From the start of December almost through to it’s end, we find our thoughts turning more and more to that supernal gift given us through the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
It is a time when the hearts of people in general are softened, and the spirit of love and charity seems to be more prevalent than at any other time of year. It is a time when the Christian world remembers the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. It is a time when we remember that we have been given a gift most precious. A gift that has set us free - free from physical death and, if we heed His counsel, freedom from spiritual death as well.
We celebrate the gift of His birth, but this is only the beginning of a gift that would take thirty-three years to mature in its offering. Some gifts are given to express love, appreciation, and gratitude, while others are given to provide solace, protection and even rescue from an impossible situation. The Saviour’s gift is a gift of pure love which provides us with solace, protection and rescue. It is given willingly and without any expectation of anything in return.
The earthly preparation of this gift started in the lives of His parents. Joseph and Mary, a young couple engaged to be married, each receive a unique call to serve in a way which few will ever experience.
The angel Gabriel is sent forth from heaven to extend a call to Mary to serve as no other young woman has ever been called to serve. I have marvelled how Mary, not much older than the young women in our wards and branches, was willing to accept a call of such magnitude, with all the associated social implications. And once having understood the call, demonstrates her faith with the simple answer “behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”1 Mary willingly gives herself to serve the Lord whom she would yet come to know.
Joseph, still without any heavenly clarification, learns of Mary’s condition and demonstrates that he’s a kind and just man. Not willing to make a public example of Mary as the law allowed, he was “minded to put her away privily.” Only then does he learn, through an angel, that the son Mary carries is Jesus, conceived of the Holy Ghost.2 Willingly Joseph accepts his role as the foster father of the Son of God.
As a father I have often wondered about Joseph’s life and the position he found himself in at that time. I’ve marvelled at how worthy he must have been to be called in this way. It was Joseph who was selected from among all men who would teach Jesus to work. Who would help him get to know the scriptures. And, who, in the confines of his workshop, helped Him begin to understand who He was, and ultimately what He was to become.
This Gift born into the world was prepared and nurtured for thirty years by parents who willing accepted the call to give of themselves in every way. They got to understand, sometimes in difficult circumstances 3 that they, while integral to his growth and development, were just his earthly parents, for He was and is the Son of God.
I’ve often wondered how Heavenly Father felt as He watched over the preparation of His Son for His ultimate mission. I recall how we felt as parents when we gave our sons to the world to serve the Lord. How we trusted the Lord that He would ensure they were protected, and they were!
Yet Father in Heaven knew that He would be allowing His Son to come into a world which would shun and mock Him, where those of His creation would take of the materials of the earth, the very creation which was His, and scourge Him over and over again until eventually they would crucify Him
As we consider the gift which has been given to us, a gift given with no expectation of anything in return, let us consider how we can show our gratitude for what we’ve received by demonstrating our willingness to serve the Lord, to follow His example and to strive to live as He did.
This Christmas, let us take the time to seek out a forgotten friend. To dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. To write a letter. To manifest our loyalty to the Lord in word and deed. To give a soft answer. To keep a promise. To forgo a grudge. To forgive an enemy. To apologise to a loved one.
As we follow the Saviour with full purpose of heart, His promise to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well will be fulfilled in our own lives: 'Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.' 4
I pray that our spiritual thirst may be quenched by the living water of the Saviour, and that He may become and remain our focal point this Christmas season, and always. That we may learn to give as He has given.
I testify that He lives today, now the risen Lord, and that He and our Eternal Father love and care for each of us in a sacred and personal way.
1. Luke 1:26 - 42
2. Matthew 1:19-21
3. Luke 2:40-52