Saturday, December 24, 2011

Peace I Leave with You

As I've pulled together thoughts and quotes this month, I saved one of my favorites for last...

"Christmas is more than trees and twinkling lights, more than toys and gifts and baubles of a hundred varieties. It is love. It is the love of the Son of God for all mankind. It reaches out beyond our power to comprehend. It is magnificent and beautiful.

It is peace. It is the peace which comforts, which sustains, which blesses all who accept it.

It is faith. It is faith in God and His Eternal Son. It is faith in His wondrous ways and message. It is faith in Him as our Redeemer and our Lord.

We testify of His living reality. We testify of the divinity of His nature. In our times of grateful meditation, we acknowledge His priceless gift to us and pledge our love and faith. This is what Christmas is really about.
Luke 1:79).

To each of you we extend our love and blessing. May you, wherever you may be across the world, have a wonderful Christmas. May there be peace and love and kindness in your homes. May you husbands smile with love upon your wives. May you wives know the sweet joy of being loved and honored and respected and looked up to. May your children be happy and filled with that indescribable magic which is the spirit of Christmas. May those of you who are single find sweet companionship in the knowledge that you are not alone, that Jesus stands as your friend. He came “to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace”
John 14:1).

To each of you we extend our love and blessing. May it be a happy and wonderful season. We leave a blessing upon you, a blessing of Christmas, that you may be happy. May even those whose hearts are heavy rise with the healing which comes alone from Him who comforts and reassures. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me”

So said He in His hour of great tribulation: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27)."
In the spirit of that great promise and gift, may we all rejoice this blessed Christmas season.

To read the full article, go to Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Season for Gratitude,” Ensign, Dec 1997, 2

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas & the Restoration

"He was the lowly babe who came to earth in the meridian of time and brought to us the gift of Christmas. He was the Resurrection and the Life, who brought to us the wonder of Easter. And it was He who in this most glorious of dispensations was introduced to the boy Joseph by His Father, the Almighty Elohim, the God of the universe. And this same Joseph has become the preeminent witness of His living reality in this season of earth’s history.

"Some years ago I was assigned to the Rochester New York Stake conference. On Saturday I said to the brethren who were with me, “Let us get up early in the morning, early Sunday morning, and go to the Sacred Grove before the conference.” They all agreed. Accordingly, very early on that spring Sabbath, the mission president, the stake president, the regional representative, and I went out to Palmyra and walked into the grove. No one else was there. It was peaceful and beautiful. It had rained during the night. Tiny new leaves were upon the trees.

"We spoke quietly one to another. We knelt upon the damp ground and prayed. We did not hear an audible voice. We did not see a vision. But in an indefinable way we were told in our minds, each of us, that yes, it happened here just as Joseph said it happened. It was here that God our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, appeared to the 14-year-old boy and spoke with him. Their matchless light rested upon him, and he was instructed in what he should do.

"That sublime occasion, the First Vision, parted the curtains through which came the restoration to earth of the Church of Christ. It came out of the wilderness of darkness, out of the bleakness of ages past into the glorious dawn of a new day. The Book of Mormon followed as another witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. His holy supernal priesthood was restored under the hands of those who held it anciently. Keys and powers were bestowed upon the Prophet and his associates. The ancient Church was again upon the earth with all of the blessings, powers, doctrines, keys, and principles of previous dispensations. It is His Church. It carries His name. It is governed by His priesthood. There is no other name under heaven by which men must be saved. Joseph Smith, whose birthday we also commemorate at this season, became His great testator.

"Declared the Prophet, without equivocation, without uncertainty, but with the confirmation that came of actual experience:

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father — That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).

"And so at this glad season we lift our voices and sing, “Glory to God, glory to God, glory to God in the highest; peace on earth, goodwill toward men” (“Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains,” Hymns, no. 212)."

So today, amidst the spirit of Christmas, we also celebrate the birth of Joseph Smith. In D&C 135:3 it says “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it”.

To read the full article, go to Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and James E. Faust, “First Presidency Christmas Devotional: ‘My Redeemer Lives’,” Ensign, Feb 2001, 70–73

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas means...

