Spiritual Thought: The Character of Christ – Elder Bednar

This was too good not to Share!

My Husband’s Nephew is currently serving a Mission and sends him weekly E-mails. On this weeks E-Mail was a reference to a talk gave by Elder Bednar which he described it as “the single most inspired and inspiring, insightful and thought-provoking address” he had ever seen and would recommend that everyone watch it. Well I watched it and agreed. Oh How Moving it was. The Character of Christ is most certainly something all Christians should be concerned with. But this moved me so much that I spent half an hour in tears.

There was so much in the talk but what struck me most is the capacity to see others needs whilst suffering our own trials. While The Saviour had fasted 40 days & been tempted by Satan, Angels came to minister but Jesus knowing that John Suffered sent Angels to minister to John. The Saviour even in his own hour of need thinks of others before himself.

christ after 40 days of fasting.png

The Saviour has set the example to Look outwards to others before looking at our own inward needs. After all The Saviour said:

JST, Mark 8:38

[Joseph Smith Translation]

But whosoever shall be willing to lose his life for my sake, and the gospel, the same shall save it. 

Surely that is what Alma meant when he said: “…..as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light

Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death….. [Mosiah 18: 8-9]

It’s inspired me and I hope you too can gain Inspiration from this Sisters and draw nearer unto the Saviour.

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Family Advent – Day 25

[Symbol] Baby Jesus

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[An Article relating to the Symbol/Song]

Unto Us a Child Is Born

The ancient prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of the Messiah and revealed much about His roles.

“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” (Isaiah 9:6).

Several centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ, the prophet Isaiah recorded the things revealed to him regarding the circumstances of Christ’s coming. One such prophecy, found in Isaiah 9:6, gives us in just a few words a wealth of knowledge about the Savior and the roles He plays in our lives and in Heavenly Father’s plan. Here are some explanations of the ideas expressed in this verse.

A Child Is Born, a Son Is Given

The Savior was revealed to Adam, the first man, as the Only Begotten Son of God (see Moses 5:7, 9; 6:52, 57, 59, 62). Since then all the holy prophets have testified of the coming of the Son of God in the flesh to redeem His people (see Acts 10:43; Jacob 4:4).

What does Christ’s birth signify?

The angel who announced the Savior’s birth to the shepherds declared “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10).

When Nephi saw a vision of the virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus, he was moved to affirm “the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men” (1 Nephi 11:22).

The Savior Himself declared that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Government upon His Shoulder

In ancient Israel, the priests and kings were clothed with a robe and wore the insignia of their office on the shoulder (see Isaiah 22:21–22). Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came “as one having authority” (Matthew 7:29). And He will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords during the Millennium, when “he reigns whose right it is to reign” (D&C 58:22; see also Articles of Faith 1:10).

Wonderful Counsellor

The word wonderful comes from the Hebrew word for “miracle,” suggesting both the Messiah’s miraculous birth and the miracles He would perform during His life. The word counsellor has to do with the commandments and teachings the Messiah would bring to guide us back to Heavenly Father. As the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob said, “[The Lord] counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works” (Jacob 4:10).

The Mighty God

“Believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the greatest [figure] of time and eternity. Believe that his matchless life reached back before the world was formed. Believe that he was the Creator of the earth on which we live. Believe that he was Jehovah of the Old Testament, that he was the Messiah of the New Testament, that he died and was resurrected, … and that he lives, the living Son of the living God, our Savior and our Redeemer.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), “Be Not Faithless,” Tambuli, Apr. 1990, 4; Ensign, Apr. 1989, 2.

The Everlasting Father

“Jehovah, who is Jesus Christ the Son of Elohim, is called ‘the Father,’ and even ‘the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth’ (see … Mosiah 16:15). With analogous meaning Jesus Christ is called ‘The Everlasting Father’ (Isa. 9:6; compare 2 Ne. 19:6). … Jesus Christ, being the Creator, is consistently called the Father of heaven and earth … ; and since His creations are of eternal quality He is very properly called the Eternal Father of heaven and earth.”

“The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” Ensign, Apr. 2002, 13; from Improvement Era, Aug. 1916, 934–42.

The Prince of Peace

“Perhaps we stray from the path which leads to peace and find it necessary to pause, to ponder, and to reflect on the teachings of the Prince of Peace and determine to incorporate them in our thoughts and actions and to live a higher law, walk a more elevated road, and be a better disciple of Christ.”

President Thomas S. Monson, “Finding Peace,” Liahona and Ensign, Mar. 2004, 3.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

 

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[Song] For Unto us a child is born

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[Scripture] Luke 2:11

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

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[Challenge – Press Pause] – Born of an earthly mother and or Heavenly Father, Jesus is both our brother and our Saviour. He gave His life so that we could live together forever. It is His birth we celebrate at Christmastime. Jesus is a symbol for many things, but at Christmas, it is His perfect love for us that we remember most. Take a minute today after opening presents, eating food and being merry to pause and think about the saviour. Think about who He is to you and what you are thankful for.

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 [Story relating to the challenge]

The Christmas Scene by Neal A. Maxwell

The Christmas scene is so varied: frustrated fathers poring over directions written in failed English while trying to assemble toys packaged by someone who miscounted the nuts and bolts; bleary-eyed, bone-weary mothers desperately sewing after hours to finish a dress; a child neglecting an expensive gift in favor of something surprisingly simple; elegant, carefully applied wrappings being torn quickly apart as if they were an obstacle instead of part of the gift; the unforeseen need for more batteries increasing as parents’ own energy supplies diminish; and with the deadline drawing ever closer, parental exhaustion finally triumphing over spousal communication.

We gladly shower so much on each other and then feel guilty amid our comparative abundance. Yet more presents were likely put under the tree than there were gifts placed in others’ storehouses of self-esteem. More bright wrappings may have been scattered about than bright words of good cheer.

Nintendos follow yesteryear’s coveted Cabbage Patch dolls into the dustbin of history. Our material gifts, like our natural Christmas trees, soon perish, if only from appreciative use. The new tie, at least in my case, will be spilled on before week’s end.

Even so, commercialized as the Christmas scene has become, this season is still one of the few times when much of the human family shares a focused pause and joins in some religious contemplation. For a moment at least, Christmas takes us outside the tiny theater of self into “the broad, sunlit uplands.” Yes, we still wish Christmas were more deeply felt and lasted longer, but the visibly increased goodwill nevertheless reminds us, if only briefly, of what could be everlastingly. For a few days, the first and second commandments are more pondered and observed.

At Christmas time, and rightly so, the capacity for receiving is also needed. Yes, there really is also a season under heaven for receiving. In view of all God has given to us, we ought to be pretty good at receiving, but we are not. We who regard ourselves as quite self-sufficient and independent often find receiving awkward, even difficult. Sometimes the Lord provides us with unwanted circumstances in our lives in order to teach us how to receive.

Clearly, there are times in life when one person needs to say or to give something—and to do so much more than the other person needs to hear or receive it. How frequently our communications with God reflect this circumstance! He does not need us to inform Him of our needs through petitionary prayer. Nevertheless, He provides for our need to petition and our need to thank and to praise Him.

We should not be surprised, however, if the need to give and the need to receive are not always precisely matched. There is bound to be some disappointment at times, including Christmas.

Let us consider, however, a few fundamentals of the Christmas scene which are never dismantled and are never “over.”

Celebrating that special star, as we do, denotes an acknowledgment of divine design that operates each day of the year, refuting those who declare that the universe represents “godless geometric space,” or that we live in “an unsponsored universe,” in an “empire of chance.” The little star of Bethlehem was not little, given all its accompanying implications!

The new star, by the way, would have had to be placed in its precise orbit long, long before it shone so precisely! By reflecting such careful divine design, it underscored what the Lord has said: “All things must come to pass in their time” (D&C 64:32). His planning and precision pertain not only to astrophysical orbits but to human orbits as well. This is a stunning thing for us to contemplate in all seasons! How great the implications of the revelations!

Therefore, what about our individualized orbits and schedules? Do we appear on the scene on time, and do we “shine as lights in the world” as the Apostle Paul urged? (Philippians 2:15.) Yes, there is a personalized plan for each of us. Like the Christmas star, each of us, if faithful, has an ordained orbit, a prescribed path, as we pass through this second estate.

We sing, “The stars in the heavens looked down where He lay.” The on-looking universe, created by Jesus under the Father’s direction, contained “worlds without number” (Moses 1:33). In that sense, Christ was cradled not only in a manger but also in the midst of His own vast creations.

On the Eastern Hemisphere, the special star which signaled His birth was recognized by only a few shepherds and several wise men. The multitudes were too busy with great feasts and taxes. They were too preoccupied with the ebb and flow of political power, as are so many in our own time. When Christ comes again, however, it will not be to the meekness of the manger but in majesty and power. The sign of His second coming will be such that “all people shall see it together” (D&C 88:93), not just a humble few. How the Lord will manage all that we do not know, but He clearly declares “all flesh shall see me together” (D&C 101:23). What an impending moment!

