We all know what to expect at a birthday: presents, cake, and decorations. Sometimes there is discussion of the day the person was born, funny stories of how the doctor ran out of gas on his way to the hospital to deliver the person, or the agonizing 30 something hours of labor.
Occasionally though (and this is something I have noticed more at birthdays of later ages), memories of the person’s life are shared. The birthday becomes more than just celebrating another year of life, and instead celebrates the whole life of the person. What they have achieved, who they have become, and lives they have touched.
I feel that this is a more fulfilling way of celebrating someone you love.
Now, it is the season of Christmas, and there are the usual expectations – lots of food, presents, Santa Claus visits, parties, shopping, and a general feeling of wishing for the holiday spirit, but never quite feeling as happy or fulfilled as you wish.
I often hear people say they wish they felt the spirit of Christmas better, or that the commercialism didn’t take over Christmas so much. People are looking for a way to make the holiday feel more special, but it never seems to work.
I’m not an expert at having the Christmas spirit all through the season, but I think the reason people feel something lacking at Christmas is because it isn’t being celebrated to its fullest. A crucial part of Christmas is often left out in the hustle and bustle of preparing and partying.
I’m not just talking about the Christmas story here. Most people know the story of Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem. They know that the inns were full, so they had to stay in a stable. People know that a baby, Jesus Christ, was born in the stable, and laid in a manger.
Yes, angels appeared to the shepherds and told them of the Child; yes, the wisemen followed the star to find him and worship him. It truly is a beautiful story full of miracles and hope.
And keeping it in mind, maybe setting up a nativity scene or two can help you to feel the Christmas spirit. But that is just the beginning of His story.
As I said above, celebrating the whole life of a person on their birthday brings a wholeness to celebrating the person. Yes, it is good to remember the day a person was born, but it is their life that truly makes them great.
Since Christmas is the time to celebrate the birthday of Christ, I think it’s a time that we should try to remember His life, and celebrate all He was able to do. So I want to go back to before His birth, before anyone was here on Earth, and follow His life through the many scriptural accounts.
Christ Before His Birth
Christ was foreordained to be the Savior of mankind. This means that before the world was, we all existed as spirits, as did He. We lived with our Father in Heaven, who is God, and prepared to come here to earth.
Because we knew we would be able to make our own choices, and that our choices would not always be good or right, we also knew that we would need help to be able to come back to our Father in Heaven, “for no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus, or Jehovah, was chosen to be the one who would pay the debt for our sins. He would live a perfect life, with no sin, so that He could completely take our sins upon Himself.
He would then help us to return to our Father in Heaven.
He was also the one to create the earth under the direction of our Father in Heaven. The sun, the moon, the stars, the other planets in our solar system, all that is beyond, the ocean, the flowers, the mountains and the animals. It was all created by Him. And He know each and every thing He created.
He is the God of the Old Testament. He is the one who commanded Noah to build an ark. He is the one who covenanted with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the one who gave Joseph the power to interpret dreams.
He is the one who, from a burning bush, commanded Moses to free Israel from the Egyptians. He is in every symbol, every type, that can be found within the law of Moses. He is the God of King David. He is the one who sent down the fireball from heaven when the prophet Elijah asked Him to show His existence to the false priests.
Christ’s Mortal Life
He is the child born of Mary, conceived in the spirit, the literal Son of God, and cared for by Joseph, His adoptive father. He is the one heralded by angels, and worshipped by shepherds. He is the one whom the kings of the east travelled great distances just to see and worship.
He is the twelve-year-old boy, teaching the ‘doctors‘ of the things of God, and already knowing His divine purpose. He was baptized by John the Baptist, recognized as the Son of God, and by so doing showed us, by example, the path of righteousness.
He is the one who healed lepers and cast out demons. He fed thousands from a little bread and fish. He calmed a raging storm. He forgave a woman taken in adultery. He raised the dead. He is the Good Shepherd, and we are His sheep.
He made it possible for His apostle John to remain on the earth until He, the Savior, returned to the earth in all His glory.
He suffered for every sin, felt every pain, and experienced every single thing which we have experienced in our lives.
He was betrayed and tried unjustly. He was crucified, and as He hung on the cross, He forgave each person who was involved in His death and suffering. He died on the cross, and was placed in the garden tomb.
He was resurrected, never to die again, being a glorified and immortal being.
Not long after His resurrection, He went about “visiting His other sheep.” He went to America and visited the people called Nephites, who kept a record of the visit. The effect of His visit stretched over four hundred years, as the Nephites all became converted to Him and His gospel, and all strove to live righteous lives.
Later, after His apostles were killed, and His gospel was lost for generations, people began again to search for the truth which He taught. There were many reformers who sought to follow Him, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin.
By the early 1800’s, America had become a country allowing its citizens the freedom of religion, and His truth was able to return in fulness to the earth, when, in 1820, Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven appeared to a 14-year-old boy, by the name of Joseph Smith.
Jesus gave instructions to Joseph Smith, teaching him the true doctrines and instructing him to again establish the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth. Since the time of Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ has been instructing the living prophets in the ways of truth. Through these prophets, He still teaches us, as He did His followers during His mortal life.
Someday, He will come to the earth again to live, teach, love, lead, and guide all who will follow Him. He will redeem us from our sins and lead us back to our Father in Heaven.
Because He did this, all these things, Jesus Christ is able to know us. He knows us each personally, better than any other person will ever know us. He knows you, what you are facing, and what you need. He can see the potential in you.
He wants you to follow Him, that He may take your burdens from you, and share the weight of them with you. He is full of strength, and can and will lift us when we fall. He is always there when you turn to Him.
There is a painting called “Lost and Found” by Greg Olsen that I feel really illustrates this truth about Christ. It is a picture of Him sitting on a bench, next to a teenage boy. The boy looks lost, sad, and unsure, like he is facing a lot of struggles in his life – like he might not have known where to go or who to turn to, until Christ showed up.
Jesus is facing the boy, talking to him, and trying to help and comfort him. He isn’t judging the boy, He isn’t pushing him, or comparing him or his struggles to others.
Jesus is just focused on the boy, like he is the most important person in the world. It clearly expresses His love for each of us, as we take the place of that teenage boy who is feeling lost and in need of help.
We rely entirely upon His mercy to save us. No matter how much good we do, none of us is perfect. We all have our weaknesses. But if we rely on Him, and trust Him completely, we will have strength. We can be saved, but only through Him.
His life is truly extraordinary. His character and person are even more so. His love, service, kindness and mercy cannot be compared to any other man because He is more than a man. He is God, our Elder Brother, our Savior, our Redeemer and all we can ever hope to be.
So, as we go through this Christmas season, and as we go about our celebrations, let’s think not only a celebration of gifts and family, of carols and nativities, but of the person we celebrate: Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is His life that is the cause of the holiday and it should be a part of it as well.