Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Talk - Christ's Birth, Life, Example and Purpose

This is a talk that my friend gave at church on the Sunday before Christmas.  I am thankful that she agreed to let me post it on my blog.

Like most of you, I love the Christmas season. It gives me the chance to reflect on the birth of Christ, his ministry here on Earth, and the atoning sacrifice he made for all of us.

Some of the most beautiful scriptures written relate to the birth of Christ.

Like Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 9 verse 6 - 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.

Or the account in 3 Nephi 1:19 - And it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. And it came to pass that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given.

And of course Luke chapter 2. I love when the angel is speaking to the shepherds in verses 10 & 11-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.   

But we know that the birth of Christ was just the beginning of his mission here on Earth. He accomplished two important things while he was here.

The first was explained in Moses 1:39 – For behold this is My work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. We know this as the Atonement.

The second was made clear in John 13:15 “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you”. His life was an example of how we should live ours.

The resurrected Christ further explained these two missions when he visited the people in ancient America. In 3 Nephi 27:13 & 14 he said, Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me. And then skipping to verse 21 - Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;

Everything Christ did during his ministry was an example of how we should live. In a talk given by Russell M. Nelson of the quorum of the 12, he listed a few ways that Christ showed us the way. One of Christ’s first & foremost characteristics is love. He loved everyone-He loved his earthly parents and his family. He loved His apostles and he loved his followers. He loved the sinner without condoning the sin. And he loved his Father in Heaven. Many of his actions showed his love- his kindness, compassion, charity, devotion, forgiveness, and mercy. He served his Father & he served the people. As the other speaker talked about, WE should also be serving others. We can do this in our immediate families, extended families, and in our ward and community. I know that when we serve others, we grow to love them.

I have seen this happen in my life through visiting teaching. I have had sisters assigned to me that I hardly knew, and by getting to know them and by serving them I have grown to love them.

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Christ answered, (and this is in Matthew 22:37-39) “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Christ was the perfect example of love.

Two other principles that Christ taught were fasting and prayer. He taught us when to pray, how to pray, and showed us by example how to pray for others. He fasted often and helped us understand how and why this is done.

He also showed us the importance of ordinances. He was baptized even though he was without sin. In Moses 6:59 he said, “ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;” He also instituted the ordinance of the sacrament, which allows us to renew our baptismal covenants each week.

Another trait Christ showed us was endurance. He was mocked, scourged, and rejected by His own people. He had his share of personal heartaches. He was betrayed by one disciple and denied by another. And yet he handled these trials with grace. The most important thing he had to endure was atoning for our sins. He never quit on this assignment, even though he experienced suffering beyond our comprehension. The Atonement was Christ’s ultimate mission here on earth. It enabled everyone who has lived to be resurrected. It also allowed Christ to pay the price for our sins. We can repent and be forgiven of our sins. The scriptures tell us that no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of the God, so it is only through the Atonement that we can be cleansed and return to live with our Heavenly Father again.

We know that if we will follow Christ’s example, keep His commandments, and allow His atonement to work in our lives, we are promised the blessings of joy and peace. Those two words are used often at Christmastime because they sum up the message of Christ – joy and peace through Him.

The greatest gift we can give to others is to share our knowledge of Christ and the blessings that come to us through living His gospel. We have a son on a mission in Asia, so sharing the gospel is on my mind quite often. When I think of the term, “missionary work”, it seems like such a big job. But when I think of it as just sharing the message of Christ, it seems like something I can do. We have been commanded in the scriptures as well as by modern day prophets to spread the Gospel. Now is the time to do just that.

Never before have so many missionaries been called to assist us in this work. The missionaries here in our ward now only cover two wards. We have some work to do to keep them busy! President Monson said this, “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together and labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways. He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.” I think that last line is so important-He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work. We are promised that if we will replace fear with faith, we will be able to accomplish anything. When you talk with friends and neighbors, be positive. Show them the peace you have found. Show your love for them. Pray to have the spirit with you as you share your testimony of Christ with them. Then, look for opportunities to bring up the gospel. The words will come to you. When you love someone, its only natural to tell them about things that are the most important to you. They won’t be offended or annoyed by that.

Elder M. Russell Ballard gave a great talk on sharing the gospel in this past October general conference. He said this, “The key is that you be inspired of God, that you ask Him for direction and then go and do as the Spirit prompts you. When members view the work of salvation as their responsibility alone, it can be intimidating. When they view it as an invitation to follow the Lord in bringing souls unto Him to be taught by the full-time elders and sisters, it is inspiring, invigorating, and uplifting. We are not asking everyone to do everything. We are simply asking all members to pray, knowing that if every member, young and old, will reach out to just “one” between now and Christmas, millions will feel the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. And what a wonderful gift to the Savior.”

Luckily, we all still have 2 ½ days to complete his challenge. I want to testify to you that Christ lives and that He loves each one of us. I know that he suffered and died for us. I know that His gospel was restored to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith. I know that we can all do a little bit better in sharing what we know about Christ with others and that we can get help to do this if we just ask. 

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