Exclaiming “Joy to the world!” provides a much-needed antidote to those who say, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (2 Nephi 28:7). Truly, “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25)—unless they choose questionable, perishable pleasure instead! Lyrics like “Christ, the Savior, is born” constitute a faith-filled response to those who declare, “No deity will save us; we must save ourselves” (Humanist Manifesto II, 1973).

Still, despite Christmas and seasonal renewal, an objective observer of the human scene would agree that the sea of Christian faith is on the ebb. Matthew Arnold so wrote of that ebbing sea of faith, and of how there is only to be heard

Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
(“Dover Beach”)

In a world filled with distress, despair, and perplexity, Christmas reminds those who have eyes to see of the humble beginning of Jesus’ great rescue mission. Many mortals, even those who do not believe we are a fallen race, agree that mankind is in distress. As C. S. Lewis wrote, “disgraced [man] may be, yet is not dethroned, and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned” (C. S. Lewis, The Authentic Voice, p. 88). If we look closely—and Christmas stirs us to look closely—the worn label in those “rags” tells us of our true identity.

God’s gifts, unlike seasonal gifts, are eternal and unperishable, constituting a continuing Christmas which is never over! These infinite gifts are made possible by the “infinite atonement” (2 Nephi 9:7; Alma 34:10–12). Without the “infinite atonement” there would be no universal immortality, nor could there be given the greatest gift which even God can give—eternal life! (D&C 6:13; 14:7.)

Meanwhile, if we cannot distinguish the eternal things from the things of the day, we are to be pitied. The first Christmas in the Middle East was met with massive, uncomprehending indifference. In both fact and symbol there was no room at the inn. People were busy, just as in the days of Noah, and just as they will be prior to the Second Coming.

Sometimes the Lord’s work meets with icy indifference; at other times, with stiff resistance. The latter was the case in the Americas that first Christmas. Unbelievers threatened members of the Church with death if the prophesied sign heralding Jesus’ birth did not occur precisely as calendared (3 Nephi 1:9). What immense pressure and anxiety that band of Christians must have felt! Had the date actually passed? Could they hold out? Only at the last moment did the divine reassurance come: “On the morrow come I into the world” (3 Nephi 1:13). True faith can carry us past seeming breaking points! For real Christians, “hold on,” “hold fast,” “endure well” finally become much more than mere words.

Think of the wise men. From whence they came and how long their journey, we know not. We know only that they came from the east.

Upon their arrival in Jerusalem, the wise men made a courtesy call upon Herod and were requested by that wily one to return and tell him where they found the Christ child. Having been warned in a dream, they wisely hearkened again to divine counsel and did not inform the king (Matthew 2:12). They knew how to render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s, but unto God that which was God’s (Matthew 22:21). The world’s Caesars and Herods come and go, “an hour of pomp, an hour of show,” but these wise men had come to worship the King of kings.

Bethlehem blends with Gethsemane and Calvary to symbolize God’s great gift of the Messiah and the infinite atonement!

He before whom a few gifts were laid in that lowly manger has spread so many gifts before us, thereby providing an unending Christmas. In fact, from Him for whom there was no room at the inn there comes to the faithful so many blessings “that there shall not be room enough to receive [them]”! (Malachi 3:10.)

The words expressed in celebration of Jesus’ birth (“Good tidings of great joy,” “A Saviour” is born, “Glory to God in the highest” [Luke 2:10, 11, 14]) followed a millennia of waiting for the Messiah to be born. The birth at Bethlehem signaled that very soon that great redemption would come! What were a mere thirty-three more years until the glorious redemption, when some had waited thirty-three centuries!

Felicity is often followed by irony. Later in Jesus’ mortal Messiahship, Lazarus, whose life Jesus miraculously restored, soon found that happy life endangered. The enemies of Jesus clearly did not want a living witness to the Savior’s healing power. (John 12:10–12.) After Jesus was resurrected, one wonders, did Lazarus remain an object of curiosity, and even of hostility, among some of his contemporaries?

Ironies so often follow the felicities and the reveries in our lives. In fact, irony is a particularly sharp, customized, cutting tool of adversity. No one experienced more irony than Jesus during His mortal Messiahship.

After Egypt, the First Family resided in Nazareth. Micah had prophesied Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), but Matthew wrote of prophecies saying Christ would be known as a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23). Earlier Book of Mormon prophets foretold that Mary would be a Nazarene (1 Nephi 11:13). Without a fulness of the scriptures, however, there occurred a misreading:

Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.

Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?

Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?

So there was a division among the people because of him. (John 7:40–43.)

Today there is still “a division” concerning Jesus. Some say He is merely a man, a thing of “naught” (John 7:42, 43; 1 Nephi 19:7). Others regard Him as a great moral teacher. Still others, as a minor prophet. Some say, correctly and happily, He is the redeeming Messiah!

The first Christmas included admirable Joseph, who endured misunderstanding. Being a just man, he had not wished to embarrass Mary. Then, while he pondered, an angel appeared to reassure and to direct him. (Matthew 1:18–24.) But Joseph first had to endure and ponder the trial of the unexplainable—before the witness came, just as in Moroni’s counsel: “Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6).

Then there was Mary. She knew more than she could tell. Furthermore, she also had been told things she could not fully understand, so she kept these things in her heart and pondered them. (Luke 2:19–51.) Even so, she could not be expected to see the full dimensions of the great work of which she was such an important part. Sometimes she was an understandably anxious mother, as when her twelve-year-old son seemed lost. Found, He said to her, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49.)

Is not a mixture of insight and anxiety to be found in each of us? We too sometimes know more than we can tell, more than tongue can transmit. Nor does our special gospel knowledge immunize us from all anxiety. We are still required to go through daily life, not around it.

Just why did God choose to have Jesus born in an obscure manger? To live in an obscure country, on an obscure planet, in an obscure solar system, which is at the outer edges of the Milky Way, a comparatively ordinary galaxy, one of a million million galaxies? We do not know.

Having genuine faith in God clearly requires not only believing that He is there but also that He is cosmically competent—that He can really bring to pass His purposes (2 Nephi 27:20, 21).

As we begin to sense the immensity of God’s plans, we also begin to ponder the breathtaking personalness of His work. While guiding galaxies, God notices the fall of each sparrow and knows the secret desires of our individual hearts. The vastness of His work is unfathomable to us: “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 76:24).

Does our faith in Jesus include faith in His timing, whether in His macro-management of the entire universe or in His micro-shepherding of us?

Bethlehem, Gethsemane, and Calvary thus conjoin to provide a Christmas which is as infinite as the infinite atonement—and as unending.

Jesus’ name was determined premortally to be the loftiest, and the only name under heaven offering salvation to mankind. Yet on earth He willingly lived, wrote Paul, as a person “of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7).

As the Creator Lord, He constructed the universe, yet in Galilee He was known merely as “the carpenter’s son”! (Matthew 13:55.) The Lord of the universe was even without honor in His own provincial Nazarene countryside (Mark 6:4).

He issued the original commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy, but was accused of violating the Sabbath because He gave healing rest to the afflicted (John 5:8–16).

The irony was constant. This whole earth is actually Jesus’ footstool, but at Bethlehem there was “no crib for his bed.” Christ was keenly aware of irony: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).

Jesus was Lord of all the prophets. Truly, “before Abraham” was He, Jehovah (John 8:58). But for His so saying, some quickly sought to take Jesus’ life (John 8:59).

Jesus, as Jehovah, called, prepared, and taught Moses, introducing the law of Moses as a schoolmaster for the later fulness of His gospel (Galatians 3:24; 2 Nephi 25:24). Yet when Jesus unsuccessfully reminded audiences that Moses had written of Him, the people still preferred honoring Moses to listening to Jesus’ words (John 5:46–47; see also Luke 24:27).

An anxious Pilate “saith unto Jesus, Whence are thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.” (John 19:9.) Yet months earlier, to a woman of Samaria who expected the Messiah, Jesus had quietly disclosed, “I that speak unto thee am he” (John 4:26).

After certain religious leaders enflamed the pre-crucifixion crowd, He who within hours would rescue all mankind heard the manipulated crowd cry “Barabbas,” who was thereby rescued instead of Jesus (Mark 15:11).

Christ the Creator fashioned “worlds without number,” providing us with astrophysical awe when viewing even “the least of these” (D&C 88:47). Yet with His fingers He created clay from spittle, restoring sight to one blind man (John 9:6).

No wonder the declaratory focus of the first Christmas was on “a Savior is born.” What greater tidings could there be than those “good tidings of great joy”? No wonder the reverential exclamation praising our planning and loving Father—indeed, “Glory to God in the highest”!

“Come, let us adore Him,” Jesus Christ. The ultimate form of adoration of Him is emulation! Come, let us glorify God with our daily lives!

Like the wise men from the east, we too must travel a great distance in order to come unto Christ, the Light of the World. No matter—He waits for us “with open arms” (Mormon 6:17). May Christmas cause us deeper contemplation and deeper determination to complete that journey, the journey of journeys—in order to experience that resplendent rendezvous.

