Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

There is a song that is often heard during the Christmas season “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. It was written in 1963 by Edward Pola and George Wyle and first sung by Andy Williams. I really believe this is the most wonderful time of the year, not just because “everyone telling us be of good cheer” or because of the “caroling out in the snow”, but primarily because “it’s the hap – happiest season of all and tales of the glories of Christmas long, long ago”. When we center our thoughts on Jesus Christ and his birth it brings us peace and inspires us to serve others. I hope you enjoy the scriptures and music below that help to make this one of the most wonderful time of the year.

Isaiah prophesied about 700 years before its fulfillment that the Messiah would be born:

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)

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 7:14)

Mormon Tabernacle Choir - Handel's "For Unto Us a Child is Born"

Isaiah was not alone in his prophecies of the Messiah many other ancient prophets foretold of the birth of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament as well as in the Book of Mormon.

But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)

Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews—even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world. (1 Nephi 10:4)

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.
And it came to pass that 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! (1 Nephi 11:18-21)

Home Free - "Angels We Have Heard on High"

But behold, the Spirit hath said this much unto me, saying: Cry unto this people, saying—Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth.
And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God. (Alma 7:9-10)

A Christmas version of Hallelujah 

Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ—for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name—should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him—for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God. (2 Nephi 10:3)

Five years before the prophesied time of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prophet Samuel came to the people in America and gave them a sign of the Savior’s birth:

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.
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.

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.

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. (Helaman 14:2-5)

 Pentatonix - "Mary Did You Know"

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Gratitude – An Act of Faith

Here in the U.S. we just celebrated the Thanksgiving Holiday. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, not because we get the day off work to gorge ourselves on turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and other favorite foods; but because we get to spend it with family and friends. This year was smaller than most. Our daughter and her two boys came while our boys and their families visited their in-laws or had sick children and could not go “over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house”. The biggest reason that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday is because we pause to reflect on all the blessings we have in our lives and express our gratitude to Heavenly Father for those blessings. In the scriptures, we read that God is offended when we “confess not his hand in all things” (D&C 59:21).

I am sure there are many who wonder if there is anything to be grateful for considering the state of our society and our political situation. People are protesting the presidential election saying that we have no hope. I have seen posts in social media by celebrities saying they would leave the country or hope to die rather than live with our new president. Anyone who has these feelings need to stop the negativity and look for the good in their lives. If we look hard enough and have a prayerful heart we will begin to recognize we still have so much to be thankful for.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taught that we should be grateful not for things but be thankful not matter what our circumstances are. He said:

“It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach?

“Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.” (“Grateful in Any Circumstances”, General Conference, April 2014)

Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told a story of a family who lived in Canada on a farm. They worked hard for what they had and they were blessed through hard work to have what they needed. One year though was different. The rains left their fields too wet for the crops to grow and they had to sell most of their livestock to buy food for the winter. That year electricity finally came to their home for the first time and they did not have to use oil lanterns for light any more. He continued the story:

“On Thanksgiving morning, however, Gordon’s father showed up with a jackrabbit and asked his wife to cook it. Grudgingly she started the job, indicating it would take a long time to cook that tough old thing. When it was finally on the table with some of the turnips that had survived, the children refused to eat. Gordon’s mother cried, and then his father did a strange thing. He went up to the attic, got an oil lamp, took it back to the table, and lighted it. He told the children to turn out the electric lights. When there was only the lamp again, they could hardly believe that it had been that dark before. They wondered how they had ever seen anything without the bright lights made possible by electricity.

“The food was blessed, and everyone ate. When dinner was over, they all sat quietly. Wrote Gordon:

“In the humble dimness of the old lamp we were beginning to see clearly again. 
“It [was] a lovely meal. The jack rabbit tasted like turkey and the turnips were the mildest we could recall. 

“… [Our] home …, for all its want, was so rich [to] us.”

“My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.” (“The Devine Gift of Gratitude”, General Conference, October 2010)

Whatever the circumstances that surround us, we have so many blessings to be thankful for. We have our family, friends, neighbors, and most of us have plenty of food and shelter. Even if we lack some of these things we can still find many things that we can express gratitude for we just need to look for them.

One of the best ways to live with gratitude in all circumstances is to look for people that do not radiate gratitude as we go through each day. If we see someone that looks down, brighten their day by saying hello or even a simple smile can change their day. Look for someone a work, at church, in line at the grocery store and needs help and help them.

The scriptures teach that when we lose ourselves in serving others we will find ourselves (Matthew 16:24-26). Living with gratitude for all we have and expressing gratitude to the Lord for all he has done for us will allow the light of Christ to shine in our countenances and sharing that light with others will brighten their lives. Living with gratitude is an act of faith and something that we all need to do.

Your comments and questions are welcome.