[A talk I gave in a sacrament meeting in Salt Lake City on Christmas Eve 2017]
Trying to give light to others does not mean they will receive it
I hope you’ve been enjoying the season! I’ve loved watching the excitement of my children and participating in the church’s Light the World initiative. It’s been a great way to strive to keep my focus on the Savior and helping others.
Twice, however, people did not receive my attempts to ‘light their world’… one reimbursed me and one was very offended.
I couldn’t help but reflect on how the matchless gift of the Son of God was not received by so many. Regarding His life and ministry, in 3 Nephi 9:16 the resurrected Savior told the Book of Mormon people,
“I came unto my own and my own received me not.”
In this time of giving and receiving, I decided to look for qualities and patterns of those who DID accept and follow the mortal Messiah to learn from their examples.
1-Those who receive Christ believe in the Lord and accept His will.
When told she would give birth to the Son of God, Mary asked how it could be. She was told, among other things, “With God nothing shall be impossible.”
Her response to God’s plan for her life has been a source of inspiration to me more than once. She said,
“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word.”
Like Mary, we can seek and receive the Lord’s will above our own. As we do so, we will be blessed and prepared to receive Jesus Christ.
2-Those who receive Christ seek for Him and let Him in, not in spite of trials, but ESPECIALLY in trials.
As a little girl, when I thought about the people in Bethlehem, I concluded that if I had been there, for sure I would have let Him in!
We might be a little quick to judge our ancient brothers and sisters who did not notice the star or make room for Joseph and Mary in their time of great need. But consider these facts:
Most of the people in Bethlehem that night had also been taxed. They also had to travel far to Bethlehem and find a place to stay. They were in the midst of their own great physical and financial trials! When we are in the middle of hardship, it might be hard to prioritize looking for the light or making room in our lives and schedules for Jesus Christ and gospel living, but that’s exactly when it is most important.
Henry B. Eyring has taught:
“I promise you that the Lord will come to your aid in your trials if you seek and serve Him and that your soul will be polished in the process. I challenge you to put your trust in Him in all your adversities.”
It seems counter intuitive. It seems like too much to ask, but the Savior will fill our need. Like our ancient brothers and sisters, He is closer to us than we realize and if we can look beyond our problems and temporal distractions… if we seek Him, we will find Him near.
3-Those who receive Christ receive help from angels.
It was angels who guided the shepherds to Jesus Christ. I can’t help but wonder how many others could have seen the angels if their hearts and eyes were inclined upward. Elder Holland has taught:
“I believe we need to speak of and believe in and bear testimony of the ministry of angels more than we sometimes do.” He adds, “I testify that angels are still sent to help us. Ask for angels to help you.”
Maybe you believe an angel came to Mary and angels came to the shepherds. You have no doubt angels participated in the restoration of the church. But do you believe angels can help YOU?
4-Those who receive Christ look up.
The wise men, we are told, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”
How did they know to look for a star? How did they know what the star meant? They had looked up wisdom of prophets in books and scripture available to them; they looked up in the sky and followed the star Jesus Christ Himself created and placed there; they looked up figuratively, being optimistic and joyful in the truths they had learned, eager to come unto the promised Messiah. Thomas S. Monson has taught,
“It is better to look up!”
I agree! And I think any seeker of Jesus Christ is invited to follow the example of the wise men and our beloved prophet and look up.
5-Those who receive Christ experience the reality of His miracles.
He healed the sick, caused the blind to see, and raised the dead.
President Uchtdorf shared these insights: “The Savior’s healing touch can transform lives in our day just as it did in His. If we will but have faith, He can take our hands, fill our souls with heavenly light and healing.”
President Monson has taught:
“As He said to the dead Lazarus, so he says today: “Come forth.” Come forth from the despair of doubt. Come forth from the sorrow of sin. Come forth from the death of disbelief. Come forth to a newness of life. Come forth.”
As we receive Him, He will teach us how to be healed and come forth. He will guide us to experience His miracles in His timing and His way. His miracles often require us to practice faith and patience to the point that we think we missed our chance for a miracle. It’s important in those times to remember that sometimes the lack of a miracle is the miracle. As we lift our perspective to eternity, we can see the potential for spiritual healing, spiritual sight, and eternal life as the miraculous rewards of enduring heavy burdens. In this life or the next, as we exercise faith, we will see the Lord’s hand in our lives extending miracles through His Son, Jesus Christ.
6-Those who receive Christ receive His gifts.
The lyrics of one of my favorite Christmas songs are:
“Santa knows what I want for Christmas, but Jesus knows what I need. I need faithfulness, love, generosity to open my home to a stranger. I need patience, kindness – virtues like these to bend on my knee at the manger. Santa may bring things that last for a year, but eternal gifts come from the Savior.”
His gifts matter most and last longest. We are invited to receive the Holy Ghost, spiritual gifts, His image in our countenance, revelation, forgiveness, and peace. His atonement includes the gifts of redemption, resurrection, repentance, eternal progression, and the power to become more than we ever could on our own. We are offered ordinances of the temple, sacrament, and other blessings of the priesthood.
As we ask for, seek, and actively receive His gifts, we receive Him.
7-Those who receive Christ follow Him.
When Jesus called His disciples, they promptly and without persuasion left life as they knew it and followed Him. In Luke 5:28, we read about Levi.
“He left all, rose up, and followed Him.”
As disciples of Christ, what can we leave behind? How can we rise up? Are we willing to truly follow Him and live as He did?
Make no mistake about it, the Light of the World, the Savior Himself, wants you to share His light with others as you strive to become like Him. Neal A. Maxwell has said,
“The same God that placed that star in a precise orbit millennia before it appeared over Bethlehem in celebration of the birth of the Babe has given at least equal attention to placement of each of us in precise human orbits so that we may, if we will, illuminate the landscape of our individual lives, so that our light may not only lead others but warm them as well.”
Christ promises us in 3 Nephi 9:14, that,
“Whosoever will come, him will I receive.”
In other words, as we receive Him, He receives us!
We are a gift to HIM because we are of infinite worth and He treasures us! Isn’t that amazing?!
I testify that He treasures you.
As you look at Christmas lights today and tomorrow, I invite you to remember and receive the source of all light. As you receive Him, you will become His. You will radiate His light and thereby invite others to receive Him. This is the divine and perfect plan.
Just as He was born in the humblest circumstances long ago, so is He born in the humblest souls today. May He be born in each of us, I pray. Of His infinite love and transforming, atoning power I bare my personal witness and do so in His sacred name, Jesus Christ, amen.