What counsel then comes to us out of that Bethlehem chapter to help us be worthy and effective participants in the further unfolding chapters?

  1. We should be like that star—in our proper orbit and place, on time, putting our talents to work, doing what we have been asked to do. God has placed us in our proper human orbits with the same precision he used as He placed that star in a certain trajectory ages before it shone brightly that special night. Like that star, we too must reflect the glory of God and not seek to shine for our own sake. Illuminated individuals should remember that “a candle is not lighted for itself, and neither is a man.” (George McDonald, Life Essential, p. 79.)
  2. We should emulate the shepherds who “made known abroad” all that which was told them. And we have been told so much more! We too must be willing to leave off other tasks in order to declare the glad and good tidings of Christ’s gospel and Church fully restored. The scriptures say the shepherds “came with haste.” Their lengthening of their stride is a sermon in itself.
  3. We can be like the wise men and notice the signs in the midst of an unnoticing world and seek the Savior—refusing, as did the wise men, to be used improperly by earthly rulers, yet giving freely of our gifts and talents and time, for these are the real gold, frankincense, and myrrh of our lives.
  4. Let us do what is right even when misunderstood, just as Joseph did, and endure the doubts and even the derision of others who simply do not understand what divine purposes are under way.
  5. We should, as did John the Baptist while yet a babe in Elizabeth’s womb, leap in anticipation and acknowledgment of the impending Christ. We too need a sense of history and of our place in preparing the way for His coming.
  6. Like our fellow members of the ancient Church on the American Hemisphere, we ought to be willing to trust (even up to the last moment) in the fulfillment of prophecy. These Saints trusted in Samuel’s prophecy about the Savior’s birth (Helaman 14:3–5) even when their lives were forfeit (3 Nephi 1:8–9).
  7. We will need to be like Mary and keep some things in our hearts and ponder them trustingly, for we too know more than we can tell. And should we, like the Christ child, need to spend a season in an Egypt of patient preparation and waiting, so be it!
  8. We should avoid being deeply disappointed or surprised when the modern innkeepers or the establishments of the world have no room for Christ’s servants or cannot “give place for a portion” of Christ’s word (Alma 32:27). For us too, better a spiritual manger than a stay in those secular inns of the intellect which are so exclusionary of spiritual things.
  9. Let us not be surprised, either, if the Herods of today are no more humane than the one of the Christ child’s day, especially when they think their kingdoms are to be threatened by the kingdom of God. Let us be wise as serpents and harmless as doves as we are confronted with the modern counterparts of that wily Herod who asked the wise men to return to him to tell him where the Babe was so that he too could come to “worship.” It is better to be rejected than “taken in” by those who would use us to hurt God’s work.

Yes, the larger Christmas story is clearly not over. It is not solely about some other time, some other place, and some other people. It is still unfolding, and we are in it!

Like the wise men who persisted to Bethlehem, let us not turn back from our full journey—beyond Bethlehem—and we too shall be led to Him.

So, in gospel gladness, we wish for ourselves and each other not only a “Merry Christmas” with all that implies, and not just a “Happy New Year,” but also the joys and happiness of eternal life, God’s greatest gift!

 

Media link: [The Greatest Gift ]

https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2010-12-0140-the-greatest-gift?

 

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10th Anniversary Advent Throw-Back :

[A Favourite from Previous Advents]

My Friend Judith shared with me her 2 Favourite Scriptures which were found in Isaiah 9:2 and 9:6-7 speaking of the people walking in darkness that see a great light. That great Light spoken of by Isaiah was The Saviour, The Light of the world.

“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.” [V6]

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 Saviour 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 great 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 carpenter’s 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 Calvary’s 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 Saviour whose birth we remember this season of the year paid the price of all of our sins. Again the prophet Isaiah, long before our Lord’s birth, saw the gift beyond price of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

He gave us this description of what the Saviour 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.”

Those who have felt that peace and healing have their hearts filled with gratitude.

[Henry B. Eyring]

I know of that peace and healing and gratitude that comes from partaking of the Atonement that Christ so willingly offered for us. I Hope this day we reflect not just of the baby that was born for us but of the God that died for us. [Audrey Boardman]

 

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[Colouring Page] – Right Click to Save.

day-25-baby-jesus

Family Advent – Day 24

[Symbol] The Camel

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[A Story relating to the Symbol]

The Camel Had Wandered

By Janet Eyestone Buck

Our family has always enjoyed a Christmas tradition of setting out a ceramic Nativity scene—complete with Wise Men, camels, shepherds, sheep, and, of course, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. Each season the Nativity scene was the same.

One year when my children were young, I carefully unwrapped each piece and set them up to represent the first Christmas. The children gathered around to watch. We talked about the birth of Jesus and the visit of the shepherds and the Wise Men. Then I cautioned the children, as always, not to touch the pieces, explaining that they were fragile and easy to break.

This year, however, the temptation was too great for my two-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. The day we set up the Nativity scene, I noticed several times, with some irritation, that a camel had wandered from its appointed place or a sheep had strayed from the watchful care of the shepherd. Each time, I returned the piece to its rightful place, then tracked down the culprit and admonished her to leave things alone.

The next morning, Elizabeth awoke and went downstairs before I did. When I walked into the living room, I noticed right away that the manger scene had been disturbed again. All the pieces were clumped together in a mass, as tightly as they could be fitted together.

Impatiently, I stepped forward to put things right; but I stopped short as I realized that some thought had gone into this new arrangement. All twenty-three figures were grouped in a circle, facing inward, pushed together as if to get the best view possible of the figure resting in the center of them all—the baby Jesus.

The Spirit touched my soul as I pondered the insight of a two-year-old. Certainly, Christ should be the center of our holiday celebrations. If we all could draw in around our Savior—not only during the Christmas season, but during each day—what a better perspective we would have. The love he offers to each of us would be easily shared with others who have not ventured so close.

I left the Nativity scene arranged according to Elizabeth’s design that year. It served as a simple reminder during the rest of the season of what Christmas is all about.

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 [Song] Wise men still seek Him {Different From CD}

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwJpoksTasY

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[Scripture] Matthew 24:13

He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

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[Challenge – Endure] – Camels have a lot of physiological adaptations that allow them to withstand long periods of time without any external source of water.  Camels are able to withstand changes in body temperature and water consumption that would kill most other animals. The camels carried heavy packs on their backs for their long journey. They had to simply endure the trail day by day in all conditions. They helped the wise men cross the dessert and reach their destination, which was were the young Saviour was. Find one thing today that you can be patient with and endure, having faith that there is goodness and wonder at the end of the trail.

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 [Article/Story relating to the challenge]

Shining Moment: A Memorable Christmas

Contributed By Rey Johnson, Church News contributor

As a University of Utah student from 1956 to 1961, I was associated with the LDS institute and the LDS social organization, Lambda Delta Sigma. Among our many memorable activities was the annual Christmas caroling outing. This wasn’t just your ordinary neighborhood group. Lambda Delta Sigma was a large organization, and we typically had a hundred students participating in those caroling sessions.

The highlight of the evening was always the visit to President David O. McKay’s home on East South Temple in Salt Lake City. Their home featured a large front porch, and each year we would assemble in the front yard and sing while President and Sister McKay would stand on the porch and listen and then graciously thank us for our visit.

Christmas 1960, however, was a bit different. As a consequence of advancing years, the McKays moved into a suite in what was then the Hotel Utah, now the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. You don’t take a hundred bundled-up carolers into the limited confines of their suite. Instead, we went to the home of President J. Reuben Clark, then a counselor to President McKay. President Clark’s home, located in the “avenues” in Salt Lake City, was a modest home with a front yard just large enough to accommodate a hundred carolers. At this time President Clark was bedridden and his bed was adjacent to an upstairs window overlooking the front yard.

His window was opened, and we sang. Then he spoke to us from his upstairs window. I don’t remember all that was said, but one line hit me powerfully. He said, “I pray every day that I will have strength to endure to the end.”

Here was a man who was a distinguished attorney, author, former U.S. ambassador, former assistant secretary of state, an Apostle for over 26 years, and a counselor to the President of the Church! And his prayer was that he would stay true to the course. And of course President Clark stayed true. He passed away the following October, having touched my life in a very personal way. He left me with a challenge that I too may have strength to endure to the end.

This experience has caused me to reflect on the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his “A Psalm of Life”:

Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time.

 

Media link: [Wise Men Still Seek Him – Modern-Day Story of The Wise Men ]

https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2011-12-019-wise-men-still-seek-him?

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10th Anniversary Advent Throw-Back :

[A Favourite from Previous Advents]

Quote: [By Elder Richard L. Evans]

If we can give hope to a neighbour whose hope in an eternal future has been dimmed by a much too worldly present, we shall have given that which is of more worth than any gift that could be conveyed in coloured wrappings.