"I ask anew the question offered by Pilate two thousand years ago, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” (Matt. 27:22.) Indeed, we need continually to ask ourselves, What shall we do with Jesus who is called Christ? What shall we do with his teachings, and how can we make them an inseparable part of our lives? In light of these questions, at this season we ask another: What does Christmas really mean?"

"Christmas means giving. The Father gave his Son, and the Son gave his life. Without giving there is no true Christmas, and without sacrifice there is no true worship. There is more to Christmas than neckties, earrings, toys, and all the tinseled stuff of which we make so much."

"Christmas means the Christ child, the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger while angels sang and wise men traveled far to bring gifts. It is a beautiful and timeless story, and I hope each of us will read it again this season. "

"Christmas means eternity. As certainly as Christ came into the world, lived among men, laid down his life, and became the first fruits of the resurrection, so, through that atonement, all become partakers of immortality. Death will come, but death has been robbed of its sting, and the grave of its victory. “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: “And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:25–26.)

"This is our testimony to all mankind. It is our gift and blessing to the world. He is our joy and our salvation, and we will find Christmas of greater meaning in our own lives as we share these truths with others."

"What shall we do with Jesus who is called Christ? Learn of him. Search the scriptures for they are they which testify of him. Ponder the miracle of his life and mission. Try a little more diligently to follow his example and observe his teachings. Bring the Christ back into Christmas."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

True Essence of Christmas

"I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal, Living God. None so great has ever walked the earth. None other has made a comparable sacrifice or granted a comparable blessing. He is the Savior and the Redeemer of the world. I believe in Him. I declare His divinity without equivocation or compromise. I love Him. I speak His name in reverence and wonder. I worship Him as I worship His Father, in spirit and in truth. I thank Him and kneel before His Beloved Son who reached out long ago and said to each of us, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28)."

"For each of you may this be a merry Christmas. But more importantly, I wish for each of you a time, perhaps only an hour, spent in silent meditation and quiet reflection on the wonder and the majesty of this, the Son of God. Our joy at this season is because He came into the world. The peace that comes from Him, His infinite love which each of us may feel, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for that which He freely gave us at so great a cost to Himself—these are of the true essence of Christmas."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Spirit of Christ

President David O. McKay (1873–1970) declared: “True happiness comes only by making others happy—the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it. In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service.

“It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.”

"Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than things. To catch the real meaning of the “spirit of Christmas,” we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the “Spirit of Christ.”

To read the full article, go to Thomas S. Monson, “The Best Christmas Ever,” Liahona, Dec 2008, 2–6

Monday, December 19, 2011

In Thy Tender Care

Away in a Manger (3rd Verse)

"Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with thee there."

"Because of Jesus Christ the world has changed—the divine Atonement has been made, the price of sin has been paid, and the fearful spectacle of death yields to the light of truth and the assurance of resurrection. Though the years roll by, His birth, His ministry, His legacy continue to guide the destiny of all who follow Him as He so invitingly urged."

"Children are born each day—even each hour—to mothers who have, with their hand in God’s hand, entered the valley of the shadow of death, that they might bring forth a son, a daughter, to grace a family, a home, and in a way a portion of the earth."

"Those precious days of infancy bond mother and father to son or daughter. Every smile is noted, every fear comforted, every hunger abated. Step by step the child grows."

"Let us earnestly follow His direction: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

For ideas on how to teach your family about the symbolism and true spirit of Christmas, go to Lesson Thirty-seven: “Come Let Us Adore Him”, Family Home Evening Resource Book, (1997),156

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Dear Christ Enters In

I truly struggled with the topic for this morning's post... I felt lost as I searched through talks, quotes and scriptures and didn't know what to choose. Then I realized I kept bumping into the lyrics and music of one of my favorite Christmas hymns, "O Little Town of Bethlehem". As I read the words more closely and continued to think about it, the words on the page jumped out at me and I realized what an amazing message this song was sharing and immediately thought of the picture above.

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

In a revelation given to the Apostle John, Jesus said, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him" (Acts 3:20).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Promised Messiah

"With the birth of the babe in Bethlehem, there emerged a great endowment—a power stronger than weapons, a wealth more lasting than the coins of Caesar. This child was to become the King of kings and Lord of lords, the promised Messiah—Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

"Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, He came forth from heaven to live on earth as mortal man and to establish the kingdom of God. During His earthly ministry, He taught men the higher law. His glorious gospel reshaped the thinking of the world. He blessed the sick. He caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear. He even raised the dead to life. To us He has said, “Come, follow me.”

