A Christmas invitation

Just days ago, hundreds of Latter-day Saint Latinos from across Utah’s Wasatch Front staged a Christmas program rich in song and dance that celebrated their culture and bore testimony of the Savior’s birth.

The event was entitled “Ven a mi casa esta Navidad” — or, “Come to my home this Christmas.”

On its surface, the title might reflect the friendly, casual invitations that countless members will surely extend to friends and family this holiday season. Some will host Christmas parties or dinners in their homes. Others will open their doors to gift-bearing neighbors and share a holiday treat or a steaming mug of cocoa.

But during this holy season, we can find deeper and even sacred meaning in the invitation: “Come to My Home This Christmas.”

The home is synonymous with sanctuary — a place where families come together to find safety and relief from the world outside. It is where we raise our children, break bread and pray together. The irreplaceable treasures of our lives likely reside in our homes.

Is it any surprise that we identify the temple — a dedicated building where families are sealed for the eternities — as “the house of the Lord”?

This 2013 Christmas season overlaps a historic season of hastening in the Church. Young men and young women by the tens of thousands are answering a prophet’s call to missionary service. The full-time elders and sisters have been set apart to teach the gospel. But where is their gospel message best taught? In those unique places we call our homes.

During the April 2006 general conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke of the blessings that can be realized when we transform our homes into “gospel-sharing” homes.

“Our homes can be gospel-sharing homes as people we know and love come into our homes and experience the gospel firsthand in both word and action. We can share the gospel without holding a formal discussion. Our families can be our lesson, and the spirit that emanates from our homes can be our message.

“Having a gospel-sharing home will not only be a blessing for those we bring into our homes but for those who live within it. By living in a gospel-sharing home, our testimonies become stronger and our understanding of the gospel improves. The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that we can be forgiven of our sins when we help someone else repent. We find joy in helping others come unto Christ and feel the redemptive power of His love (see Doctrine and Covenants 18:14–16). Our families are blessed as the testimonies and faith of both parents and children increase.

“In gospel-sharing homes we pray for guidance for ourselves, and we pray for the physical and spiritual well-being of others. We pray for the people the missionaries are teaching, for our acquaintances, and for those not of our faith. In the gospel-sharing homes of Alma’s time, the people would ‘join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God’ (Alma 6:6).”

Creating a gospel-sharing home, added Elder Ballard, is the easiest and most effective way that we can share the gospel with others.

“And we’re not just talking about traditional homes with families consisting of two parents living with their children. College students can create a gospel-sharing home when they adorn the walls of their apartments with pictures that reflect spiritual pursuits instead of the things of the world. Older couples and single members exemplify a gospel-sharing home when they welcome new neighbors and invite them to attend church and visit them in their homes.

“A gospel-sharing home is one in which neighborhood children love to play, making it natural to invite them and their family to attend church, a family home evening, or some other activity. Teenagers visiting a gospel-sharing home feel comfortable asking questions or participating with the family in prayer.

“Gospel-sharing homes are very ordinary. They may not always be spotlessly clean nor the children perfectly behaved. But they are a place in which family members clearly love each other, and the Spirit of the Lord is felt by those who visit.”

It is in the house of the Lord — the temple — where the influence of the Savior is felt the strongest during the Christmas season and throughout the year.

Temples, said Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, are the most sacred places of worship on earth where sacred ordinances are performed — ordinances which pertain to salvation and exaltation in the kingdom of God.

“Each [temple] is literally a house of the Lord — a place where He and His spirit may dwell, where He may come or send others to confer priesthood blessings and to give revelation to His people.

“The moment we step into the house of the Lord, the atmosphere changes from the worldly to the heavenly, where respite from the normal activities of life is found, and where peace of mind and spirit is received. It is a refuge from the ills of life and a protection from the temptations that are contrary to our spiritual well-being. We are told that ‘he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come’ ” (see Doctrine & Covenants 59:23 [General Conference, April, 1992]).

This happy Christmas season, let us invite others to our homes and share the message of the gospel.

And let us answer His invitation to come to?the house of the Lord and find joy within its sacred walls.