Looking forward with hope has defined Christmas since the beginning. For millennia, prophets anticipated the coming of the Messiah. Wise men looked to the heavens before they saw a bright new star. And Mary and Joseph must have earnestly anticipated the birth of the precious babe as they journeyed to Bethlehem.

Each year we, too, look forward with hope. Christmas is the sweet assurance that we can rest our hope in Christ and look to the future with faith. Christmas is marked by a spirit of hopeful anticipation, of joyful preparation, of earnest longing for good things to come. At Christmas, we fill the world with hope one child, one person, at a time.

This retelling of a story entitled Where Love Is, There God Is Also by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) is about a man who, for a time, lost all hope.

Martin, a village shoemaker, lost his wife and then each of his children to a dreaded disease. He was stricken with grief. In his loneliness, he declared, “I am now a man who has no hope.” While despairing, Martin met a pilgrim, a man of God, who encouraged him to read the New Testament in the Bible. That very day, Martin bought a copy of the New Testament in large print and began reading. He could not stop reading. He learned about Jesus, about His life and teachings, and read until all the kerosene had burned out of his lamp. He read the next day and the next. As he read, his heart grew lighter and he began to hope again.

Every night, he would sit at his table by the fire and read. One night, he read about the Pharisee who invited Jesus into his home, after which a woman came and washed the Saviour’s feet with her tears. Martin wondered if he would be like the Pharisee, thinking about himself, or if he would be like the woman who humbly worshipped the Lord. While he was pondering, he put his elbows on the table and fell asleep. He wasn’t sure if he was dreaming, but he thought he heard the Lord just outside his door say, “Martin, Martin, look tomorrow into the street. I am coming.”

Martin woke the next morning filled with hopeful anticipation. The Savior was coming to visit him! He could hardly contain his excitement. He tidied his cellar house and straightened his workshop and looked out the window, watching and waiting for his special visitor. While Martin worked, he glanced up through the window. He noticed an old man scraping snow off the sidewalk. The man seemed very cold and tired. Martin left his workbench and walked up the stairs to the street. He invited the old man to sit by his fire. Martin warmed some tea for him, sat near him, and listened to the old man tell his life’s story. At last, when the old man left, he thanked Martin and told him that he felt refreshed in body and spirit.

Before too long Martin looked out his window again and noticed a woman trying to comfort her cold and hungry child. He noticed that she had no shawl and was wearing a summer dress on a cold and wintry day. Again, he climbed the stairs to the street and invited the woman and her child inside. The child was crying and could not be comforted. The mother’s hands, face, and feet were stiff with cold. Martin asked the young woman why she had no shawl to protect her from the cold. She said that her husband was a soldier, and she hadn’t heard from him in a very long time. Just the day before, she had sold her shawl to buy food. Martin reached for her child, held him, and played with him until the crying child began to laugh. Martin poured some hot cabbage soup for the woman to eat and rummaged through his trunk until he found a coat that would fit the little boy. When the woman stood to leave, Martin gave her some money to buy a shawl and made sure she had a place to stay.

The sun would set soon, but Martin was still hopeful. He looked through his window into the street and strained to see what was there. All he could see was an old woman selling apples. Just as Martin picked up the piece of leather he was sewing, a boy ran past the woman and stole an apple. The woman grabbed the boy by the hair and started yelling and beating him. Martin ran up the steps of his cellar, not even stopping to pick up the eyeglasses he dropped, and asked the woman why she was so angry. Martin talked to the boy and told him to apologize to the woman. Martin paid for the apple and gave it to the boy. He talked to both of them about forgiveness. Before long, the old woman and the boy walked away together, laughing and talking between themselves.

Martin still felt hopeful, but he knew that night had fallen and the Savior had not come yet. He sat at his table to read. Instead of turning to the page where his leather bookmark lay, he opened to another page and began reading. At the top of the page, he began to read, “And I was an hungered and thirsty, and ye gave Me to drink. I was a stranger and ye took Me in.” And a few verses later, he read, “Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”

Tolstoy closes the story: “And [Martin] understood that his dream had not deceived him, and that the Saviour had really come to him that day, and he had really received Him.”

[by Lloyd & Karmal Newell]

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Family Advent – Day 23

[Symbol] The Wise Men

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[An Article/Story relating to the Symbol]

For the Full Article See here: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2006/12/treasured-giftshttps://www.lds.org/ensign/2006/12/treasured-gifts?

Treasured Gifts

By President Thomas S. Monson

 …At home in a hidden-away corner, I have a small black walking stick with an imitation silver handle. It once belonged to a distant relative. Why do I keep it for a period now spanning more than 70 years? There is a special reason. As a small boy I participated in a Christmas pageant in our ward. I was privileged to be one of the three Wise Men. With a bandanna about my head, Mother’s piano bench cover draped over my shoulder, and the black cane in my hand, I spoke my assigned lines: “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”  I vividly remember the feelings of my heart as the three of us “Wise Men” looked upward and saw a star, journeyed across the stage, found Mary with the young child Jesus, then fell down and worshipped Him and opened our treasures and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

I especially liked the fact that we did not return to the evil Herod to betray the baby Jesus but obeyed God and departed another way.

The years have flown by, but the Christmas cane continues to occupy a special place in my home; and in my heart is a commitment to Christ.

For a few moments, may we set aside the catalogs of Christmas, with their gifts of exotic description. Let’s even turn from the flowers for Mother, the special tie for Father, the cute doll, the train that whistles, the long-awaited bicycle—even the books and videos—and direct our thoughts to God-given gifts that endure. From a long list I will cite just four:

  1. The gift of birth
  2. The gift of peace
  3. The gift of love
  4. The gift of life eternal

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[Song] We Three Kings of Orient Are

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[Scripture] Matthew 2:1

Behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.

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[Challenge – Seek & Find] – Long ago, prophecy told of the coming of a Messiah and a new star that would appear as a sign of His birth. The Wise Men had been seeking or looking for the sign of the New King long before they began their journey. Men of science studied the night skies and when the star finally appeared, they followed it. try to seek and find something out about Jesus today.

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 [Article/Story relating to the challenge]

To See Full Articles with Artwork: https://www.lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/unto-all-the-world/a-christmas-message-from-the-first-presidency?

 

A Christmas Message from the First Presidency

December 2015

 

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). The Wise Men who travelled long distances to see the divine child, whose birth had been long foretold, crossed physical and social barriers to “come … adore him”

We find the real joy of Christmas when we make the Saviour the focus of the season. We can keep Him in our thoughts and in our lives as we go about the work He would have us perform here on earth. At this time, particularly, let us follow His example as we love and serve our fellowmen.

Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is peace because we have found peace in the Saviour’s teachings. It is the time we realize most deeply that the more love is expended, the more there is of it for others.

 

The story of the Magi is one of absolute faith. Their journey to first identify and then follow the star—a sign from God testifying of the birth of the Saviour—attests to their spiritual sensitivity. Led by the Spirit, they completed their arduous journey. While their identity is not known, their witness of the birth of the Messiah makes clear their holy and prophetic mission.

As the Christmas season envelops us with all its glory, may we, as did the Wise Men, seek a bright, particular star to guide us to our Christmas opportunity in service to our fellowman. May we all make the journey to Bethlehem in spirit, taking with us a tender, caring heart as our gift to the Saviour. And may one and all have a joy-filled Christmas.

 

Media link: [ The Wise Men Seek jesus ]

https://www.lds.org/bible-videos/videos/the-wise-men-seek-jesus?lang=eng

 

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10th Anniversary Advent Throw-Back :

[A Favourite from Previous Advents]

This year I stopped to contemplate the kind of gift I’d bring
To lay at the nail-scarred feet of my Gracious Heavenly King.
He’s given my very life to me, and the blessings I hold dear,
But I can’t come up with anything appropriate, I fear.
Every time I give Him something, He more than doubles the return…
I gave to Him my weakness, His strength He then confirmed
Would always be there for me to securely hold on to.
I gave Him my shattered life – He gave me life anew.

I gave Him my pain and heartbreak, all that troubled my weary soul –
He gave me hope and happiness, and made my body whole.
I gave Him all my doubts and fears, the things that stood in the way
Of my daily service in His name – He made them go away.

I offered Him my feeble voice, to sing His praise in song –
He filled my heart with a melody, that will last my whole life long.
I offered Him my hands to serve, to help out those in need,
He gave me the talent to use these tools, so that I would succeed.

I gave Him my life completely, to show His light in a world of night,
He gave me a wonderful testimony, a way to share His light.
I offered Him my eyes to see all that they could take in –
He showed to me a world of fear, unhappiness and sin.

For every gift I gave to Him, He handed back to me
Instructions for their uses – endless possibility
To reach a world that needs to find the Saviour that I found,
So on and on, I serve, for to Him in love I’m bound.”

 

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Family Advent – Day 22

[Symbol] The Star of Bethlehem

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[A Poem relating to the Symbol]

Bethelehem’s Star by Bevan Olsen

I’m a Star, that’s right, I’m one that you won’t ever see.

But chances are that you’ve looked for and heard about me!

