Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Lovest Thou Me?"

Following Jesus' suffering in Gethsemane, His crucifixion, and His resurrection, Peter and at least six of the other apostles journeyed to Galilee and went fishing. Of this Elder Robert D. Hales said:
"Peter and the others fished all night without catching any fish. The next morning Jesus appeared on the shore and called to them across the water, 'Cast [your] net on the right side.' The disciples in the boat followed the Savior’s instructions and quickly discovered their nets were miraculously filled to overflowing. John recognized the Savior’s voice, and Peter instantly cast himself into the water and swam to the shore.
"...As the brethren returned to the shore, they discovered a feast of fish and bread. 'Come and dine,' the Savior invited. As He fed them, He asked Peter three times, 'Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?' When Peter expressed his love, the Savior implored him, 'Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep."(Robert D. Hales, "Being a More Christian Christian," Ensign, November 2012)
Of the question "Lovest thou me?", Elder Jeffery R. Holland said:
"...I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: 'Did you love me?' I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.' And if at such a moment we can stammer out, 'Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,' then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments,' Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before. The Crucifixion, Atonement, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ mark the beginning of a Christian life, not the end of it. It was this truth, this reality, that allowed a handful of Galilean fishermen-turned-again-Apostles without 'a single synagogue or sword' to leave those nets a second time and go on to shape the history of the world in which we now live." (Jeffrey R. Holland, "The First Great Commandment", Ensign, November 2012)
May we follow in their footsteps and be such disciples.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Greatest of All Gifts

This Christmas, I am most grateful for the transcendent gift of Gods Son, Jesus Christ.

"This little child, born in a stable and cradled in a manger, was a gift from our loving Heavenly Father. He was the promised Redeemer of the world, the Savior of mankind, the Son of the living God. He was with His Father before He came to earth in mortality, the Creator of the earth upon which we stand.

"The...Apostle John gives us a sense of the greatness of this child in the courts on high, from which He came: Without him was not any thing made that was made. Yet He came to earth in humble circumstances.

He worked as a boy and a youth in the carpenters shop of Joseph in Nazareth. In His mortal ministry He walked the dusty roads of Palestine, healed the sick, raised the dead, taught His gospel to people who rejected Him, gave His life on Calvarys hill, and rose on the third day in what began the Resurrection to break the bands of death for us all and so became the firstfruits of them that slept.

Above all, the Savior whose birth we remember this season of the year paid the price of all of our sins. Again the prophet Isaiah, long before our Lords birth, saw the gift beyond price of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

[Isaiah] ...gave us this description of what the Savior did for us:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

(Henry B. Eyring, The Gift of a Savior, December 5, 2010)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Gifts

In the following quote, President Thomas S. Monson reminds us that the greatest gift we can give this Christmas is the gift of ourselves.

"Finding the real joy of the [Christmas] season comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done or in the purchasing of obligatory gifts. Real joy comes as we show the love and compassion inspired by the Savior of the World, who said, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these ... ye have done it unto me.

At this joyous season, may personal discords be forgotten and animosities healed. May enjoyment of the season include remembrance of the needy and afflicted. May our forgiveness reach out to those who have wronged us, even as we hope to be forgiven. May goodness abound in our hearts and love prevail in our homes.

As we contemplate how were going to spend our money to buy gifts this holiday season, let us plan also for how we will spend our time in order to help bring the true spirit of Christmas into the lives of others.

The Savior gave freely to all, and His gifts were of value beyond measure. Throughout His ministry, He blessed the sick, restored sight to the blind, made the deaf to hear, and the halt and lame to walk. He gave cleanliness to the unclean. He restored breath to the lifeless. He gave hope to the despairing and bestowed light in the darkness. He gave us His love, His service, and His life.

...With the pure love of Christ, let us walk in His footsteps as we approach the season celebrating His birth. (President Thomas S. Monson, The Spirit of the Season, December 6, 2009)

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Christmas Spirit

“I am the Christmas Spirit—

“I enter the home of poverty, causing palefaced children to open their eyes wide, in pleased wonder.

“I cause the miser’s clutched hand to relax and thus paint a bright spot on his soul.

“I cause the aged to renew their youth and to laugh in the old glad way.

“I keep romance alive in the heart of childhood, and brighten sleep with dreams woven of magic.

“I cause eager feet to climb dark stairways with filled baskets, leaving behind hearts amazed at the goodness of the world.

