“Peace on earth, good will to men.” These words echo the thoughts and hopes in many of our hearts this Christmas season. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, author of those lyrics, didn’t make up that phrase. Those words are part of a story that begon a long time ago.
More than 2,700 years ago, the prophet Isaiah declared: 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
And in the Book of Mormon, another testament of Christ we read about Samuel prophesying about Jesus’ birth to the wicked. 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.”
He prophesied about great lights in heaven and that there shall be no darkness for a day, night, and a day the night before the Lord is born. He also prophesied about a new star. He told the people that all they had to do was believe on the Son of God and they shall have everlasting life. ~Helaman 14:1-8
On the American continent, King Benjamin said, “For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent … shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay. … He shall suffer temptations, and pain. … And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.” ~Mosiah 3:5, 7-8
On the eve of His birth the voice of the Lord came to Nephi, saying, “Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.” ~3 Nephi 1:13
And true to the prophecy, that night on the other side of the world, Joseph and his espoused wife Mary were in Bethlehem, having traveled from Galilee to the City of David.
In the second chapter of Luke we read, “And it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 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 2:5-6
While Mary and Joseph were wrapped up in what is the most personal and miraculous event of a young couples’ life – there were others in the area experiencing their own miracles regarding the sacred birth. The Book of Luke continues the story, “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 tehm, 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 Savior 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.” ~Luke 2:8-14
And it came to pass, as the angles 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 has made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger. ~Luke 2:15,16
The shepherds came, “with haste”, and found the Savior lying in a manger. He was right where the angels told them he would be. These shepherds were told to find Jesus in much the same way that we are told to find Jesus. We are given commandments and asked to follow Him. But to follow Him we first must find Him.
More than just shepherds were seeking the Christ Child. There were Wise Men who had anxiously been waiting the sign of His birth. These were men of wealth and stature who desired to present him with gifts and worship Him.
In the 2nd chapter of Matthew we find, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea 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 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 young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts: gold, and frankincense and myrrh. ~Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
“Since that time, the spirit of giving gifts has been present in the mind of each Christian as he or she commemorates the Christmas season. Our Heavenly Father gave unto us His Son, Jesus Christ. That precious Son gave to us His life, the Atonement, and victory over the grave.” ~Thomas S. Monson
What will you and I give for Christmas this year?
Just as the Wise Men came from afar to bring precious gifts, it is possible for us to do the same. We may not travel the physical distance they did, our ‘traveling’ will be in the stretching of our souls – in our growing capacity to love as He would have us love, to do as He would have us do and to live as he would have us live.
Our journey isn’t a physical trek over dusty hills and roads; it is an emotional and spiritual pilgrimage. The end result is the same: we present the best we have to offer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“Someone has appropriately said, “We make a living by what we get, but we build a life by what we give.” It is through giving, rather than getting, that the Spirit of Christ enters our lives. This Christmas and every Christmas will be richer by sharing and enjoying gifts that cannot be held but only felt.” ~Thomas S. Monson
“You may have heard it said that the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried. At the heart of this message of the Savior of the world is a single, glorious, wonderful, still largely untried concept. In it’s simplest terms the message is that we should seek to overcome the selfishness we all seem to be born with, that we should overcome human nature and think of others before self. We should think of God and serve Him, and think of others and serve them.” ~James L. Faust
In doing so we will find the peace and joy our Heavenly Father wants us to have, In 2 Nephi: 2:25 we read, “Men are that they might have joy.” The Savior’s humble entrance into the world made this joy possible.
“Born in a stable and cradled in a manger, He came forth from heaven to live on earth as a 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.” ~Thomas S. Monson
The worlds political climate may continue to be volatile and changing, but we have been promised that through Jesus Christ we can experience peace in our lives. The true spirit of Christmas is the spirit of peace — the spirit of Christ.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer I have overcome the world.” John 16:33