I’ve become quite a symbol for a season of love,

Because I did my job well as I shone from above.

So I’ll tell you a story of how I was born.

I don’t know how long I shined but I’ll tell you what for.

When all things were created they were set in their place.

All the planets and stars God hung out in space.

He created this universe and countless more.

A Few of us helped Him; it was quite a chore.

He didn’t give me a spot, but He said not to worry,

My time was far off, but it would come in a hurry.

He told me , my light would be remembered forever,

Because He had a plan of salvation that He thought was quite clever.

So I sat and I waited for thousands of nights.

I didn’t shine once – I was saving my light.

Every new day that came I hoped God would come by,

To tell me He’d found me a place in the sky.

In fact, I had waited so long I thought He forgot

That He promised I could shine in my own special spot.

But He didn’t forget; one day He brought me great news,

That I would shine in the sky for the King of the Jews!

I was happy that God kept His promise and hadn’t forgotten,

So I promised to shine my brightest for His only Begotten.

He gave me a place not too high, not too low.

Then He told me to shine for all the people below.

I gave it my all, I shone with all of my might.

My Light was incredible! I lit up the whole night!

Just as soon as I shone I heard a baby’s sweet cry,

While a beam of my light fell on a manger nearby.

When I looked closer I saw a stable full of new life,

As Joseph handed the babe to his precious young wife.

Then a little way off on a hill not too steep,

A Few shepherds played tunes to their great herd of sheep.

When suddenly into the air an angel appeared.

It shocked those poor shepherds and filled them with fear.

He told them, “Fear not, I bring you glad tidings of great Joy.”

He said that my light would lead them to this new baby boy.

As my light swept through the night and began to cover the earth,

Prophecy was fulfilled that this was Jesus’ birth.

I watched Magi travel from faraway lands.

They came from mountains, the valleys, and across the great sands.

These Kings brought Him three gifts that were thoughtful and pure.

They brought Gold, Frankincense and even some Myrrh.

The baby grew into a toddler, then into a boy.

He learned the ways of His father and brought His parents great Joy.

He was a carpenter’s son, the heir of kingdoms unseen,

To be a leader of men and the world’s purest king.

As Jesus grew older my light started to fade,

And my brightness grew dimmer with each passing day.

Until my light completely ran out – I disappeared into the night.

My Purpose was fulfilled: I had shone with all my might.

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[Song] Star Carol

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1NDk4XGoJ0

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[Scripture] Matthew 2: 9

And lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, til it came and stood over where the young child was.

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[Challenge – Be a Guide] – When Jesus was born, shepherds and wise men followed a new star to Bethlehem, where he lay in a manger. Stars like this one are symbols of wisdom or guides. The Shepherds and the Wise Men used the star as a guide to find baby Jesus. Find one way today to be an example of Jesus that will show others the way to be like Him.

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 [Article/Story relating to the challenge]

Out of Darkness

[from 21 days closer to Christ by Emily Freeman]

Let us walk in the light of the Lord. —Isaiah 2:5

“A youngster walking through a dense London fog was carrying a lighted lantern.

“‘Guide me back to my hotel,’ said a voice from out of the fog, ‘and I’ll give you a shilling.’

“‘Yes, sir.’

“And so the boy, holding his lantern high, started walking in the fog and soon reached the hotel. As he paused, not one man but four stepped forward with a shilling. The other three had seen the light and followed without question. It is so with any who lead the way to truth and light” (See N. Eldon Tanner, “The Power of Example,” Ensign, Dec. 1981, 4).

It is amazing what darkness can do. It has an unsettling effect, altering our perception and creating a sense of unease. In a recent general conference, I noticed how many apostles alluded to the fact that we live in perilous times. Uncertainty surrounds us and often the dangers that are lurking around us are hidden from our view. The best way to move forward through these perilous times is to focus on the teachings of Christ. Through the scriptures and the living prophet we will be guided in the direction of safety. But is this all it will take for His light to shine through the darkest hours and inspire us to make good decisions?

Isaiah asks, “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow” (Isa. 50:10–11).

“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” —Isaiah 9:2

This scripture teaches a very important lesson, but it has to be learned line upon line. None of us wants to lie down in sorrow. To avoid that we have to understand what this scripture tells us to do. The first line describes a person who has learned about Christ and follows the commandments from the prophet, but who walks in darkness because he has no light. It seems that Isaiah gave us a contradiction. How could this happen? If we skip down a line, Isaiah makes it clear by painting a very interesting description. He describes a light that is manmade with sparks that the individual has kindled. This is a person who has obtained knowledge, but instead of relying on the light of Christ, has chosen to rely on his own light and strength.

One of the greatest struggles Christians through all time have faced is apathy. Going through the motions won’t prevent us from distancing ourselves from the Lord. It is important that we remain focused as to where our commitment and devotion lie. Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “As I read and ponder the scriptures and carefully consider the Lord’s counsel to His followers in every dispensation of time, it appears to me that the most important thing every one of us can do is examine our own commitment and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. We must carefully guard against spiritual apathy and work to maintain the full measure of our loving loyalty to the Lord” (“How Is It with Us?” Ensign, May 2000, 31; emphasis in original).

To avoid walking in darkness, Isaiah encourages us to trust in the name of the Lord and stay upon our God. It takes a lot of faith to realize that we can’t do everything on our own and then to learn to trust in and be supported by the Lord. It is by doing this that we come to know His will for us. That knowledge will define our actions. When we trust Him enough to accept His will and learn to lean on Him for our support, then we will be filled with His light.

As we walk through one of the darkest times in history we would be wise to look to the Light. Then it will be said of us as it was of the people in Isaiah 9:2, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” That “great light” is Christ. He is the sure and steady beam that will lead us safely home.

Media link: [Look to the Light ]

https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2010-12-22-look-to-the-light?lang=eng

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10th Anniversary Advent Throw-Back :

[A Favourite from Previous Advents]

Quote: [Neal A. Maxwell]

“Yes, the larger Christmas story is clearly not over. It is not solely
about some other time, some other place, and some other people. It is
still unfolding, and we are in it!

Follow Your Star [by Lynn C. Jaynes]

“You bought what?”

“I know it sounds silly, but it’ll be a good thing. You wait and see.” It was dark when we loaded the five-foot Barbie dollhouse into my husband’s pickup. Was he was rolling his eyes? I was sure he was rolling his eyes. Not that I blamed him. It even sounded silly to me. What was a fifty-year-old woman doing buying a dollhouse? But it was all part of “following my Christmas star,” I just knew it. Sort of. Maybe. But it’s awkward explaining the intricacies of following a Christmas star to someone without sounding just a tad crazy. Let’s back up a bit, though. We read this about the original star-followers:

 

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. (Matthew 2:1–2)

 

It seems a little odd to me that only the Wise Men saw the star. Or perhaps only the Wise Men followed the star. Then again, maybe only the Wise Men knew what the star signified.

 

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:3)

 

Ah-ha! So they did know what the star signified.

 

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. (Matthew 2:4–6)

 

At this point it would seem the Wise Men told Herod of the star and brought others into the loop as well. But, as far as we know, the Wise Men were the only ones who went looking for the Christ child. Odd.

 

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. (Matthew 2:7–12)

 

I don’t know why others didn’t follow the star. I don’t know what they saw or didn’t see, what they knew or didn’t know. All I know is that the Wise Men followed the star and that it ultimately brought them to Christ. One thing this story teaches is that the purest way to worship Christ is to identify and follow His star, which will lead us to Him. I’ve seen wise men and women on earth who have followed stars, but they didn’t ride camels and didn’t bear gifts of myrrh and probably couldn’t even spell frankincense—certainly couldn’t afford gold. Their names and gifts were not exotic but rather ordinary. I’ve learned a great deal from modern-day “wise men” who drew closer to Christ by finding and following their own Christmas stars.

I’ll tell you about one of these wise men. One year at the beginning of the Christmas season, my friend Tracey told me about an e-mail that had circulated at her work, asking for volunteers to ring the bell for Salvation Army donations. She was surprised by the request, assuming that bell ringers were usually people somehow connected with the organization. She considered the request, but because she wasn’t connected in any official way to the Salvation Army, she didn’t respond to the e-mail. After all, her daughter had a birthday party on the same day. How could she do both? She didn’t give it another thought.

As the appointed bell-ringing day drew closer, another e-mail was sent asking for a volunteer. Tracey mulled it over but, well, surely someone else would volunteer. Yet the thought nagged her until finally Tracey “saw the star” and recognized what it signified. The next morning she called the person who had sent the e-mail. Was he still looking for someone to help? He was. Tracey called her husband and gave him a choice—either ring the bell or supervise the birthday party. He chose the birthday party. At that point Tracey “followed her star” and rang the bell.

Tracey told me about her experience ringing the bell in the cold. She told of the things she learned and observed, of the people who greeted her, and of those who refused to make eye contact. With gracious tears she described the demeanor of those she had met and her own humbled attitudes and perceptions. In short, her star had brought her to Christlike service and to greater love and appreciation for her fellow man. Her star had brought her closer to Christ.

