Christmas devotional: The Condescension of God and of Man

Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

It is remarkable that the Son of God — the great Jehovah of old — would be born in the humblest of circumstances, said Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional on Sunday evening, Dec. 7.

“An inn would have been lowly enough, but it was not even an inn. Rather it was a stable, and the Babe was laid on the hay of a manger where common animals feed.

“Even so, the greatest condescension is that Jesus should have submitted to mortality at all, even if He were to be born in the best and most elegant of circumstances.”

How is it, then asked Elder Christofferson, that He who ruled the heavens should consent to be born in poverty, suffer scorn and abuse and, ultimately, die by crucifixion?

“Faithfully, Jesus endured all that was necessary in life and death to atone, redeem and establish a celestial pattern for the children of God — for us,” he explained.

It was essential that Christ be “born of the flesh” and “descend below all things” so He might redeem all things.

We too, said Elder Christofferson, are the spirit offspring of God.

“Our birth into mortality is also something of a condescension, and like Christ’s, it has a noble purpose,” he said. “Just as Jesus, we came down from heaven to do the will of Him that sent us, and to achieve, with the grace of Christ, immortality and eternal life.”

All sons and daughters of God will, like Christ, face challenges and trials to help them know how to care for others in need.

Joseph F. Smith, who would become the sixth president of the Church, experienced hardship from an early age. He grew up without a father and he had known poverty and want as a young man.

“I cannot help but believe that [these] experiences helped transform him into the strong, tender and spiritually sensitive man he became,” said Elder Christofferson.

Just as Christ’s experiences in mortality had redeeming purpose, an individual’s own experiences — particularly the difficult ones — will prepare and enable him or her to serve and succor others.

The apostle said the Christmas season is rich with accounts of people who look beyond themselves to help one another. He shared the recent experience of Ethan Van Leuven, a 4-year-old boy from West Jordan, Utah, who was battling an untreatable form of leukemia.

When it became apparent that Ethan would not live long enough to experience another Halloween or Christmas, his fellow ward members and neighbors banded together to hold a variety of holiday celebrations in one week. Halloween was on Tuesday, a birthday celebration on Thursday, Christmas Eve on Friday and Christmas Day on Saturday.

“Ethan’s parents, who had often helped others, now graciously accepted the help that so many wanted to give.”

The community responded, bringing gifts and sharing time and talents to ensure the sick little boy enjoyed each “holiday” in full.

“Finally, Ethan and his family returned home for a private ‘Christmas Eve’ celebration and their ‘Christmas Day’ on Saturday, concluding their week of holidays,” he said. “Ethan passed away three days later, leaving behind a family and a community enriched by his example and their own acts of love and service to make a suffering child’s last days happy ones.”

At Christmas, such stories of sacrifice and ministering multiply across the world.

“Our gifts and service may gladden hearts; the kindness of others pours healing balm into our own wounds,” he said. “It is living the Savior’s way of life. And since, as He, we came down from heaven to do the will of the Father, it must not be only an annual event, but rather the pattern of our lives.” @JNSwensen

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