"As we seek Christ, as we find Him, as we follow Him, we shall have the Christmas spirit, not for one fleeting day each year, but as a companion always. We shall learn to forget ourselves. We shall turn our thoughts to the greater benefit of others."

Friday, December 16, 2011

A New Star Arise

Helaman 14:5-8

5 And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.

6 And behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven.

7 And it shall come to pass that ye shall all be amazed, and wonder, insomuch that ye shall fall to the earth.

8 And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall believe on the Son of God, the same shall have everlasting life.

"To the people of all nations we extend our love and greetings this holy season. We proclaim that the babe born in Bethlehem nearly two thousand years ago was indeed the Christ, the Savior of all mankind. In him all humankind, past, present, and future, have hope. In him can be found the personal peace that eludes so much of the world.

The events that began in Bethlehem and ended in Jerusalem are the focal point of all history. The humble birth we commemorate was prelude to the awesome events of Gethsemane and Calvary, and Christmas takes on its deepest meaning when we recall that the ministry that began in a stable ended with an empty tomb.

The proper celebration of Christmas is a joyous expression of thanks to God for the marvelous gift of his Only Begotten Son. The season’s hymns and carols are a continuing echo of the angelic anthems heard by the shepherds.

We join with Nephi, the prophet of old, in proclaiming that “we rejoice in Christ.” (2 Ne. 25:26.) The righteous of ancient times looked forward to His coming with faith and hope. We look back on his mortal ministry with humble gratitude. And we, too, look forward with hope and faith to the time when He shall return again.

We pray that all may seek the peace that is to be found in Christ; that all may look beyond the merchandising and socializing to the One whose birth we celebrate. Among the many lands where Christmas is celebrated, there are a great variety of holiday traditions. We would encourage a tradition of worshiping the Savior through loving service to fellowmen. May the kindness, forgiveness, and personal righteousness demonstrated by the Savior be manifest in the lives of countless people throughout the world. For, just as Bethlehem’s bright star guided the Wise Men to the Savior, Christlike lives today can be a bright beacon to the many who do not yet know of their Redeemer.

That all may find the hope and peace that come through Jesus Christ is our fervent prayer this Christmas season and always."

“First Presidency Christmas Message,” Tambuli, Dec 1984, 1

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Light of the World

"Have you ever wondered why the Lord chose to accomplish His mortal ministry in the exact location that He did? He created the earth. In His divine role, He could have selected any portion of this bounteous planet to accomplish His mission. He could have selected the beautiful islands of the sea with their lush vegetation and breathtaking beauty. He could have chosen the scenery of Switzerland or Scandinavia, or He could have preferred to walk upon the acres of Africa or Australia.

Instead, He selected the land with places stark and arid, but made holy by His presence there. He did so for many reasons, including His desire to teach with geographical visual aids, and to fulfill scripture.

After millennia of preparation, the long awaited event occurred. Christ was born among men. No wonder angelic choirs sang as they knew that extended centuries of death and darkness were to be relieved by the Atonement, which was finally to come through this Babe of Bethlehem.

Why Bethlehem? Is there symbolic significance in the meaning of the name Bethlehem, which in Hebrew means “house of bread”? The Great Provider declared Himself to be the “bread of life.” (See John 6:48.) How appropriate it was that He, the “bread of life,” was to come from the “house of bread.”

But why among the animals? He, whom John declared to be the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29), was born during the season of Passover amongst the animals, as were other lambs being prepared for Paschal sacrifice.

At the birth of Him who is called the “good shepherd” (John 10:14), shepherds were the first to receive the announcement of His holy birth (see Luke 2:8–16).

At the birth of Him who once identified Himself as the “bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16), a new star appeared in the heavens (see Matt. 2:2; 3 Ne. 1:21). Shining brightly over Bethlehem, that star had been placed in orbit far in advance of the foretold event in order that its light could coincide in time and place with His blessed birth.