I want to be a wise woman, and I’m working on it. I looked in some of the usual places—picking up the shopping-list ornaments from trees in department stores, donating toys to charity bins, dropping a few coins into collection boxes, and joining organizations in providing canned goods to families in need. While all of these activities were good and brought a measure of satisfaction, it wasn’t until I really looked in some not-so-obvious places that I found my star—a role that perhaps I alone could fill, that would bring me closer to Christ. Hence, I was now the owner of a five-foot-tall Barbie dollhouse.

The star appeared so early in the season that I almost didn’t recognize it. It came in November. A co-worker told me she had a dollhouse she wanted to sell. It was five feet tall, in great shape, and had all kinds of accessories—tables and chairs, a refrigerator that opened with food on the shelves, a baby’s layette, pictures to hang on the walls, couches, beds, and all sorts of knickknacks. It was a very expensive set, and she was willing to let it go for a fraction of its original cost. As she described the dollhouse to me, I felt something. And I saw something—the star. So I told her I’d buy it.

On the drive home that night, I questioned my star sighting. I wondered if this was actually the star or not. Maybe I had misread the signs. What was I thinking? I had no idea what to do with this dollhouse. I knew no one who could use it. I tried to justify the purchase by convincing myself that simply buying it was enough—maybe the coworker just needed a little cash boost and this was the way to do it. But that didn’t feel quite right.

The dollhouse was an even bigger dilemma to explain to my husband. After all, where would we put a five-foot dollhouse? Our only granddaughter was still in diapers two thousand miles away and was more interested in dogs, horses, and her bottle than dolls. We had three grandsons and were expecting a fourth in February, but grandsons do not play with Barbie dolls. I thought about repainting the house with green and brown camouflage colors and stocking it with a few G.I. Joe action figures. My backup plan was to haul the dollhouse to Deseret Industries before the bishops and Relief Society presidents went there to shop for Christmas gifts to give to families in need. But I hated to do that. It felt like a cop-out. It seemed like a Wise Man making his way to Jerusalem and then sending an emissary to bear his gift to Bethlehem. That wouldn’t do. I wanted to come closer to Christ, not send someone else to do it for me. The more I thought about it, the more I knew that I had seen the star and that there must be some purpose for it, even if clouds were momentarily blocking its light. I wondered if this confusion was what the Wise Men might have felt when they showed up in Jerusalem and had to ask for directions. I needed directions.

I decided to call the Relief Society president in our ward and ask if she could help me out. When she told me she didn’t know of anyone who needed a dollhouse in our ward, I almost gave up. Following this star was not easy. I began to feel a little silly; I had bought a ridiculously large dollhouse and hadn’t the faintest clue what to do with it. I would just have to wait until the star shone a bit brighter.

I was still trying to figure things out a few days later when a woman who knew of my dilemma tapped me on the shoulder. Did I still have the dollhouse? Why, indeed I did. She knew of a family who could use it, and she arranged for the family to pick it up at my house. It was a family I hadn’t seen in years, and I had lost track of the children and their genders and ages. We arranged a time for the parents to pick up the dollhouse. At the appointed time, the parents came and were very gracious and grateful. There, I told myself. The deed was done. I supposed I should have felt overjoyed that the dollhouse had found a home. I should have had warm fuzzy feelings. But I was mostly just happy that the burden had been lifted and that my conscience was lighter.

The next morning, my husband and I were out and about and happened to catch sight of the same family who picked up the dollhouse. The whole family. There was the mom, the dad, two boys, and—most remarkably—four little girls. All under the age of ten.

 

And, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. (Matthew 2:9)

 

Four little girls. I had no doubt the star had pointed the way to this sweet family that needed a five-foot-tall dollhouse. My gift had found its home. I sat in awe and wonderment, feeling a small portion of the warmth the Wise Men must have felt. I too had come closer to Christ by following the light of a star.

Every Christmas now, I look for the star. I’m anxious to see what adventure it will bring me this year.

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Family Advent – Day 21

[Symbol] The Angel

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[A Story relating to the Symbol]

Angels Bending Near Earlene

Kerry Blair

I’ve seen Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life at least a dozen times, but I’d never experienced a holiday miracle of my own until one dark December night a few years ago. On that almost-Christmas Eve I encountered an angel—a couple of them, in fact—and learned a lesson in faith, prayer, and God’s love that I will never forget. This is a true story. Only the names have been changed—but not all of them!

“It’s Christmas,” I reminded myself under my breath. “Peace on earth. Goodwill to men.” Supposing the heavenly exhortation extended to children as well, I looped the piece of cloth around a little shepherd’s head instead of tying it around his mouth as I’d have liked to.

It was already December twenty-somethingth, and I had yet to bake a tray of cookies or wrap a single gift. Instead, I’d spent most of the month writing a Christmas pageant, assigning parts, sewing and refurbishing costumes, building a stable, affixing a star in the cultural hall firmament, and directing twenty-some kids who were all now sugar-filled and giddy at the thought of Santa’s imminent arrival.

Despite being on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I was pleased. It was our night of nights at last, and we were ready. By the time the bishop stood to welcome the audience and announce the opening prayer, the set was decorated, the choir assembled, and the characters in place. Everyone and everything looked wonderful.

Having just completed my last task—shoving a crown on a wise guy’s little head for the umpteenth time—I slumped against the wall in the back of the cultural hall to enjoy the fruits of my labors. Just then a door flew open and an excited, windblown little girl ran into the room and grabbed my hand with her icy fingers. It was Earlene. As if the name alone wasn’t enough for a ten-year-old to contend with, this little girl was painfully thin, wore thick glasses, and had incredibly prominent teeth. She also had one of the strongest, sweetest personalities I’d ever encountered. I wondered if that was the reason she’d been sent to the family she had—one that seemed to have more than its share of trials in life.

“How do I look?” she asked breathlessly. “Where do I go for my part?”

She looked like she’d just tumbled off a hayride, but I didn’t tell her that. Nor did I mention that she might have known what was going on if she’d made it to even one practice.

After assuring Earlene she looked beautiful, I nudged her toward a children’s choir that was assembled around the piano. At least I tried to nudge her. She wouldn’t move.

“No!” she cried, pushing her heavy glasses back up the bridge of her nose. “I’m an angel!”

People in the last few rows forgot that Brother Crawford was now pronouncing a blessing upon the proceedings and turned to look at us instead.

“You’re not an angel,” I whispered. I had no idea where she’d gotten the idea in the first place. Then I added encouragingly, “But you’re a very important part of the choir.” Never mind that she wouldn’t know any of the songs since she attended Primary too seldom to learn them.

I’d dragged her about six inches closer to the choir before she yanked her hand from mine. “You said!” she insisted. “You said in church that I’m supposed to be an angel!”

My mouth opened, but no words came out of it. I was trying to remember just what I’d said to her and when. I seemed to recall speaking to Earlene in the hallway a couple of weeks previously. I’d been in a rush to get to Sunday School before my students and had practically knocked her into a wall. Whatever I had said then had been an apology . . . and perhaps a platitude.

“You said I’m an angel!” Earlene wailed.

As the audience uttered a resounding, “Amen!” I hoped it was in response to the end of the prayer.

I looked down into two myopic little eyes and knew it was possible—probable, even—that I had called Earlene an angel. But I certainly hadn’t meant she was a Christmas-pageant angel. I’d meant she was a . . . well, you know.

Earlene didn’t know. She only knew that since I was director of the pageant, God had given me the right to appoint little girls to be His heavenly messengers for ten or fifteen minutes in that particular ward on that particular night. Clearly, being chosen as an angel for the Christmas pageant—or believing that she had been—was the best thing that had ever happened in her short and surely difficult life.

Earlene clasped my hand again with both of hers, and her eyes shone. “I’ve asked Heavenly Father every night to help me be a perfect angel in His pageant. He will help me. I know He will.”

The thought of Earlene’s sweet, fervent prayers brought tears to my eyes, but there was nothing I could do. The pageant would begin any second. I prayed for words to explain to the little girl that she had misunderstood, but there were no words in any language that could fix this. No matter what I said, Earlene would still believe in her heart that God had handpicked her to be an angel.

She looked from me to the softly-lit stage and back again, wondering when I’d produce that white robe and silver garland worn by the other pageant angels.

At any moment, the welling in my eyes was going to run down my cheeks. There was no doubt in my mind that this misunderstanding would drive her parents even further from the Church. Worse, might the awful disappointment cause Earlene to wonder if God heard her prayers? Would she now wonder why, if God did hear her, He would ignore her hopes and happiness . . . and at Christmas?

Despite my fears of a family’s impending apostasy and a child’s crisis of faith, I simply didn’t have an angel costume—or any way to come up with one in two minutes or less. My thoughts raced. Earlene wore a dirty orange sweatshirt and tattered blue jeans. No way could I slip her onstage with the robe-clad girls without evoking stares and giggles that would break her heart. I looked frantically around the room, hoping to spot a shirt or a sweater or anything white that I could strip off an unsuspecting ward member. While everybody looked festive, nobody looked angelic.

