Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas Eve Devotional

Today was a pretty quiet day at home. We cleaned up the basement so the kids would be ready for their Christmas Eve sleepover. We played games—Miriam cried and cried about Phase 10 but ended up getting second place (I lost). Zoë and Alexander were so patient while the rest of us were playing; they made all sorts of beautiful Christmas pictures (most of which ended up under the tree, I believe), so when we were finished playing Phase 10, I played "The Santa Claus Game" with them (which takes a lot of patience for me to play). 

All the while I was texting a neighbour who contacted me on Nextdoor to say that she had some books she'd like to get rid of and would we like them. I told her that we definitely would! I did not tell her that I had no idea who she was! 

Here's the thing: a few months ago I put out a plea on Nextdoor to see if anyone had access to a lot of scrap paper (because my kids—they draw all the time, see? But I'm an environmentalist and can't give them fresh, good paper to draw on because they draw all the time). We got our paper. And some other random lady sent me a message saying that sometimes she goes through her things to pare down her belongings and would I be interested in any things she comes across? So I said, sure—keep us in mind.

So I thought, maybe it was this mystery lady messaging me now.

But she was being very vague. She was like, "Okay! I'll just clean them up a bit and leave them in the garage. You can swing by and grab them if you want. The door is always open."

So I was like, "Sure thing. What's your address?"

And she was like, "This is Michele. Two doors down. Two trucks in the driveway..."

And I about died! 

I mean, I knew it was Michele, but the thing is, I didn't know this particular neighbours' last name and, well, there are a lot of Michel[l]es in the world! So it just didn't click that it was that Michele. And for the record, my directly next-door neighbour's name is also Michelle. So there's that. I mean, this Michele could have been anybody! But she had

That was a fun message to type.

"Oh, that Michele! Yup. Totally know who you are!" is what I did not type, but I assure you my message was just as bumbling and awkward.

The little kids (Benjamin inclusive) and I walked up—in the cold, sleety weather we had today—to get them books but the garage door was closed. We rang the doorbell but no one came so we headed home. Halfway there Benjamin noticed Michele waving out the window to us. Evidently her husband had close the garage door (because it was sleeting, probably) and she hadn't realized. But we got the books and took them home and the kids immediately tore into them (she had a copy of Ripley's Believe It Or Not! in there and whether or not you believe it that is right up Benjamin's alley).

Andrew and Rachel made beef stew and latkes for dinner, which were divine. We're all very excited for leftovers tomorrow (when Andrew will also make tamales; traditionally his family has fried burritos but...I don't really like fried burritos, so I'm happy Andrew has figured out the whole tamale thing).

After dinner we settled in for a reading (and acting out) of the Christmas story. The kids anticipated this and assigned all the roles and came for scripture study in full costume. Here's Alexander patiently waiting for the nativity to start:

Here he is leading Mary (Zoë) to Bethlehem on a donkey (me):

Zoë was very happy when the days were accomplished that Mary should be delivered:

Meanwhile, there were shepherds (Rachel) abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night:

And, lo, an angel of the Lord (Miriam) appeared and they were sore afraid:

But the angel said, "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."

So the shepherd and the angel made their way to the stable, where they found Mary and Joseph being very reverent, indeed.

Soon the wise men from the east (Benjamin, feeling very, in his own words, "regal," and Miriam) made their way to Bethlehem and sought out King Herod (Rachel, with a very stately beard):

King Herod didn't know where the baby Jesus lay, precisely, but he seemed excited to find out where, so the wise men set out to locate him. 

And when they found him, they entered into the house to worship him and laid before him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

The wise men were warned in a dream to depart the city another way (without going back to report to King Herod), so they did so. And Mary and Joseph later fled to Egypt. But before they did, they took a few quiet moments to snuggle their sweet baby.

(All those pictures on the wall behind Alex and Zoë are "decorations" that Alexander put up because he didn't feel we had enough set up. He plastered the entire dining room with pictures as well. He was a decorating fiend!)

I always love those quiet moments when the kids are so into acting out the nativity that you can see them really imagining what it might have been like to welcome the Christ child into the world (Zoë and Alexander's sweetness reminded me of the sweetness of Benjamin and Miriam from years ago).

I'll leave you with what should really, truly be Miriam's last talk in primary (we thought her last talk was her last, but we forgot about the primary program, so then we thought the primary program would be her last talk, but apparently we drastically underestimated the number of children in primary and so she gave another talk this past Sunday):

Good morning everybody! This is going to be one of my last times in primary and I am so excited to talk to you! I was asked to give a talk about coming unto Christ and becoming perfected in Him. Moroni 10:32 explains it well:

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
This means that when we come unto Christ we become clean and pure and have the grace and power of God. To be perfected we have to come unto Christ. 

When Jesus was born a star appeared in the sky and those who were looking for the sign saw it. They were able follow the star and literally come unto Christ. They offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh, but the holiest gift that they gave him was their heart. They submitted their will to the Lord and did all they could to serve Him. 

We have no star to follow, so how can we come unto Christ?

Elder Robert D. Hales tells us that “the first step to finding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is to let His word—spoken by the mouth of His servants, the prophets—touch your heart.” As we study the scriptures, we can find Christ. 

In Mosiah, chapter 5, King Benjamin teaches us about developing a relationship with Christ through the scriptures and how to maintain that relationship with him. Verse 12 says, “I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye...[may] hear and know the voice by which ye are called…” The name we are to retain in our hearts is Christ’s name and we do that by studying the scriptures and praying and keeping Christ in our mind always. In verse 13 King Benjamin wisely asks, “How knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?”

Once we learn all we can about Christ and have his name written in our hearts, we must then act as he would act. We must serve him and we can only serve him by serving others. Jesus lived a life of service, so serving others helps us come unto Christ.

Submitting our will to the Lord, coming unto him in study in and prayer, and serving others all helps us draw near unto Christ. But how are we perfected in him? The very act of drawing ever nearer to Christ perfects us. Unfortunately, we will always make mistakes and do things that Christ would not do, but we also have the opportunity to make amends. In 3 Nephi 12, Jesus commands us to believe in him, to repent of our sins and to “come unto [Him] with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” When we make mistakes we will often feel guilt or sorrow—a broken heart—which will help us desire to change. Rekindling this desire—to bend our will to the Lord’s—is a contrite spirit.

But there are other ways our heart can break. Sometimes we experience heartache in our lives that can test our faith, such as losing a loved one or simply not having things go according to our plans. These heartaches are also opportunities to draw nearer to Christ. He wants us to come unto Him when we are hurting; he wants to perfect our imperfections and bind up our broken hearts. When we choose to come unto Christ, rather than turn away from him, he will heal us.

In the song Joy to the World, Isaac Watts challenged us to ”Let ev'ry heart prepare Him room” so that we could receive our King—the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. And so I challenge you to make room in your heart and to draw unto the Saviour this Christmas season. There is nothing we can give to the Saviour but our hearts, as Christina Rosetti reminds us in her poem In the Bleak Midwinter:
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
Elder Uchtdorf once said that “when we decide to come to Him, when we take upon ourselves His name and boldly walk in the path of discipleship, then through the Atonement we are promised not only happiness and ‘peace in this world’ but also ‘eternal life in the world to come.’” I bear my testimony that the simple things we choose to do each day can help us draw near unto Christ and that by his atoning grace we can be perfected in Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Great talk, and I enjoyed the nativity play. I felt like I was watching a church Christmas program. Good job!