Sunday, December 23, 2012

That Whosoever Believeth in Him

"Should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

That was the assignment to speak on for my 10-minute Christmas talk today in Sacrament Meeting. A Sister just two houses down was assigned the first part of the scripture. I called her yesterday to make sure our messages were complimentary and mainly that she wasn't going to use the same scriptures I was planning to use. I think we're OK.

I post here to lay our my thoughts with a scheduled publication to match my approximate delivery - not that anyone in my ward reads this blog much. My wife said this all sounds a little self-indulgent. I tried to explain that was the purpose of blogging . . . .

My method is to concentrate on pondering the scriptures and the theme and my talk will likely come out a little different that what I write here. I hope any changes reflect the influence of the Holy Spirit and not just my human stumbling. (And I admit helpful input from my dear wife). But I'd better just move on to the talk:

Christmas time should be a joyous reflection on the great blessings of our Savior and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. But so many of us spend too much, eat too much, schedule too much, and sometimes take unnecessary offense over how others may or may not celebrate the holy day. And those are the least of the worries. The challenges of life are heightened for many at Christmas. Families and individuals with troubles and tragedy often find those increase at this season. Anger, addictions, loneliness, anxieties and even violence often rise on this Holy Day. Among all these, there are dozens of families in Connecticut, one that just buried an innocent child in Ogden, who suffer so much this season.

What the Lord offers is found in Holy Scripture. Belief in Him and Everlasting Life bring me to my favorite Christmas scriptures from the Book of Mormon. Nephi, inquiring of the Angel about the Vision that his father saw learned this:
And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
. . . . I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
. . . . Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul. I Nephi 11:18-23.
And I believe this tree which represents the Lamb of God to bring us everlasting life, is the same tree nurtured by our Faith in Alma 32:
But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.
Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you. Alma 32:41-43.
We even have a Tree of Life in our house at Christmas. A beautiful evergreen, ancient symbol of eternal life. The most special fruit on our Christmas tree are the old ornaments made out of faded construction paper in Primary, some in the shape of the Albuquerque Temple with photos of our children much younger than they are now. The fruit of eternal life.

Now this tree isn't just for us alone. As Sister J has explained so well, the purpose of Christmas is to do the work of the Lord, for us to go and share the Love of God with all the peoples of the earth. Not all may join the church, but all can be served, even those among us by our love and sharing and easing the burdens of this troubled world.

I have a single friend who has written about how much pain the loneliness of the holiday gives her. She frankly expresses the discomfort she feels when some people attempt acts of charity to include her at Christmas time. She does not want to be an object of pity or obligation. She wants to be a part of the lives of others because she has something to offer and because they need her and want her. And she has so much to offer if we can only make that connection in the right spirit.

Faith, Hope, Charity. "And the greatest of these is Charity" - "the true love of Christ" or "the Love of God which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men "that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life."

Later, same day.

It went well enough. I went straight into scripture and switched the part about the troubles of Christmas right after I talked about our tree. I also ended up referencing how hard the Lord works with us, his vineyard, with reference to Jacob 5, but didn't read any explaining it is the longest chapter in scripture evidencing how hard the Lord does work with us. And that was inspired by the great post at BCC, I've referenced earlier.

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