The Relief Society room was locked or I would have ripped the tablecloth out from under the pot of poinsettias and improvised. At that point I might have considered packing Earlene in snow, but we were in Arizona, so I didn’t have any of that either.

Heedless of Longfellow’s bells tolling despair back here in the corner, the pianist broke into “Joy to the World,” and the first narrator entered. The play had begun.

An awful understanding began to creep onto Earlene’s face. The census was going forth from Caesar Augustus, and she was going nowhere. “Hurry!” she said. “I need my costume now! I have to go be with the angels!”

I wanted to “go be with the angels” too, but my wish was metaphorical. I simply wanted to die before I had to witness the shattering of Earlene’s heart.

Just then, Sister Morgan appeared in a doorway not six feet from where Earlene and I stood. If she had been the angel Moroni materializing with a golden trump in hand, I couldn’t have been more surprised. In her hand was a hanger, and on the hanger was a clean, white angel costume that was exactly Earlene’s size.

Earlene had her shoes off, her jeans rolled to the knees, and the robe on before I managed to draw a single breath. With a dazzling smile on her face, she raced across the room and hoisted herself onto the stage. Although clearly surprised at her sudden arrival, one of the “regular” angels ripped half the garland from her own belt and used it to adorn Earlene’s long, hopelessly-tangled hair.

Angels are like that. Bless their little hearts.

When the program ended, I was still standing in the same spot, and I was crying in earnest. It was the best Christmas pageant ever. Mary and Joseph had made it all the way to Bethlehem without bickering as they had done in every rehearsal. The shepherds had neither dueled with their staffs nor played keep-away with their stuffed sheep. The Wise Men had found their way from the East without a detour to the drinking fountain. And above them all stood the angels—beautiful, bright, beatific—with Earlene in the very front. I will always believe there was a surreal glow—and maybe an extra angel or two—around her.

When I could speak again, I sought out Sister Morgan. Sue had no idea she’d just pulled off the biggest Christmas miracle since Clarence earned his wings. When I asked her where she’d come up with the costume, she reminded me that I’d given it to her daughter the year before. Only then did I remember being impressed to let the little girl keep the robe when she asked, but I certainly had never expected to see it again.

Several times during the year, Sue told me, she’d almost thrown away the angel costume, but something made her stuff it back in the closet instead of dropping it into the wastebasket. The same something had urged her to find it after dress rehearsal and wash and press it. In the end, she’d left it behind in her haste to get her children to the church on time, but that stubborn, blessed “something” intervened one last time. Sue had gotten up out of her seat, hurried home to grab the costume, and then returned just as the pageant began.

I was awestruck by the heavenly machinations. I had been prompted to give away a costume I wanted to keep. Sue had been impressed to keep a costume she didn’t want. These minor miracles, set in place hundreds of days before, wouldn’t impact the world. They were all for the benefit of one little girl—a child who loved her Heavenly Father and put her trust in Him. Because of her prayers, Earlene was a perfect angel that night. Or at least she was a pageant angel . . . with perfect faith.

The real miracle, of course, is the one of which prophets and apostles testify: the infinite love God has for each of His children. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “I do not know exactly how He does it, but I testify to you that He knows us and loves us individually and that He hears our prayers. My testimony is that nothing in this universe is more important to Him than your hopes and happiness.”

[Holland, Jeffrey R., “Considering Covenants: Women, Men, Perspective, Promises,” in Susette Fletcher Green and Dawn Hall Anderson, eds., To Rejoice as Women, Talks from the 1994 Women’s Conference (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1995), 96–97.]

I gained this testimony firsthand one beautiful, blessed near-Christmas night. Our Father—who loved us all enough to send His Son—loved odd little Earlene enough to send her an angel robe. He had known her prayers months and months before she uttered them and had set in motion a plan to reward her innocent faith before she exercised it.

And so it is with us. Each year when children sing, “Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray,” I feel the warm, prickling confirmation of the Spirit and think of Earlene. I don’t know where she is now, but I suspect that she is still a perfect angel, still close to her Heavenly Father, and still looked over and loved by He who blesses each of us so perfectly.

I like to think that Earlene still has her white robe. I gave it to her, of course. It’s all she asked Santa for that night when she sat upon his lap. Besides, “something” told me that angel costume had been made and preserved and protected just for her.

Just like her.

 

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[Song] Hark the herald Angel’s sing / Gloria (In excelsis deo)

 

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[Scripture] Luke 2: 10

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.

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[Challenge – Be Joyful] – In the scriptures it tells us that the angels and the heavenly hosts sang with joy at the good news of Jesus’ birth. angels are messengers from heaven that often bring joyful news. Angels told Mary and Joseph of their calling to be the earthly parents of Jesus. Angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. The angel is a symbol of dignity, glory and honour. At Christmastime, the angel reminds us that we are watched over by a loving Heavenly Father. Find one thing to be joyful about today.

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 [Article/Story relating to the challenge]

Without Christ there would be no Christmas, and without Christ there would be no fulness of joy.—President Ezra Taft Benson

Christmas is another word for joy. Children and adults alike feel an extra measure of joy as they celebrate the birth of Christ. Each carol, wreath, and sparkling light recalls the majesty of the Son of God and His good tidings of great joy.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. —Luke 2:10

As a child, President Thomas S. Monson discovered the real joy that comes from giving.

He recalled a Christmas, probably in his tenth year, when he wanted an electric train more than anything else. He did not want the less expensive and easier-to-find wind-up train. He wanted a train that could be plugged into a socket and run by the wonder of electrical power.

The economy was still depressed at that time, and asking for an electric train was asking for a lot—probably even requiring financial sacrifice by his parents. Nevertheless, Tommy hoped and dreamed and, much to his surprise, found an electric train under the tree on Christmas morning. He immediately put the train together and operated the electric transformer. He loved watching the train go forward, then backward, and all around the track.

Hours later, his mother interrupted Tommy at play by showing him a wind-up train she had purchased for a boy named Mark Hansen who lived down the street. The train for Mark was not as sleek or as long as his train, but Tommy noticed an oil tanker car in Mark’s set that was unlike anything he had. Even though he had a better train set, Tommy began to feel envious of Mark’s oil tanker. Tommy pled with his mother to let him keep the tanker. She responded to his fussing: “If you need it more than Mark, you take it.”

President Monson recalled how he added the tanker to his set and felt very satisfied—at least for a little while. Later, he walked with his mother over to Mark’s home and presented him with the wind-up train, minus the oil tanker. Mark was thrilled with the generous gift. He put the train cars together and began playing with them. Then Tommy’s mother wisely asked, “What do you think of Mark’s train, Tommy?”

Tommy began to feel guilty about the tanker he had confiscated. He asked his mother to excuse him for a moment, and he ran home as fast as his legs could carry him. He detached the oil tanker from his set, along with another car from his own set, and ran back to Mark’s home.

Beginning to feel the joy of giving, Tommy burst through the door and said to Mark, “We forgot to bring two cars that belong to your train.” He gave Mark the oil tanker and another of his own cars and helped attach them to Mark’s set. President Monson remembers how he watched the trains go around the track and “felt a supreme joy, difficult to describe and impossible to forget. The spirit of Christmas had filled my very soul.”

 

Media link: [The Real Joy of Christmas]

https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2013-12-0010-president-thomas-s-monson?

 

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10th Anniversary Advent Throw-Back :

[A Favourite from Previous Advents]

The Christmas story is a story of a family that connects heaven and earth. Each member of Jesus’s earthly family—Mary, Joseph, and Jesus—stands as supernal examples of God’s Christmas gift to all mankind. The Christmas story should spiritually motivate us to emulate the attributes of this holy family. This family was unified in seeking God’s glory; unified in serving one another; unified in fulfilling God’s will; and unified in sacrifice, obedience, and love. This holy family provides us a pattern of attributes that, when emulated by our own families, will enable us to enjoy the same blessings of unity and love they enjoyed.

Christmas Angel [by Jeanette Miller]

As a child, I loved my younger brothers, David and Michael, but really wished I had a sister. This wasn’t the typical hope many girls have when they’re young; it was a longing so strong I couldn’t explain it. I’d often pester my parents with requests for a new baby sister, but it didn’t seem like it would ever happen. Mom didn’t feel like she could handle more children, and while David was adopted, her other two deliveries had been brutal.

So, in that secret place in my heart, I imagined a tiny porcelain figurine I had to be the sister I wanted. No more than two inches high, the figure was a sweet little girl kneeling with a blankie, looking cuddly and angelic. I’d take her off the shelf and hold her in my hand, envisioning the love a sister might bring. I knew she would love me and that I would love her back.

