Sunday, December 30, 2018

Wise Men Still Seek Him

’Twas the night after Christmas when all through the house
Everyone was posting, and clicking their mouse
The Instagram filters were chosen with care,
In hopes that each image would soon get a share.

The children were all on the couch iPads and tablets in their hands
While images of zombies and angry birds ate up the WiFi bands.
And mamma with her Mini and I with my Android
Updated our status and sent messages into the void.

I could go on, but I’m sure you can guess the rest of the poem. In many ways Christmas has become a time of getting lost in our gadgets, instead of spending time with family, friends and service. What did you get for Christmas is the question the children ask their friends as we spend time updating our status on Facebook and sharing images on Pintrest and Instagram. How much time was spent talking about the person whose birth we celebrate during this Christmas season? Thomas S. Monson, once said:

“The gifts so acquired are fleeting. Dolls break, dresses wear out, and fun games become boring. Pocketknives are lost, trains do nothing but go in circles, and trucks are abandoned when the batteries that power them dim and die.

“If we change but one word in our Christmas question, the outcome is vastly different. “What did you give for Christmas?” prompts stimulating thought and causes tender feelings to well up and memory’s fires to glow ever brighter.

“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.” (“Christmas Gifts, Christmas Blessings”, Ensign, December 1995).

Celtic Carol - Lindsey Stirling

As the Christmas season ends and we look to the New Year, many of us will make resolutions of the things we hope to be able to accomplish during the New Year. Along with the diets, exercise, projects that we want to do I challenge each of us to include service as one of our resolutions. What can we do to help our neighbors, someone that is suffering, lost his or her job or a loved one, or the young mother that is overwhelmed?

President Monson in that same article tells of a family that lived in Star Valley, Wyoming long ago where the father was away from home working trying to support his family. One evening one of the boys overheard his mother praying:

‘Heavenly Father, there is no food in our house. Please, Father, touch the heart of somebody so that my children will not be hungry in the morning.’

“When she finished her prayer, she looked around and saw her son had heard; and she said to me, somewhat embarrassed, ‘Now, you run along, son. Everything will be all right.’ (“Christmas Gifts, Christmas Blessings”).

The story continues:

“(the boy) went to bed, assured by Mother’s faith. The next morning, (the boy) was awakened by the sounds of pots and pans in the kitchen and the aroma of cooking food. I went down to the kitchen, and he said, ‘Mother, I thought you said there was no food.’

“All she said to me was, ‘Well, my boy, didn’t you think the Lord would answer my prayer?’ I received no further explanation than that.”

Years later after the boy grew up, went to college and had a family he came home and Bishop Gardner told him the rest of the story. He said:

“I had finished my chores, and we had had supper. I was sitting by the fireplace reading the newspaper. Suddenly, I heard a voice that said, “Sister Ballantyne doesn’t have any food in her house.” I thought it was my wife speaking and said, “What did you say, Mother?” She came in wiping her hands on her apron and said, “Did you call me, Father?”

“‘“No, I didn’t say anything to you, but I heard a voice which spoke to me.”

“‘“What did it say?” she asked.

“‘“It said that Sister Ballantyne didn’t have any food in her house.”

“‘“Well, then,” said Mother, “you had better put on your shoes and your coat and take some food to Sister Ballantyne.” In the dark of that winter’s night, I harnessed the team and placed in the wagon bed a sack of flour, a quarter section of beef, some bottled fruit, and loaves of newly baked bread. The weather was cold, but a warm glow filled my soul as your mother welcomed me and I presented her with the food. God had heard a mother’s prayer.’”

The scriptures tell the story of the wise men that came to see the Christ child and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Matthew tells the story:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet,

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

¶And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-11)

I hope that as the memories of this Christmas season fades that we will remember how the wise men followed the star that led them to the Christ Child and when they had found him, they presented him with their gifts. What gifts will we present to him? I do not discount the gifts that the wise men gave, but I don’t believe that Christ would have us give him material things, instead I think he would like us to give gifts of love to others, charitable service to those in need and gifts of comfort to those that need our help.