“I cause the prodigal to pause a moment on his wild, wasteful way and send to anxious love some little token that releases glad tears—tears which wash away the hard lines of sorrow.

“I enter dark prison cells, reminding scarred manhood of what might have been and pointing forward to good days yet to be.

“I come softly into the still, white home of pain, and lips that are too weak to speak just tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude.

“In a thousand ways, I cause the weary world to look up into the face of God, and for a little moment forget the things that are small and wretched.

“I am the Christmas Spirit.” ( E. C. Baird, “Christmas Spirit,” in James S. Hewitt, ed., Illustrations Unlimited (1988), 81.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What Is Your Gift

“The spirit of Christmas is something I hope all of us would have in our hearts and lives—not only at this particular season but also throughout the year.
“When we have the spirit of Christmas, we remember Him whose birth we commemorate at this season of the year: ‘For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11).

“In our day the spirit of giving gifts plays a large role in commemorating the Christmas season. I wonder if we might profit by asking ourselves, What gifts would the Lord have me give to Him or to others at this precious season of the year?” (Thomas S. Monson, “Rediscovering the Christmas Spirit,” Ensign, December 2012)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Seeking Jesus

Remembering the following counsel from a talk given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf will help me stay focused on the birth of Christ during this busy and festive season.

“Jesus Christ was born in a stable surrounded by lowly animals. He was raised in a disparaged town on the fringes of civilization. He did not go through the pattern of worldly education. He was not trained in worldly schools of philosophy, art, or literature. Some who heard His teachings questioned the origins of His education, saying, ‘How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?’  and they said also, ‘Whence hath this man (his) wisdom? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren . . . and his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?’

“The sophisticated and the proud, those who placed their trust in worldly learning, could not see Him. Jesus the Christ was not wealthy, nor did he hold a political office. He lived and taught among humble people in a nation that was in bondage to the Romans. Therefore He did not seem worthy of notice by the political leaders of the day.... They were far too busy to pay attention to a humble preacher of righteousness. When Jesus stood before Pilate, the powerful Roman governor could see only a teacher who was the cause of a disturbance in his political jurisdiction.

“The wealthy and the influential, those who were caught up in their busy affairs of commerce and government, could not see Him.

“The scribes and Pharisees... were so steeped in their own traditions and so blinded by their own narrow interpretation of scripture that they could not see the humble man who walked among them....

“The self-righteous and unteachable, those whose hearts were closed to the Spirit, could not see Him.

But who saw Him?

“Simeon, an elderly, devout, and just man, saw the Christ. When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple, Simeon knew through the power of the Holy Ghost that this was indeed the Christ, the Son of the Most High. And he took the baby in his arms and blessed Him.

“Humble fishermen and laborers saw Him. The ailing, the humble, and the distraught saw Him and recognized Him as the Salvation of Israel. But there were those among the rich and powerful who were teachable and therefore could see the Christ. Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, saw Him, as did the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea and Zacchaeus the publican....

“Sometimes when we read about people who could not see the Savior for who He was, we marvel at their blindness. But do we also let distractions obstruct our view of the Savior—during this Christmas season and throughout the year? Some are external distractions—the gifts we worry about, the decorations, or the clamorous advertising—but often it is what is inside us that blinds us from seeing the Christ.

“Some may feel a certain level of intellectual aloofness that distances them from Christ. In an age when vast amounts of knowledge are at our fingertips, the familiar story of Jesus the Christ can get lost amid the flood of scientific advances, pressing news, or the latest popular movies or books.

“Some are so caught up in the details of running their lives that they don’t make time for much else. They might pay lip service to the things of the Spirit, but their hearts are so focused on the world that they cannot see the Christ...

“This is a season of rejoicing! A season of celebration! A wonderful time when we acknowledge that our Almighty God sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem the world! To redeem us!

“It is a season of charitable acts of kindness and brotherly love. It is a season of being more reflective about our own lives and about the many blessings that are ours. It is a season of forgiving and being forgiven.

“But perhaps most of all, let it be a season of seeking the Lamb of God, the King of Glory, the Everlasting Light of the World, the Great Hope of Mankind, the Savior and Redeemer of our souls.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Can We See the Christ in Christmas?" December 6, 2009; emphasis added)

I hope throughout this Christmas season and throughout the coming year I will be one who will seek Him.