When I was nine years old, my mom announced that she was pregnant, and I was ecstatic! She knew how much I wanted a sister and even promised me that this baby would be a girl. In my youthful innocence, I never questioned her. I knew Mom was right! It wasn’t until years later that I learned about the recurring dreams Mom had had of a little girl with big brown eyes and soft brown curls. For over five years, these dreams had troubled her, not only because she didn’t feel capable of having more children or adopting again but also because we were all blue-eyed blonds. Even my father had had a few dreams of the same little girl, so they assumed the dreams were Heavenly Father’s way of letting them know Mom was supposed to have a baby girl.

My parents talked about girl names they liked and prepared for a baby girl to be born. If anyone even suggested it might be a boy, we got a little ruffled because we knew it was a girl—my longed-for sister. When Joseph was born, I was devastated. I wept inconsolably. But as soon as he came home from the hospital, I fell in love with him. I mothered him, changed his diapers, and often got up with him at night. I went as far as to hold up a hand to tell my mother “I’ve got him” when she’d come for him. I adored that baby boy.

It didn’t make any sense why Joey wasn’t a girl. Mom almost died giving birth to him. But in the hospital, while holding her new baby, Mom saw his little eyes look straight into hers and had a powerful spiritual experience. Joey’s adult spirit communicated to her, saying, “Please accept me. I cannot explain to you why I am not who you were expecting, but someday you will understand. Just please love me!” And we did love him, without exception.

Life progressed as usual for our family—we moved around a lot due to my dad’s work as an auditor and controller for Del Monte Corporation. We had already lived on a banana plantation in Guatemala and then in Puerto Rico before Joey was born. In 1979, we moved to Costa Rica, where Dad became the financial director for Bandeco (Banana Development Corporation), a subsidiary of Del Monte.

I was thirteen but still had my tiny figurine of the little girl, a tangible reminder of a never-ending wish. Every once in a while, I’d hold her in my hand with tender thoughts before placing her back in my room. In 1982, Mom had a hysterectomy, a final assurance that I’d never have a sister and our family was complete.

After summer vacation and our annual trip to California, I began my junior year of high school. One day when I came home from school, I found my mother crying, and I asked what was wrong. She told me something had happened that she hadn’t told anyone about yet. She’d been visiting an orphanage in Santo Domingo de Heredia with some sisters in our ward, our good friends Ella Mae Nájera and Joy Wingo. Joy had adopted a little girl in Utah and was hoping to find a second child to adopt, and Mom had gone along to help out at the orphanage and support her friend.

The orphanage was a small, two-bedroom house with five cribs in each bedroom. As Mom walked inside, she noticed a child still in her crib in the first bedroom. When she turned and looked into the bedroom, goose bumps prickled over her. There, in the crib, sat a one-year-old little girl with big brown eyes and soft brown curls! Mom learned that the little girl’s name was María de Los Angeles, which meant “Mary of the Angels.” She was called “Marielos” for short.

Mom tried to ignore the stunning resemblance to the little girl in her dreams from years before, but it didn’t work. “I just can’t stop thinking about her,” she cried in confusion.

My immediate response was, “Let’s adopt her!”—certainly not what Mom was hoping to hear. But when I suggested that she talk to Dad, she agreed. My dad, a quiet giant, who, in my eyes, could make anything right, simply said, “Well, let’s go see her.”

The next Saturday, my parents drove to the orphanage in Heredia. When they arrived, something amazing happened. Marielos and a few other children were playing with some of the people who were visiting the orphanage that day. As Dad came inside, Marielos turned and saw him. For a moment, their eyes locked. Then, with arms outstretched, she rushed into his arms with abrazos y besitos (hugs and kisses) and didn’t let go. It was love at first sight for them. A week later our whole family went to see Marielos, and the same sweet reception occurred. We were all enchanted with her.

I loved babies anyway, but I adored this little girl. She was the life of the orphanage—vivacious, happy, and full of personality. I used to hold one end of a sash with Marielos at the other end, following me around and giggling. When it was time to go, I didn’t want to leave her.

As we knelt around my parents’ bed for family prayers at night, we often had to count heads because it felt like someone was missing. Mom and Dad . . . me . . . the three boys . . . . We were all there. But it still felt like someone was missing. Could Marielos really be meant for our family? The thought was thrilling, overwhelming, and hard to believe all at the same time! But the more we prayed about it as a family, the surer we felt that this precious little girl was supposed to be ours. She was my sister!

As the holidays approached, we continued visiting the orphanage, expressing our deep interest in Marielos. But we were told she was not up for adoption and that we should forget about her. “Sería imposible,” they said. “You will only get hurt if your family continues to see her.” Foreigners were allowed to adopt only older children or siblings from the orphanages through the Patronato, the government adoption agency in Costa Rica. If Marielos were to be given to anyone, it would be a Costa Rican family. Forget her? That was the impossibility! Nothing could keep us from visiting this beautiful olive-skinned child who had captured our hearts. We loved her and believed she was meant to be part of our family.

When I was growing up, my Dad seemed invincible. He could do anything in his quiet strength: he was fluent in Spanish, well respected among his peers, and, at the time, the bishop of our Zapote Ward, Barrio Uno. I trusted him completely with the tremendous task of trying to influence the Patronato to reconsider Marielos’s case so she could be put up for adoption. Dad’s friend, Hernán Robles, the general manager of Bandeco, also began helping us. He knew a woman named Mabel, who was a council member for the Patronato and was on the adoption board. Mabel met with my parents and liked them. She said she would put in a “good word” for us and do all that she could to help us try to adopt Marielos.

One day while Dad was on lunch break, he told us that he had gone to the orphanage to see our little girl. She’d slept in his arms as he’d pled for Heavenly Father’s help, promising to do everything in his power to make Marielos ours. He began paperwork with the Patronato, but once again, we were informed that adoption was impossible.

December arrived and, with it, the holiday spirit. Fruit stands popped up on street corners, selling bright red imported apples. Families made preparations for traditional tamales steamed in banana leaves. And the arrival of the dry season brought warmer weather and the lure of sandy beaches for vacations. But that year our minds were focused in another direction, especially with the arrival of wonderful news: Marielos had been declared up for adoption! That Christmas held special meaning to us as we pondered the possibility of bringing home our little girl. It would make it the best Christmas of my life.

We eagerly waited for updates from Mabel about the adoption committee to see when they would review Marielos’s case and make a final decision. Although some committee members were opposed to and almost hostile toward us, we knew Heavenly Father heard our prayers, and we trusted Him to bring about a true miracle.

On December 14, Dad got a call from Hernán, who told him the committee had met. By a split decision, they had given Marielos to another family, an older Costa Rican couple with no children. The adoption was final.

There were no words to describe the shock and devastation our family felt. How could this be? It wasn’t right! She was mine—my sister! Those people couldn’t have her; she belonged with us. I knew that as well as I knew my own heart. How could Heavenly Father let this happen? I wondered. How could He do this?

I was wounded, distraught, and angry with God. Going to church on Sunday, I could barely choke out Christmas carols. My life had been destroyed. How could I sing, how could I go on when everything I’d hoped for had been taken away? I didn’t want to celebrate Christmas. But I still had to go through the motions with a cold, heavy heart. The worst thing I had to do was go Christmas caroling at two other orphanages with the Young Women . . . three days before Christmas. How could my heart take such pain, singing “Gloria a Dios” to those beautiful children who reminded me so much of Marielos? As Mom drove me home, we both wept over everything we’d been through. Nothing seemed to make any sense.

When we got home, my dad was quick to greet us at the door. He was acting a little funny. “I have a Christmas present that has to be opened early,” he said with a silly grin. “It’s in your room, Jeanette.” I didn’t know what Dad could possibly have bought that needed to be opened before Christmas morning. Shoes? Clothes? Certainly nothing that could compensate for the emptiness I felt. Mom followed me down the terrazzo-floored hallway to my bedroom. I peeked inside. There, in my bed, was a sleeping little angel . . . Marielos! I burst into tears of joy and confusion. What had Dad done? Had he stolen her? I could hardly believe she was there, her curly brown hair poking out of the covers. My baby sister was home . . . but how?

Dad explained that the Costa Rican couple didn’t want Marielos after all and had dropped her off at the Patronato offices. They claimed she didn’t “adapt.” Iris Brenes, the president of the Patronato, who had been so against us from the beginning and had negatively influenced the voting committee, had called my dad at work to say, “If you still want Marielos, she’s yours. But come immediately, or she’ll be taken back to the orphanage and you’ll never see her again.”

Dad dropped everything, enlisted the help of his secretary, Indiana, and raced through town to pick up our girl. Señora Brenes reluctantly conceded, “Well, Señor, some things are just meant to be.” Then she went into her office and closed the door.

I’d never felt this kind of joy before at Christmastime! Now I knew that Heavenly Father did listen to our prayers and knew all along that there was only one way we could get my sister; even though it didn’t happen the way we had planned, it was the way that it needed to be to make her ours.

In Costa Rica, Santa Claus doesn’t bring the Christmas presents; the baby Jesus does. And that was exactly how this gift had come. By heavenly miracles, we were given the best Christmas gift of my life . . . the brown-eyed angel who became my sister.

 

 

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