The entire Christian world now moves into the happiest season of the year. There is a magic in Christmas. Hearts are opened to a new measure of kindness. Love speaks with increased power. Tensions are eased. The generous instincts that lie within all of us are given added expression.
While there are those for whom Christmas is difficult—particularly those who have lost loved ones and for whom there is now a poignant loneliness—even to these there comes the assurance of future glad reunions made possible only because of the sacrifice of the Son of God, whose birth we commemorate at this season.
How beautiful is the language of Nephi’s vision of the birth of the child of Bethlehem:
“And an angel … said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
“And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
“And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
“And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children. …
“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 Ne. 11:14–21.)
Of all the children born into this world, none other has come with so rich a birthright as Jesus, for He was the Only Begotten of the Eternal Father in the flesh.
Of all men who have walked the earth, no other has lived so perfect a life as this the man of miracles, who testified that He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6.)
Of all the victories in human history, none is so great, none so universal in its effect, none so everlasting in its consequences as the victory of the crucified Lord, who came forth in the Resurrection that first Easter morning.
I have seen statues and paintings of the great men and women of history, many hundreds of them. But great and important as are all of these heroes of the past, none can compare with the victory of the lonely, pain-wracked figure on Calvary’s cross who triumphed over death and brought the gift of eternal life to all mankind.
He it was who answered Job’s question, “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14.) It was of Him that Job spoke in eloquent testimony:
“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
“And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
“Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25–27.)
This Jesus was the master of life and death, the healer of those in distress. It was He who made the blind to see, the lame to walk, the dead to live.
Small wonder that those who saw Him were astonished with a great astonishment. None other in all of their acquaintance, nor in all of history, had done as He did. He raised the damsel from death to life. He brought forth Lazarus, who thereafter spoke and lived. Though Jesus was surely the master of life and death, yet He accepted the ignominy and the horrendous pain of the cross that cruel and barbarous men planned for His death. As He hung in agony, His evil tormentors cried out, “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” (Matt. 27:42.) He had the power to save Himself. To the impetuous Peter, who had tried to defend Him against those who had come to arrest Him, He had said, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53.)
And so it might have been had He asked His Father. “But,” said He, “how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Matt. 26:54.)
No, the Son of Man must give His life to atone for the sins of all mankind, that He, being lifted up, might lift up all men after Him.
He submitted Himself, and they took Him and in mockery crowned Him with a crown of platted thorns and placed a purple robe on His back. Without mercy, and with hatred vile and intemperate, they beat Him and scourged Him and cried out for His crucifixion. He had done no evil. He had done only good, and in greater measure than any man before Him had ever done. Yet they cried for His death.
He staggered under the weight of the cross on which He was to hang. They nailed His quivering flesh to the unyielding wood. They mocked Him as He hung in agony.
While suffering, He forgave them. He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46.) And then He died for each of us.
In dying, He brought about the redemption of mankind. None can fully comprehend the extent and wonder and majesty of that sacrifice in our behalf. Suffice it to say, He became our Redeemer.
His body was dressed and placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea. The tomb was sealed, and the guards were set. But no force beneath the heavens could now hold back the power of the Son of God. It was as if His Almighty Father could stand no more. The earth trembled. The guards fled. The stone was moved. The Lord of heaven and earth arose from the bier, shook off the burial clothes, and stepped forth to become the firstfruits of them that slept. The empty tomb bore testimony of this greatest of all miracles. With the appearance of the risen Lord first to Mary and then to many others, even to upwards of five hundred, came the undeniable testimony of His everlasting power over life and death.
And now, in this dispensation, comes the added and wonderful testimony of the Book of Mormon. It portrays the tremendous events that occurred in the western hemisphere when the earth trembled at His dying. There was destruction and darkness and weeping and death.
And there gathered a multitude round about the temple in the land Bountiful who marveled at the great changes that had taken place and at the terrible destructions which they had witnessed. And “they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.” (3 Ne. 11:3.)
And the voice came again, and yet a third time, “and it said unto them:
“Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.
“And … they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; …
“And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:
“Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
“And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.” (3 Ne. 11:6–11.)
And He has come yet again. We bear testimony that our Eternal Father and the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ appeared to open this, “the dispensation of the fulness of times.” (D&C 112:30.) He to whom They spoke became the Prophet of this dispensation. And out of his personal witness, he declared:
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (D&C 76:22–24.)
Of all things of heaven and earth of which we bear testimony, none is so important as our witness that Jesus, the Christmas child, condescended to come to earth from the realms of His Eternal Father, here to work among men as healer and teacher, our Great Exemplar. And further, and most important, He suffered on Calvary’s cross as an atoning sacrifice for all mankind.
At this time of Christmas, this season when gifts are given, let us not forget that God gave His Son, and His Son gave His life, that each of us might have the gift of eternal life.