At the arrival of Him who is called “the light of the world” (John 8:12), darkness was banished as a sign of His holy birth (see 3 Ne. 1:15, 19). He was born the Son of God and the son of a virgin mother, as foretold by Isaiah (see Isa. 7:14) and other prophets." (See 1 Ne. 11:13–21; Alma 7:9–10.)

To read this full article, go to Russell M. Nelson, “Why This Holy Land?,” Ensign, Dec 1989, 13

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

No Room in the Inn

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

"To better understand this verse, we need to be aware of the culture of that time and region, and we need to learn one word from the original Greek text. In the Greek New Testament, the root from which inn was translated is kataluma. We don’t have an equivalent word in the English language. The Greek prefix kata- (or cata-) means “a bringing down.” We see it in English words such as catastrophe and cataclysm. When the prefix kata- was joined with the suffix -luma, it meant literally “a breaking down of a journey.” A kataluma was a place to rest or to lodge, or a guest chamber in a lodging place.

"In those days an inn was not like a Holiday Inn or a Bethlehem Marriott. A lodging place in that part of Asia had to provide accommodations for traveling caravans, including the people and their animals. Caravans stayed at what was then, as still is, known as a caravansary, or a khan.

"Such a facility is typically rectangular in shape. It has a central courtyard for the animals that is surrounded by walled cubicles where the people rest. These quarters allowed guests to be elevated slightly above their animals, with open doorways so that owners could watch over their animals.

"The Joseph Smith Translation of Luke 2:7 indicates that there was no room for them in the “inns,” suggesting that all of the katalumas or cubicles of the caravansary were occupied.

"At a caravansary, animals were secured for the night in the center courtyard. In that courtyard there would have been donkeys and dogs, sheep, and possibly camels and oxen, along with all of the animals’ discharges and odors. Because the guest chambers surrounding the courtyard were filled, Joseph possibly made the decision to care for Mary’s delivery in the center courtyard of a caravansary—among the animals. There, in that lowly circumstance, the Lamb of God was born.

"Why was reference made twice in Luke 2 to His being wrapped in swaddling clothes? I sense a significance beyond the use of an ordinary diaper and receiving blanket.

"Instead of those four words: “wrapped in swaddling clothes” in the English text, only one word is needed in the Greek New Testament. That word is sparganoo, which means to envelop a newborn child with special cloth, strips of which were passed from side to side. The cloth would probably bear unique family identification. That procedure was especially applicable to the birth of a firstborn son.

"You remember the announcement of an angel at the birth of Jesus: “This shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). His wrappings surely would have been distinctive.

"What about the manger? The French word, manger means “to eat.” A manger is a trough or an open box in a stable designed to hold feed, provender, or fodder for animals to eat. Elevated from the floor of the contaminated courtyard, a manger was probably the cleanest site available. Such a feeding trough became the cradle for our Lord!

"Now, two millennia later, though we don’t know all the details pertaining to His birth, we certainly understand the unique parentage of this Babe of Bethlehem. We declare solemnly and with conviction: Jesus was born of an immortal Father and a mortal mother. From His immortal Father, Jesus inherited the power to live forever. From His mortal mother He inherited the fate of physical death.

"Our recollections of Christmas are enriched by these realities. Each one of us with a testimony of the Lord has the privilege in faith to know of His divine parentage and to testify that Jesus is the Son of the living God.

"Jesus descended below all things in order to rise above all things. He expects us to follow His example. Yoked with Him, we can rise above all challenges, no matter how difficult they may be.

"As a special witness of His holy name, I testify that Jesus is the divine Son of the living God. He will love you, lift you, and manifest Himself unto you if you will love Him and keep His commandments."

To read the full article, go to Russell M. Nelson, “Christ the Savior Is Born,” NewEra, Dec 2006, 2–5

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Highly Favored of the Lord

"Many prophets had known of Mary’s vital role in the plan of salvation. Her mission had been recorded throughout ancient scripture. (See Isa. 7:14; 1 Ne. 11:13–20; Mosiah 3:8; Alma 7:10.)

From the angel Gabriel, who was sent from God to declare glad tidings to her, Mary learned that she was the one to fulfill these ancient prophecies.

The angelic messenger declared, “Hail, thou virgin, who art highly favored of the Lord. The Lord is with thee, for thou art chosen and blessed among women” (JST, Luke 1:28).

