RACE, RELIGION + SOCIAL JUSTICE

Church leaders urge remembrance of Christ this Christmas

Dec 4, 2023, 5:00 AM | Updated: 6:02 am

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sits between his cou...

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sits between his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring, at the First Presidency Christmas Devotional on Sunday. (Scott Winterton, Deseret News)

(Scott Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — President Russell M. Nelson, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, invited members to come and “adore” Christ at the annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional on Sunday.

“Just think about the incomprehensible magnitude of what Jesus Christ accomplished — all according to the will of his Father! Jesus was already a God when he condescended, to come to earth to complete the most crucial feat for each of us. A feat that was literally lifesaving and life changing,” he said.

President Nelson spoke in a previously recorded video message, though, he attended Sunday’s devotional. He said he has learned more about pain in the last few months and, in the process, his heart has been drawn to the Savior.

He said he cannot imagine or comprehend Christ’s suffering, that he took upon himself. We celebrate “the Babe of Bethlehem” because of his infinite sacrifice and resurrection, redeeming those who follow him and giving everyone the blessing of resurrection, President Nelson said.

He said each time a child is born it is a sacred event, sharing a video of one of his great-grandsons meeting a new baby brother.

“It is no wonder that on that most holy night more than 2,000 years ago, near the little town of Bethlehem, heavenly hosts sang for joy!” he said.

President Nelson said he prays members feel love from the Savior personally, gain a personal witness that Jesus is the Son of God, take advantage of the atonement through repentance, experience joy of thinking celestial and use the holiday season to increase personal worship.

“No one on this earth loves you as he does. No one here understands you better or really knows your sorrows and weaknesses. No one on earth has the power that Jesus Christ has. No one here is more eager for you to become everything you can become. No one pleads with the Father on your behalf as he does,” President Nelson said.

He encouraged members to “live in the spirit of ‘Hallelujah,'” praising Jehovah. The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square then sang the “Hallelujah Chorus” from the “Messiah.”

Sister Tracy Y. Browning, of the Primary General Presidency, said Christmas helps her remember and give attention to green trees, red flowers and berries. She encouraged members to remember Christ through various symbols of Christmas and traditions.

“One of the wonders of this season is that it seems the whole of the Christian world, and many beyond our borders, spend this duration of time purposefully looking for and filling their lives with emblems of remembrance at Christmas,” she said.

She encouraged members to look at stars, evergreen trees, scents of spices, lights and rejoicing; let those things remind them to give gifts of “worshipful sacrifice” to Christ, and direct their journeys towards him. She said parents and those who care for children can bring them the joy of Christ through Christmas.

“Our Savior gives gifts not as the world offers — temporary, partial and prone to erosion over time. Jesus Christ extends enduring gifts, even essential gifts,” Sister Browning said.

She said there is a special kind of love at Christmas, including the love of family traditions and a desire to be charitable, is an opportunity to center actions on Christ.

“Remembering God inspires us to ignite the power of our spiritual momentum and invites us to act in godly ways,” Sister Browning said.

Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy spoke about seeing Christmas celebrations around the world and said “Christmas is for everyone,” because God sent his son for everyone.

“Because the Savior was born, lived a sinless life, atoned for us, and was resurrected, each of us receives the great gift of resurrection from the dead. Not one soul who ever lived on the earth is deprived of this remarkable gift,” he said.

During the Christmas season, Elder Johnson said, members should consider gifts that help people come to know the Savior.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles expressed a hope that members would feel God’s love while celebrating Christmas.

“Often Christmas becomes Christmas when we quietly bring Christmas joy to others,” he said.

Elder Gong said some of the magic of Christmas is the ability to be an adult and a child at the same time through creating and re-creating memories and traditions.

He shared some of his family traditions including clothespin ornaments, nativities and creches, and reading “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Elder Gong put on a scarf and a top hat as he spoke about reading the book with his family, and invited members to picture him as the fateful Ebenezer Scrooge.

He said Dickens began writing the book in in October 1843, and by Christmas Eve that same year, the 6,000 copies printed were sold out. Elder Gong said the book addressed a yearning for friendship and Christian values.

“Then as now, Christmas celebrates covenant belonging, communion, and community in Jesus Christ and each other,” he said.

Elder Gong encouraged people to think of the Scrooge at the end of the book rather than the beginning — and do the same thing with neighbors and friends recognizing change. He said Christ can give freedom from ghosts of the past.

“May we grant each other our new possibilities instead of fixating on our past limitations. Let’s give the new Scrooge in each of us a chance to change,” he said.

Related: Where will Temple Square Christmas lights be located this year?

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Church leaders urge remembrance of Christ this Christmas