As we give of ourselves in this way we well receive the greatest gift of all from him when he says to us at the last day:

Well done, thou good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord…Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. (Matthew 25: 21, 45)

I invite you to watch this 3 minute video titled “Wise Men Still Seek Him”. Are we wise enough to continue to seek him?

Wise Men Still Seek Him - Modern-day Story of the Wise Men

Your comments and questions are welcome. I would appreciate it if you would share this with your social media friends. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Story of O Holy Night

Today was our Christmas program in church and one of the speakers, Silas Smith, told the story of how the song “O Holy Night” was written. I loved it so much I want to share it as we celebrate the Savior’s birth. I don’t know where Brother Smith found the story he told in church, but I found this version of it at With the information from their source and a Wikipedia article I found, here is the story of how “O Holy Night” has become one of the most sung Christmas Carols along with some of my favorite versions of “O Holy Night”.

In 1847 a parish in France had just finished restoring their organ and the Priest wanted to have a special musical number during the midnight mass on Christmas eve that year. The Priest asked a local poet, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, to write the words for a new song. Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was not only a poet, he was the commissionaire of wines and more of an atheist than an active believer. He was honored by the request and he went to work by studying the gospel of Luke’s story of the birth of Jesus Christ and imagining what it would have been like to be present and witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The Poem was titled “Cantique de Noel”.

The poet asked a well know classical musician, Adolphe Charles Adams, to write the music for the song. The request to write music for a Christian song was and interesting request since he was Jewish and did not believe that Jesus’ birth was divine, but he went to work on the project and the result was performed for the first time by an opera singer, Emily Laurey, on Christmas Eve 1847 in an obscure Parish in France.

The new Christmas carol was an instant hit among the French people and was often performed in Catholic Christmas services until the heads of the Catholic Church found out the words were written by an atheist and the music by a Jew. It was banned from church services; however, the French people loved it so much that they continued to sing it anyway.

O Holy Night found its way to America thanks to the efforts of American Unitarian minister, John Sullivan Dwight, he loved the song and wanted to bring it to America. He was also an abolitionist and thought that the third verse was supportive of the importance of banning slavery: "Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother; and in his name all oppression shall cease." Dwight translated “Cantique de Noel” and called it “O Holy Night”. The Christmas carol was particularly popular in the North during the Civil War.

The Christmas carol has another first in its history when on Christmas Eve 1906 Reginal Fessenden, a university professor and former chief chemist for Thomas Edison, was the first to broadcast his voice over the radio waves. Until that time the radio waves only carried the dots and dashes of Morse code. On that night professor Fessenden spoke into a microphone the words from Luke chapter 2 of the Savior’s birth and then he picked up his violin and played “O Holy Night” which became the first song broadcast over the radio.

Quoting from the story:

“Since that first rendition at a small Christmas mass in 1847, "O Holy Night" has been sung millions of times in churches in every corner of the world. And since the moment a handful of people first heard it played over the radio, the carol has gone on to become one of the entertainment industry's most recorded and played spiritual songs. This incredible work--requested by a forgotten parish priest, written by a poet who would later split from the church, given soaring music by a Jewish composer, and brought to Americans to serve as much as a tool to spotlight the sinful nature of slavery as tell the story of the birth of a Savior--has become one of the most beautiful, inspired pieces of music ever created.

I hope that we can all pause in our rush to buy presents, wrap them, and put them under the CHRISTmas tree that we will remember why we have this holiday. It is the birth of The Only Begotten son of Heavenly Father in the flesh, Jesus Christ that we celebrate Christmas. We celebrate his birth, his life, his atonement, and resurrection. We celebrate the love that he has for us and for the gift of his life that he gave to us that allows us to return to his presence and the presence of Heavenly Father as families if we will only have faith in him, repent of our sins, are baptized by those having authority to perform saving ordinances, make and keep covenants in the Lord’s house that will bind us together as families.

In the words of Tiny Tim from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” “God bless us everyone”; and from that jolly old elf himself: “Happy Christmas to all”.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Nativity Story – Which Part Would You Be?