Following the announcement, Mary had a simple inquiry: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34). Mary’s question was not one of reticence or doubt. She was sincerely curious about how this was to be, for she was an espoused virgin. Before the angel’s visit, Mary had become espoused to Joseph the carpenter. According to the Jewish custom, this meant only that Mary and Joseph had participated in an espousal ceremony (also known as a “betrothal” or “making sacred the bride”). It was similar to being engaged to be married.

To Mary’s question, the angel answered, “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” (Luke 1:35).

From this angelic messenger, Mary learned that she was to be the mother of the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. The Child would inherit the physical, mental, and spiritual traits of his parents—one, the glorified God; the other, a worthy, blessed mortal woman.

After receiving the angel’s message, Mary, in complete obedience, replied, “Be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). In humbly accepting this opportunity of motherhood, Mary shows the obedience of a true disciple."

As I read that passage about Mary, I stopped to think how amazing she must have been as a person, a woman and as a child of God to be chosen to be the mother of our Savoir. What an incredible responsibility placed on her. We too have immense responsiblity as mothers today. I have always felt and believed with my whole heart that motherhood is a divine calling. One of my most favorite talks on motherhood was given by the General Relief Society Presidnt Julie B. Beck last year. She said...

"In the Book of Mormon we read about 2,000 exemplary young men who were exceedingly valiant, courageous, and strong. “Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” (Alma 53:21). These faithful young men paid tribute to their mothers. They said, “Our mothers knew it” (Alma 56:48). I would suspect that the mothers of Captain Moroni, Mosiah, Mormon, and other great leaders also knew.

"The responsibility mothers have today has never required more vigilance. More than at any time in the history of the world, we need mothers who know. Children are being born into a world where they “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). However, mothers need not fear. When mothers know who they are and who God is and have made covenants with Him, they will have great power and influence for good on their children.

"Who will prepare this righteous generation of sons and daughters? Latter-day Saint women will do this—women who know and love the Lord and bear testimony of Him, women who are strong and immovable and who do not give up during difficult and discouraging times. We are led by an inspired prophet of God who has called upon the women of the Church to “stand strong and immovable for that which is correct and proper under the plan of the Lord.” He has asked us to “begin in [our] own homes” to teach children the ways of truth. Latter-day Saint women should be the very best in the world at upholding, nurturing, and protecting families. I have every confidence that our women will do this and will come to be known as mothers who “knew” (Alma 56:48)."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Twelve Witnesses of Christ's Birth

"In the nation of Christ’s birth, the testimony of his coming went forth in ever-widening circles—especially among those blameless in keeping the commandments and ordinances of the Lord and filled with the Holy Ghost.
"Gospel writers Matthew and Luke, for example, describe twelve witnesses to the Nativity. Although their individual testimonies are remarkable, their collective testimony constitutes a powerful witness of Christ’s birth. As their stories unfold, every appropriate element appears in its proper place, which is all the more remarkable since the two writers each tell different parts of the story.

"The nativity story begins with an angelic announcement within the temple’s Holy Place to a priest whose prayers on behalf of his nation have just implored for that very event. With equal propriety, it ends with the announcement of Herod’s evil designs upon the Christ child’s life. Within the story, we see the heavens opened to priest and layman, to man and woman, to old and young, to the mighty and to the humble. We see each called to be an important witness to this, the most beautiful of stories ever told. "
Witnesses: Gabriel, Zacharias, Elisabeth, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, The Shepherds, The Heavenly Choir, Simeon, Anna, The Wise Men from the East, and Herod

To learn and read about these 12 special witnesses, go to Joseph Fielding McConkie, “Twelve Witnesses of Christ’s Birth,” Ensign, Dec 1990, 7

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Centuries of Prophecy

"There is more to the Christmas story than the transcendent miracles of a new star in the sky and the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem. These marvelous occurrences were the culmination of centuries of prophecy and testimony from prophets of God. Without these prophecies, many may feel justified in not believing these miraculous events. But we have been given many witnesses of the birth, life, and mission of the Savior from prophets in every dispensation. Sacred records give us the prophecies of thousands of years—not only of the first coming of our Savior, but also of the Second Coming—a glorious day that will certainly, most assuredly, come.

