Thousands of guests filled the Conference Center on Dec. 8 to hear the words of the prophet and other Church leaders during the annual Christmas Devotional, formerly known as the First Presidency Christmas Devotional. Although the name and program for the annual event has changed slightly, the messages of Christmas from Church leaders and music performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square remained the same.
The speakers this year included President Thomas S. Monson, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president.
President Monson greeted guests and spoke of the joy it was for him to be gathered with others to celebrate, through word and song, the birth of the Savior and Redeemer — even Jesus Christ, the Lord.
“Christmas is a glorious season of the year,” he said. “It is also a busy time for most of us. It is my hope and prayer that we may we not become so caught up in the pressures of the season that we place our emphasis on the wrong things and miss the simple joys of commemorating the birth of the Holy One of Bethlehem.”
He said that finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done, rather, individuals find the real joy of Christmas as they make the Savior the focus of the season.
“Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, He came forth from Heaven to live on earth as mortal man and to establish the Kingdom of God,” President Monson said. “His glorious gospel reshaped the thinking of the world. He lived for us, and He died for us. What can we, in return, give to Him?”
Drawing from the words of the English poet, Christina Rosetti, President Monson recited the words of a poem:
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb.
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part—
Yet, what can I give Him?
Give my heart.
“Our celebration of Christmas should be a reflection of the love and selflessness taught by the Savior,” he said. “Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. We feel more kindly one to another. We reach out in love to help those less fortunate. Our hearts are softened. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The Spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things. To catch the real meaning of the Spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the Spirit of Christ.”
Drawing from the words of President David O. McKay, President Monson taught that true happiness comes only by making others happy. It is the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it, through brotherly love, friendship and kind deeds of service that individuals can feel the Christmas spirit — or Christ spirit — in their lives.
“May we give as the Savior gave,” said President Monson. “To give of oneself is a holy gift. We give as a remembrance of all the Savior has given. May we also give gifts that have eternal value, along with our gifts that eventually break or are forgotten. How much better the world would be if we all gave gifts of understanding and compassion, of service and friendship, of kindness and gentleness.
“As the Christmas season envelopes us with all its glory, may we, as did the Wise Men, seek a bright, particular star to guide us in our celebration of the Savior’s birth. May we all make the journey to Bethlehem in spirit, taking with us a tender, caring heart as our gift to the Savior.”