Like many families, one our favorite Christmas traditions was telling the nativity story by each family member, once they were old enough, acting in one of the various parts of the story. I was usually the donkey (for more reasons than being the dad – I fit the part!) that Mary rode to Bethlehem.  Our only daughter, Michelle, was always Mary. Whoever was the new born child was baby Jesus and Michael our oldest, was normally Joseph. As our family grew or when we had visitors join us for Christmas, we were able to add the shepherds, the inn keeper, the wise men, and various animals. This was always one of the most memorable times during the Christmas season and our children loved participating in the story. Now that our children are grown and have children of their own, they are continuing the tradition of having their own nativity stories with their children playing various roles.

In addition to these basic roles in the nativity story, there are many other participants including Zacharias and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna in the temple, the Angel Gabriel, King Herod, and many others. The nativity story also includes all that parts of the ministry of Jesus including, the disciples who followed Jesus, those who were curious, those who hated him, those who believed his testimony, those who were healed or forgiven, the Roman soldiers, those who betrayed him, and so many others.

In the Americas we have another group of people that showed great faith and those who plotted against the believers. Each one that participated in the events that lead up to the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ, through his ministry, and eventually to the cross and his resurrection chose their individual roles.

I hope that if I had lived during that time that I would have been one of the supporting roles and not one of the detractors or one that rejected him. Because of my faith and belief in Jesus Christ now believe I would have been one of the wise men that knew of the prophecies and had come seeking to know where the King of the Jews was and then finding the child I would kneel at his feet and present him gifts. Maybe I would have been among the Shepherds tending the temple flock of sheep that to whom the Angel announced the birth of the baby and then they said: “let us go see”. I hope that I would have gone to see and then having seen testified to everyone that the prophecies were fulfilled, that the Messiah had come.

I could not see myself in the role of the detractors. I would hope that I would not have been the Innkeeper that said there was no room for Christ in his life, or those that rejected Christ because he was from Nazareth, Joseph’s son, or because he taught hard doctrine. I definitely would not be among those that threw stones at Christ, screamed that he should be crucified, or nailed him to the cross.

I could see me being someone in the crowd that heard him and then chose to follow him, that cried to him as he passed by to stop and heal me, to eat with me, or to bless my child. There are so many ways that we allow the Savior into our lives or shut him out. Do we cry out that we should not believe him because he does not follow what we think is the “law of Moses” or are we looking for a better way to love God and our fellow men?

My hope this Christmas season is that whatever role we choose, we choose so that our actions testify to the world that Jesus Christ was born, lived, served everyone, and was crucified so that everyone would have the opportunity to be resurrected and live again. What nativity part would you choose to play?

Your comments and questions are welcome, and I encourage you to share this with your friends and family.

Home Free, Angels We Have Heard on High

The Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square – For Unto Us A Child Is Born

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Peace on Earth Good Will Towards Men

In the 2nd chapter of Luke we read about the birth of Jesus Christ and then Luke shares a wonderful experience that a few shepherds had:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
These were no ordinary shepherds, they watched the temple flock; lambs that would later be offered as sacrifices in the temple. The sheep they tended were to be perfect without blemish. The shepherds would have to testify that the sheep would fulfill the law of perfection for them to be offered as a sacrifice for the people in the temple.

Jesus Christ was also called the Lamb of God and he was the only one to live a perfect life. He was destined to offer himself as the ultimate sacrifice for all of Heavenly Father’s children. The shepherds were commanded by the angle to go see the Christ child and then they were to testify to the world of the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Joining the angle that announced the Savior’s birth to the shepherds was a heavenly host praising God saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peacegood will toward men”.

 Gladys Knight signing Let There Be Peace

Peace on earth is a hope we all have; however, world wide peace will not happen until the “Prince of Peace” Jesus Christ returns again. One of my favorite stories of peace took place on Christmas eve 1914. On the battle fields in Germany on Christmas eve there was a time when the fighting stopped, and the British Soldiers heard the Germans signing Christmas Carols, so they started sing their own songs. Soon the soldiers from both sides came together between the two lines and exchanged greetings and small gifts. (Christmas Truce)

Maybe we cannot have peace on earth, but we can experience peace in our own lives; the peace the Savior promises if we simply let him into our lives and follow his example of ministering to the needs of others. The Saviors promise is:

“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)

When I am stressed and troubled, the best way I know to find peace is reading in the scriptures of the Savior’s ministry. I also love to listen to uplifting music, especially Christmas music. Below are a few of my favorite.