Just as Isaiah prophicied, so did Samuel the Lamanite in Ancient America. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Samuel talks of signs in the heavens five years before Christ is born. In Helaman 14:2-4 it reads...

2 And behold, he said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name.
3 And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.
4 Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.

"The prophecies of Christ’s first coming were fulfilled “every whit.” As a result, many throughout the world believe that the Savior did come and did live in the meridian of time. But there are still many, many prophecies yet to be fulfilled! We hear living prophets prophesy and testify of Christ’s Second Coming. They also witness of the signs and wonders all about us, telling us that Christ will surely come again."

To read the full article, go to Robert D. Hales, “Finding Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Liahona, Dec 2007, 12–16

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Isaiah Prophesies of Christ's Birth

I believe the nativity began long before the donkey and the manger; long before Caesar's infamous decree and long before Mary was even born. I like to think it began eons before when prophets of old began prophesying of his coming.

The first prophet that comes to my mind is Isaiah. He prophesied of Christ's birth in Isaiah 7:14 more than 500 years before His birth. It says, "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."

Isaiah also declared, "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), and that He would rule over all the earth (Isaiah 9:7).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Most Priceless Knowledge

"Christmas is such a joyful time. I remember those happy Christmas traditions in the home of my parents. What joy was ours at Christmas time with our noble parents and their eleven children.

When our own family was growing up, my wife, Flora, and the children would decorate our home with holly and pine boughs and then bake delicious cakes and cookies. The spirit of love and giving seemed to abound.

I hope your homes reflect that same joy.

But I also hope that the commemoration of the Christmas season is more than just a tradition in your homes. I hope it reflects your deep abiding testimony of the divinity of our Savior’s birth and mission. And I hope that the sweet peace you feel during this season will cause you to be ever more committed to live his teachings and thereby demonstrate your love and allegiance to him.

As a special witness of our Lord Jesus Christ, I bear my testimony that he whose birth we commemorate at this special season is our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Lord.

Not only was he born in a humble setting in Bethlehem and crucified on a cross on Golgotha, but on the third day he arose from the grave. Today he lives! Of that I personally testify. I know it. He is close to this Church and to his servants.

The knowledge that he lives is the most priceless knowledge in the world."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Perfect Gift

Gift giving is such a huge part of the holiday season. My mother is famous for searching high and low to get everyone on her list (young and old, relative or neighbor) the perfect gift. Not only does she pick the gift she feels the receiver will enjoy the most, she carefully picks through all the items to make sure she buys the best one in the stack! This habit of hers has been the topic of teasing over the years, but as I was writing this post, I started really thinking about "giving the perfect gift". And, what gift can we give Christ?

In a quiet family setting, have each member write on a piece of paper a gift or promise they'd like to give to the Savior. Have everyone put their paper in a small box that is then wrapped beautifully and placed in a special spot under the tree as a reminder of our gift. Maybe you open it on Christmas morning and read the gifts everyone is giving the Savior, or maybe it stays wrapped throughout the year as a reminder of those sacred promises. Maybe that small box is displayed with your Nativity. This year for our family, we will be writing our promises on a small sheet of paper and enclosing them in a glass ornament that we'll each hang on the tree.

"Beyond the excitement of unwrapping presents and the excited chatter of families are deeper feelings of gratitude because of Him whose birthday we celebrate each Christmas season. When in a quiet moment we think of the humble circumstances associated with Jesus’ birth and of His life and teachings, we remember that the gifts of the Spirit are the most important ones of all. For it was the Savior Himself who set the supreme example of giving. He permitted His life to be sacrificed so that everyone, no matter who they are, will have an opportunity to return to our Heavenly Father if they live good lives and are obedient to Jesus’ teachings. What a magnificent and generous gift! If we would give a worthy gift to the Savior, none would be more acceptable than our effort to be like Him."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Most Important Holiday Known to Man

The familiar family traditions that we all look forward to at Christmastime are important to the overall celebration of this special holiday. I love the secular traditions, yet still understand the vaste importance of the religious ones. So, when I came across the following article, I fell in love with these two quotes:

“Of all holidays there is none that enters so fully into the human heart, and stirs so many of the higher sentiments. The thoughts, memories, hopes, and customs linked with it are bound by antiquity and nationality collectively; and by childhood and old age individually. They embrace the religious, social, and patriotic sides of our nature. The holly and mistletoe entwined among the evergreens, the habit of giving gifts to those we love, the presence of the Christmas tree, the superstition of Santa Claus, all combining to make Christmas the most longed-for, the most universal, and from every standpoint, the most important holiday known to man” (Clarence Baird, “The Spirit of Christmas,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1919, 154).

