Lights shine as reminder of Redeemer's birth, life
'Remember gift that makes Christmas special'

Before turning on more than 750,000 Christmas lights on Temple Square and the Church plaza Nov. 27, Elder Andrew W. Peterson said the lights shine as a reminder of the Christmas long ago when a bright star announced the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.

"Remember the gift that makes Christmas special and meaningful to all of us -- that of the Savior, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer," said Elder Peterson of the Seventy. "He will bring warmth, hope, peace and comfort to all of our hearts."A capacity crowd filled the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square for the annual program, which traditionally signals the beginning of the Christmas season in Salt Lake City. Elder Peterson was accompanied by his wife, Christine.

The Mormon Youth Chorus and Symphony performed during the short program and Sister Dana Krizova, a Temple Square missionary from the Czech Republic, gave the opening prayer.

The program was broadcast outside the Tabernacle onto the grounds, where wall-to-wall people, numbering in the thousands, enjoyed the warm evening.

Speaking publicly for the first time since he was severely injured in September 1997, Elder Peterson is continuing to recuperate from paralyzing injuries.

During his brief remarks, Elder Peterson noted that the sister missionaries serving on Temple Square represent the thousands of missionaries serving throughout the world. "Through you, and all the missionaries," he told them, "many will find the gospel of Jesus Christ and know the true meaning of Christmas."

Christmas, he said, is joy. "Christmas is so many things, the sights, the sounds of the season. But mostly the lights, they shine brightly to announce the Christmas season."

Elder Peterson noted that everyone has special memories of past Christmases. He recalled Christmas while serving as a missionary in Argentina -- where the season is warm and firecrackers traditionally accompany holiday celebrations. Although the seasons are very different in every part of the world, he explained, "the love of the Savior is one thing that we share in common."

While anticipating this beautiful season, Church members -- whether young or old, with their families or away from home, or all alone -- should remember the Savior, he said.

"As we come unto Christ, we have the potential of becoming more like Him through our knowledge of His word. May you all have a joyous season. May we feel of His peace and love, and let His light illuminate our lives.

"He is the 'light and life of the world, a light which shineth in darkness.' "

Elder Peterson also asked Church members to take time during the holiday season to let their Father in Heaven, their families, their neighbors and friends know that they love them.

"As you focus on Christmas . . . may you be blessed," he concluded.

Then with the help of his wife, Elder Peterson pulled the switch to illuminate the lights.

Instantly a chorus of "oohs" and "ahhs" erupted both inside and outside the Tabernacle and the Mormon Youth Chorus and Symphony began performing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Thousands of people rose to their feet, offering a standing ovation for the lights, the music, the Christmas message and for Elder Peterson.

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