I hope that during this Christmas season you will find peace and then your will follow our Savior and bring good will to all men.

Please share this with your social media friends and family.

"A Christmas Wish” by the One Voice Children’s Choir

"Christmas Halleluja" by Cloverton HD

“May Did You Know” by Pentatonix

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Do You Believe In Santa Clause?

Do You Believe in Santa Clause?

As we enter the Christmas season, I would like to share some of my thoughts about Christmas and what it means to my family and me. Sometime ago I was talking to one of my grandsons who did not believe in Santa Clause. I told him I believed he was real and then put together a little booklet about some of the stories around the world about Santa Clause.  I would like to share some of those thoughts with you.

Santa Claus has many different names such as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle and as Sinterklaas. Here in America we know him as Santa Claus. He lives at the North Pole with his elves and reindeer. Santa has a naughty and nice list and he takes toys to the good boys and girls in his sleigh that is pulled by eight magic reindeer. Santa is able to enter into the homes by going down the chimney. He loves eating the cookies and milk that the children leave out for him.

We are now living in the 21st Century. Some people believe the real Santa lived Seventeen hundred years ago in the 4th Century. His name was Saint Nicholas and he was a Greek Catholic Bishop of Myra. He is also the primary inspiration for the Dutch version of Santa called Sinterklass.

St. Nicholas

In the Catholic Church, St. Nicholas is the patron saint for children, sailors, and is the friend and protector of all in trouble and in need. One story of St. Nicholas tells of how he saved three children who had become lost and were captured by an evil butcher. St. Nicholas appears and asks God to restore the children’s life and the three children were given back to their families. December 6th is St. Nicholas Day in many places in Europe and is a day of feasting and giving gifts.

Father Christmas was said to live in the mountains of Finland. He did not give gifts to children, but was known for his good cheer. He did not wear a red robe, but a green one.

Father Christmas
Today’s Santa is a combination of St. Nicholas and Father Christmas. In the early 1800’s St. Nicholas’ name was changed to Sante Claus in some publications. Then in 1823 Washington Irving published “A Visit from St. Nicholas” now better known as “The Night Before Christmas”.

In 1897 a little girl wrote to the local paper and asked if Santa was real. She wrote:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon
Well the Sun Times wrote back to Virginia and said:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus!

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies.  .  . Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there.”

The Real Santa Claus

If you asked me if I believe in Santa Claus, I would answer absolutely. The “real” Santa gave us the best gift ever – His Son.

The real reason we celebrate Christmas is not because of Santa, or St. Nicholas or whatever you call him; it is to remember the birth of the baby Jesus Christ.

In the Bible, John 3:16 it says: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son”. So Jesus Christ is God’s gift to us. Do you remember the story of Jesus’s birth?

The Angle of the Lord came to Mary and told her that she would have a son and she should call his name Jesus and he would be to the Son of God.

Later we are told that Joseph and Mary had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem to pay their taxes. While they were in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus

In Luke Chapters 1 & 2 we read about the Shepherds:

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

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.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”

Joan M. Olenycz tells us in the December 2010 Ensign:

“Heavenly Father gave this gift to all of us, young or old, rich or poor. We did not have to search the shops for it. It did not cost a single penny. The most treasured gift of all was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. It was sent to us with love from our Heavenly Father.

Our Heavenly Father is real and so is his Son Jesus Christ. May we always remember this precious gift. My hope this Christmas season is that we will remember that the reason we celebrate Christmas because we have a loving Heavenly Father that gave us the greatest gift of all, the birth of his Son Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas to all.

Your comments and questions are welcome. If you like this post, I would ask that you share it with your family and friends on your social media.