Words penned by Isaac Watts some four centuries ago express the joyful announcement of the messenger angels to the shepherds on that first Christmas night:
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come; let earth receive her King!”
I love the carols of Christmas, with their well-known messages coming to us down through the years.
Who was this child of whom the angels sang, whose parents would soon flee to Egypt to save his life? The late president Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said: “We know who he was. God bless us to remember him this Christmas, the Lamb of God, the Son of the Eternal Father, who condescended to come to earth, to be born in a stable, in a conquered nation, under the humblest of circumstances. Jesus the Christ.”
The angels directed the shepherds to the manger, but the shepherds were left to choose for themselves to actually go and find the “little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.”
So it is with us today — we have the testimonies of all those who have gone before and who witnessed His life, his love, and his resurrection in glory. But we, too, are left to choose for ourselves to go and find the Christ.
“Let every heart prepare him room,” invites the Christmas carol, “and ever, and ever worship God.”
He came, as another carol says in a child’s prayer, to “fit us for heaven to live with thee there.”
His work and his glory are to bring to pass the exaltation and eternal life of all God’s children — to fit us, as it were, for heaven.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, and our devotion must be a lifetime endeavor as we seek to follow Him, keep his commandments, do the works that He did, and love one another as He has loved us.
Ancient prophets spoke of Him centuries before His coming. Today we sing Isaiah’s words, “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).
The events of that first Christmas led to the fulfillment of ancient prophecies. Jesus was born of Mary and, in manhood, called Apostles and established His church. He walked the dusty paths of Palestine, teaching, healing, causing the blind to see and raising the dead. He gave His life on Calvary’s cross and rose on the third day to become “the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20).
Those who walked with him testified that surely He was the very Son of God. He had been the Creator of this earth, under His Father’s direction, as John recorded, “without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3).
He was the great Jehovah who spoke with the prophets of old, and who has called and spoken to prophets in our time.
“When all is said and done,” Hinckley said, “when all the legions of the ages have passed in review, when man’s terrible inhumanity to man has been chronicled, when God’s great love for His children has been measured, then above all stands the lone figure of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of mankind, the living Son of the living God, the Prince of Peace, the Holy One.”
May that reality give us hope and joy in this season and in the New Year.
“Oh, come, let us adore him, Christ, the Lord.”On Faith columnist Alfred Gunn, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Gig Harbor, can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.mormon.org.