The Master, the Lord Omnipotent, was born on earth "under the humblest of circumstances," in a conquered nation, in a stable. For more than 2 millennia now, peoples throughout the world have celebrated that humble birth as a new beginning for mankind. Such was still the case on Dec. 3, 2000, when some 22,000 people in the Church's Conference Center paid tribute to that Babe in the lowly manger with a joyful noise — "Hark! The herald angels sing Glory to the newborn King!"
Addressing a capacity crowd during the annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional, President Gordon B. Hinckley described the birth of Jesus Christ, "whose life and death mean so very much to each one of us. . . . He was the Prince Almighty who left the royal courts on high and came among us to teach us and to lead us in His quiet and wonderful way.
"How grateful we of this Church should feel. We live in the fulness of time. Mark that phrase. Mark the word fulness. It denotes all of good that has been gathered together in the past and restored to earth in this final dispensation."
President Hinckley presided over the devotional, which was carried live on the Church's satellite system. His first and second counselors in the First Presidency, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, also delivered Christmas messages. (Please see page 4 for the addresses of President Monson and President Faust.) Members of the Quorum of the Twelve and other General Authorities were also present. They joined the congregation, the Orchestra on Temple Square and the Tabernacle Choir, with Craig Jessop and Barlow Bradford conducting and Clay Christiansen accompanying on the organ.
The new building's acoustics magnified the sounds as thousands of voices combined to pay musical tribute to Jesus Christ.
Beginning with "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," those in the gathering stood in unison to sing several Christmas musical selections, including "O, Come, All Ye Faithful," "The First Noel," and "Joy to the World." The Tabernacle Choir performed "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "Silent Night," with the congregation joining for the third verse. Accenting the surroundings were trees adorned with Christmas lights on the podium.
President Hinckley expressed heart-felt feelings "filled with thanksgiving unto the Almighty God."
"How thankful I feel for political freedom enjoyed by most of our people throughout the world. As we look across the vast expanse of human history how thankful we feel for the right to worship as we please, to assemble together without fear of oppression, to lift our voices in prayer to the God of the universe, to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
"I believe that human freedom and human liberty are the marvelous fruits of the doctrine of the Christ. Said Paul to the Corinthians, 'Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.' (2 Corinthians 3:17.)
"All of earth's children are the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Fatherhood denotes brotherhood and sisterhood. We are of His family, you and I. We have within each of us something of His divinity. We have an obligation one to another. We are commanded to love our neighbor as our self. It is the light of Christ which has brought into the world an enlarged sense of brotherhood," President Hinckley said.
"When all is said and done, 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."
President Hinckley explained that the Savior's coming was foretold by prophets, including Isaiah. "Nephi, long before the master's birth, was given a vision of His coming. He saw in that vision the mother of Christ, 'A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.' (1 Nephi 11:15.)
"All of these ancient visions were fulfilled. He came to earth. He walked the dusty roads of Palestine teaching the people, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, raising the dead, giving His life on Calvary's cross, and rising on the third day to become the 'firstfruits of them that slept.' " (1 Corinthians 15:20.)
"He was the lowly Babe who came to earth in the meridian of time and brought to us the gift of Christmas. He was the resurrection and the life who brought to us the wonder of Easter. And it was He, who in this most glorious of dispensations was introduced to the boy Joseph Smith by His Father, the Almighty Elohim, the God of the universe. And this same Joseph has become the pre-eminent witness of His living reality in this season of earth's history."
President Hinckley recalled how some years ago he was assigned to the Rochester New York Stake conference. With local priesthood leaders, he took some time to travel to Palmyra and the Sacred Grove. On that early spring day, he related, he knelt with those brethren in the grove. "We did not see a vision. But in an indefinable way we were told in our minds, each of us, that yes, it happened here just as Joseph said it happened. It was here that God our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, appeared to the 14-year-old boy and spoke with Him."
Continuing, the Church president spoke of the restoration of the Church and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. "The ancient Church was again upon the earth with all of the blessings, powers, doctrines, keys and principles of previous dispensations. It is His Church. It carries His name. There is no other name under heaven by which men must be saved. Joseph Smith, whose birthday we also celebrate at this season, became His testator."
In closing, President Hinckley said, "As you reflect on these marvelous things, may there come into your heart the true spirit of Christmas."
Offering the invocation on this festive but reverent evening was Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve. Sister Sydney S. Reynolds, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, offered the benediction.