of Brigham Young University, you are a marvelous sight, and Susan and I are honored and full of gratitude to be with you today. We always feel tender feelings when we return to Brigham Young University, as this is where we met and were engaged. We met in a religion class called Your Religious Problems. I have forgotten many of the details of the class, but I do know that whatever my religious problem was, she solved it, and whatever her problem was, well, I hope I solved it too. In a very short while your final exams will end and you will return to family or friends for Christmas. In view of the approaching Yuletide season, I have chosen to share with you today a Christmas message, a message of hope and glad tidings, even my assurance and witness of the birth, life, and eternal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. More than 700 years before his birth, Isaiah prophesied of Christ in words memorialized by George Frideric Handel in the Messiah oratorio: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. [Isaiah 9:6] In this one concise sentence, Isaiah foretold Christ’s birth; His Second Coming; His millennial reign; and His eternal mission as the mighty God and Father of our salvation. Handel’s Messiah also brought to glorious musical life the following admonition, based on Isaiah: O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, . . . O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength: lift it up, be not afraid: say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! [Handel, “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion,” Messiah; see Isaiah 40:9] Brothers and sisters, join with me and behold your God! Behold your God, born as a little child in Bethlehem and wrapped in swaddling clothes. Behold your God, born in poverty and simplicity that He might walk among common people as a common man. Behold your God, even the infinite and eternal Redeemer, the Messiah, veiled in flesh and come to live upon the very earth that He created. Return with me to that sacred first Christmas in Bethlehem to contemplate the birth of our Lord. He came in the quiet of the night, in the meridian of time, He who was Immanuel, the Rod of Jesse, the Dayspring, the Key of David, the very Lord of Might. His birth marked the promised visitation of the Creator to earth, the condescension of God to man. As Isaiah wrote of the event: The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. [Isaiah 9:2] We know from modern revelation that Jesus was born on April 6, making it springtime in Judea when the anointed King of Israel came to earth. As Micah had prophes
Russell M. Nelson|Dec. 10, 2002 With Christmas only a fortnight away, thoughts turn to our homes and families. Sister Nelson and I enjoy many Christmas traditions. On our mantle over the fireplace we display a small framed photograph of each member of the family. With 10 children, their spouses, and 54 grandchildren, that’s quite a flock of photos. We have been doing this for so long that most of the pictures are no longer current. The children scramble to find their own pictures among the many. They also admire Sister Nelson’s large assortment of dolls collected from various countries throughout the world. Those dolls are nestled among the branches of our Christmas tree. Her cookies, cakes, and candies are always in great demand. And we love to read scriptures of the Christmas story with our family. Through all of our various Christmas traditions, I hope that we are focused first upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Wise men still adore Him. At this special devotional, many of you have come with a prayer in your hearts that you may learn from one of the Twelve Apostles more about our Lord and Master. We commemorate His humble birth at this time of year, even though we know it did not occur in December but more likely in April. Scriptures declare that His mother, Mary, was espoused to Joseph. They had participated in the first of two components of a Jewish marriage ceremony. Their espousal might be likened to an engagement in our culture, which is followed later by the second component of a marriage ceremony. Luke’s account records the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to Mary when she first learned of her favored future. I read from chapter 1: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured . . . : blessed art thou among women. . . . “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest.”1 (Note the capital S; capital H.) God is the Highest. Jesus was to be the Son of the Highest. “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”2 She knew of her virginal status. “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”3 Before Joseph and Mary came together, she was expecting that holy child. Joseph desired to protect her privacy,4 hoping to spare Mary the punishment given to a woman pregnant without a completed marriage. While he pondered these things, the Angel Gabriel appeared to Joseph, saying, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. “And she shall bri
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