Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bethlehem, Gethsemane, Calvary

With fellow believers I celebrate this Christmas season with joy and gratitude. What a significant time this is. It is wonderful to be able to have this time to gather with family and acknowledge the importance of the birth of The Savior of the World.

As I’ve thought about His birth I’ve pondered about how important it was that Christ demonstrated His willingness to Atone for us. Each Sunday members of my Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, partake of The Sacrament bread and water in remembrance of His sacrifice and Atonement. There is a specific prayer offered for this ordinance, here is the prayer for the bread:

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember Him, and keep His commandments which He has given them, that they may always have His Spirit to be with them. Amen.

One of the important aspects of the bread is that by partaking of it we are demonstrating our willingness. The bread represents His body. He took upon Himself a body in order to Atone for us, it was His demonstration of willingness. How utterly significant it is that the place where He was born, take upon Himself a body, is called Bethlehem which means “house of bread.” There are no coincidences in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here is the prayer that is said on the water.

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this water to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God the Eternal Father that they do always remember Him, that they may have His Spirit to be with them. Amen.

There is an important difference in these two prayers. In partaking of the bread we demonstrate our willingness. In partaking of the water we demonstrate that we do. Just as Christ actually did perform the Atonement as He shed His blood in taking upon Him our sins and sufferings in Gethsemane and on Calvary.

Christmas is all about celebrating the life of Our Savior and His willingness to take upon Him the glorious mission of The Atonement. In celebrating this we acknowledge with humble gratitude that He fulfilled His mission. Jesus Christ is the light and life of the world. He lives, I know it. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Light Rules

I once heard a story about a young man who was fascinated by light. He equipped his pick-up with several varieties of headlights. At one point he was thrilled to obtain an airplane landing light. He was able to affix it on his car. He took a friend of mine up into the mountains and demonstrated its brightness by turning it on into rather dense foliage. All became visible, including some very shocked deer looking bewildered at the intensity of the light. The young man was one night driving in the mountains and happened to be come upon another car. At the time he had just his regular headlights on. The other driver coming his way flashed his brights signaling that the young man’s lights were too bright. The young man in turn flashed his light indicating that his headlights were at their normal setting (of course I imagine they were a little on the bright side given his fascination). The two drivers exchanged several more brightening signals until the young man finally became frustrated and went ahead and turned on his airplane landing light. Needless to say the other driver stopped in his tracks and from then on discontinued his brightening. Now, I think the story is funny, though I don’t know how happy I’d be if I was the other driver, it was a rather “in your face” moment. But, I was recently thinking about this story in working with my clients.

Many of the kids I work with have come from some heinous situations and have had to deal with dark evil. The best remedy for this is to shine an intensely bright light, to have an “in your face” moment with evil. So, we talk about truth, we face it in all of its ugliness and beauty. There is no hiding when you shine a light that bright.

I’ve also been thinking about light in terms of Christmas. I love the fact that a bright star was one of the signs of Christ’s birth. He brought light into a dark world. I marvel at the feeble attempts of society to try and dim His light. Congress has attempted to ban members from wishing their constituents a Merry Christmas. Some historians have attempted to change the term B.C. (Before Christ) to B.C.E. (Before Common Era). All across the country attempts are being made to stamp Christ out of Christmas from vandalizing to outlawing nativity scenes. Try as they might their attempts will fail. You simply cannot shut off that bright of a light. People will continue to celebrate Christmas, and will do so with the true spirit of Christ. Even if they try to change it to the Common Era, they will never be able to hide the fact that the Common Era started with the birth of Christ.

His light will not be darkened. We just need to have eyes to see the truth. The sun rules the day, the moon and stars rule the night. No matter how dark it is the light always rules.

Merry Christmas and may we all continue to follow His light in wisdom, faith, hope and love.