"If you desire to find the true spirit of Christmas and partake of the sweetness of it, let me make this suggestion to you. During the hurry of the festive occasion of this Christmas season, find time to turn your heart to God. Perhaps in the quiet hours, and in a quiet place, and on your knees—alone or with loved ones—give thanks for the good things that have come to you, and ask that His Spirit might dwell in you as you earnestly strive to serve Him and keep His commandments. He will take you by the hand and His promises will be kept."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

They Came With Haste

Luke 2:15-16
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

Referencing the scripture above, President Monson said, "Did these shepherds, personally invited to undertake a search for the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, concern themselves with the security of their possessions? Did they procrastinate their search for Christ? The record affirms that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem. … And they came with haste.”

I love that President Monson points particularly to the word "haste." The shepherds did not delay, they didn't say they'd go tomorrow or next week or when the weather was nicer or when their shift was over... they went to Bethlehem with haste. It was a sweet reminder to me that I should follow their example and act with haste to personal promptings, as well as to the things I know I should already be doing to spread the Gospel to others. In all the years that I've read about the Savior's birth, I had read right over that word, not ever pausing to reflect what it truly meant. I am so thankful to have realized and truly understood the great example the shepherds were, even to us today.

To read the full article, go to Thomas S. Monson, “In Search of the Christmas Spirit,” Ensign, Dec 1987, 3

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

We are all familiar with the Wise Men who journeyed from the East to Jerusalem in search of the new born Savior. By memory, most of us can recite the gifts they presented Him (Matt. 2:11). Regarding these gifts, President Monson said; "Since that time, the spirit of giving gifts has been present in the mind of each Christian as he commemorates the Christmas season."

I then started thinking... as the Savior is the perfect example in all things, what is His example to us as we give to others? In his last public address to the Church, President Hunter answered my question:

"Never did the Savior give in expectation of receiving. He gave freely and lovingly, and His gifts were of inestimable value. He gave eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf, and legs to the lame; cleanliness to the unclean, wholeness to the infirm, and breath to the lifeless. His gifts were opportunity to the downtrodden, freedom to the oppressed, forgiveness to the repentant, hope to the despairing, and light in the darkness. He gave us His love, His service, and His life. And most important, He gave us and all mortals resurrection, salvation, and eternal life. We should strive to give as He gave. To give of oneself is a holy gift. We give as a remembrance of all the Savior has given."

Mosiah 2:17 "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Season for Angels

"Christmas carols are a special feature of the season. They bring feelings of joy to our hearts as they describe the events and significance of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that many Christmas hymns speak of angels. This is because the biblical record contains numerous accounts of heavenly beings speaking to mortals before and at the time of His birth. An angel announced His pending birth to the young woman Mary and to Joseph, her espoused husband (see Luke 1:26–33; Matthew 1:20–21). An angel accompanied by a heavenly choir heralded the birth to the shepherds in the fields (see Luke 2:8–14), and angels kept watch over the family during the early years when Herod tried to destroy the young Jesus (see Matthew 2:13, 19–20). Not only is the story of the Savior’s birth replete with heavenly messengers, but heavenly beings were also present at significant events throughout His life."

"One might ask, “Why were angels so prominent at the Savior’s birth? And why were they such an important part of His life and ministry?” The answers are twofold. The first pertains to the nature and mission of the personage whom they were heralding—a divine Being, the Son of God, the Only Begotten in the flesh who came to earth to save all of God’s children. The second concerns the ushering in of a new dispensation, a period of time when the gospel would be restored in its fulness. The ministry of angels is to assist in the ushering in of dispensations (see Moroni 7:29–31)."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Lord is our Shepherd

"At Christmastime our thoughts often turn to the biblical account of the shepherds watching over their flocks. The shepherds’ scene is indeed symbolic: It brings to mind the care and loving concern with which our Heavenly Father watches over all of his children. And it helps to remind us that he sent his beloved Son—the Good Shepherd with an unparalleled, divine mission—to guide us back to him."

