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The hope of Christmas

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Amid the headlines of political intrigues, Obamacare, scandals, and concerns about the economy, NSA spying, drones flying around US territory, and Homeland Security arming itself to fight a civil war, one of the blessings of the Christmas season is the chance to recover hope for the future. How can hope come to us with all that is wrong in the world, we ask? There is poverty, crime, racial injustice, racial violence, widespread unemployment, and all sorts of bad things which demand our attentions. How can we set those concerns aside and rejuvenate our sense of hope?

The Christmas season gives us an opportunity to reflect and a reason to give of ourselves. When we look past the surface trappings of the holidays and consider the reason for these festivities, we can connect with something very comforting and healing. In an obscure village in Israel 20 centuries ago, an angel came to a young woman named Mary and told her she would be the means by which God would bring forth the greatest miracle that ever occurred. She would bring forth the Only Begotten of the Eternal Father. Jehovah, the Creator himself would condescend to become a mortal and go through the same experience as the rest of us. He would become subject to death, illness, hardship, hunger, poverty, disappointment, rejection, ridicule, scorn, prejudice, and pain. He would be given the name Jesus. Angels appeared to many, including some simple shepherds to announce his birth.

It is marvelous for us to consider the almost incomprehensible idea that the very God of Creation played in the dusty streets of Nazareth as a young child. His family would marvel at the arrival of noble visitors from the East who would pay royal honors to the young child. An evil king would order the deaths of innocent babes in an attempt to prevent the newborn King of kings from ever posing a threat to his regime. Angels would warn his mortal parents to take him and flee to Egypt to save him and tell them when it was safe to return again.

The message of Christ's birth teaches us that God has chosen the “weak things of the world” to break down the mighty and strong ones (Doctrine and Covenants 1:19). It teaches us that God overcomes power with gentleness and meekness. It tells us that humble, obedient goodness can prevail against worldly power and corruption. It tells us that, when things look dark for those who cling to their faith, we can trust in an inner light that others simply can't see. The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi exhorted believers:

“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20).

Our family experienced a grave trial several years ago that robbed us of hope for a time. As the experience dragged on, the holidays approached and, honestly, we did not feel very bright and hopeful. We had a missing family member whose absence dominated our thoughts. In the days before Christmas, we made a resolve to set aside our pain and our grief and to focus on the meaning of the season. We had little to spend on presents, but we were safe and healthy. On Christmas Eve, we spent time contemplating the promises that come to us because of Christ's birth, teachings, and his atonement. We watched a musical version of the classic story, “A Christmas Carol,” and we enjoyed a Christmas special by Faith Hill.

During the Faith Hill program, she sang the song “A Baby Changes Everything.” It touched our hearts deeply and it seemed to open us up to the healing power of God's love. Despite a time of relative sorrow and distress, we felt comfort and peace. We knew things would work out. We didn't know how, but we knew it would. It took a couple of years, but everything did eventually come to a wonderful ending. That Christmas, the Spirit of the Lord gave us a wonderful gift of personal peace. Ever since that time, Christmas has been more special and sacred to us.

This holiday season, if you are plagued with oppressive thoughts and hardships weigh you down, there is peace that can come to you. Christmas doesn't have to come from a store. It doesn't have to be perfectly organized and planned. It doesn't have to be a lot of work. It can bring you renewed hope and profound peace. Christmas is the story of God loving the world so much that he gave us his Only Begotten Son to share this experience. Because Jesus was God-become-man, his empathy is perfect. His power to understand mortal suffering is infinite. The hands that healed the blind and the lame can heal troubled hearts. That peace can come if we will simply turn to him and reflect upon the meaning of what his birth means to the world. We can trust him because he has walked where we walk and felt what we feel. This is the power of the Christmas message—the Creator himself descended from his heavenly throne and walked among us, suffered, died, and rose again so he might extend mercy and salvation to us.

As we enter the home stretch of the Christmas holidays, we latter-day saints humbly proclaim our faith in the reality of the birth, life, and mission of Jesus Christ, that he lives today, and that he can touch each one of us personally and answer the needs of our hearts, especially during this time of year.

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