"Many of our scriptures present types and shadows of the coming of Jesus, his mortal ministry, and his mission as the Savior of all mankind. Certainly symbolism is apparent in the many references to the Shepherd and the flock. Indeed, the Savior himself used these symbols often in his teaching."

"To introduce his mission among men, Jesus identified himself as the Good Shepherd: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). A shepherd who owns the sheep not only loves them but will often risk his life for them."

"Through the analogy of the sheep and the shepherd, the Savior also explained that his followers would recognize his voice. They would know that he was the true shepherd who would find them and call them out of the world. “The sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out” (John 10:3)."

To read the full article, go to Homer S. Ellsworth, “Thoughts on the Good Shepherd,” Liahona, Dec 1996, 19

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Meridian of Time

Our dear, late prophet, President Hinkley, had countless stories, insights, revelations and wisdom to share with us. I always looked forward to hearing him speak and was always amazed by his love for all of us (member or not) and his deep admiration and love for the Savior. I loved this particular passage I found, and thought since I was putting together an advent calendar, this was a great quote to begin with:

"It is only two millennia since the Savior walked the earth. It is a wonderful acknowledgment of His place in history that the calendar now in use throughout most of the world places His birth as the meridian of time. All that went before is reckoned back from that date. All that has happened since is measured forward from that date."

"Every time anyone uses a date, he knowingly or unknowingly acknowledges the coming to earth of the Son of God. His birth, as it has been popularly determined, marks the center point of the ages, the meridian of time recognized throughout the earth. As we use these dates we pay no attention to it. But if we pause to think, we must recognize that He is the one sublime figure in all the history of the world on which our measurement of time is based."

To read this full article, go to Gordon B. Hinckley, “At the Summit of the Ages,” Ensign, Nov 1999, 72.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wise Men Still Seek Him

I love the traditions of the Christmas season. It is most definitely my favorite time of the year. I love the decorations, the taste of my mom's banana cream pie, the steam rising from a cup of hot chocolate, the holiday music, the smell of pumpkin spice candles and especially the flicker of Christmas lights on a crisp night.

My love for this season has matured over the years and although those things all certainly add to the wonderful feeling I get at Christmastime, a few years ago I realized I needed to simplify the message I was teaching my children. That year, I put away my reindeer and my snowmen and decided to focus on the Savior and make sure they knew the amazing and inspiring story of His birth. Overall, the feeling we had in our home that year was amazingly peaceful to me... even with a house full of kids.

When January came and I was putting away all of my decorations, I decided to leave my nativity up all year long. It may seem funny and people comment on it all the time, but when I look at it, it reminds me of the Savior and how His birth is a very important part of my testimony of Him. My mom gave me a quote once that said, "Wise Men Still Seek Him" and it always had a huge impact on me, especially when I realized He is someone I should seek always, not just during the holiday season.

President Ezra Taft Benson said, "We must do the same as the Wise Men of old. They sought out the Christ and found Him. And so must we. Those who are wise still seek Him today."

Click HERE to download your free printable... both prints sized 5x7.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spread the Spirit of Christmas!

Welcome and Merry Christmas!

I invite you to join me for my fourth annual "A Shadow Canyon Christmas" Advent Blog! Each day thoughout December I'll be publishing short thoughts, scriptures and quotes that center on our Savior and the true meaning of Christmas.  If you would like to join me this month, simply visit each day for an uplifting message... sure to help your heart feel the Peace and Joy of the Season.  Each week I will also be sharing free printables that I hope you can pass along as gifts to others and enjoy in your own homes.  I hope you enjoy the warm, inviting Christmas music I've chosen and hope it helps you invite the Spririt of Christmas into your home.

I love this time of year and hope to share with you my love and gratitude for our Savior.  

 He IS the Reason for the Season!

About me... I'm a stay at home mom, living in New Jersey USA with my 4 sweet kiddos and husband.  I am Primary President in my Ward (I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) and LOVE sharing the Gospel with children.  In my spare time, which isn't much... you'll find me designing digital art for my family, for my craft blog, My Computer is My Canvas, and my Etsy Shop!  I hope you'll stop by for a visit some time!