At this sacred Christmas season we remember the love of God for each one of us in the gift of His beloved Son, the Savior of the world. We share His gift as we love God and serve one another.
Every year, as I set out our Nativity scene and gently put each figure in place, the familiar lines from Christina Rossetti’s poem “In the Bleak Midwinter” come to mind.
“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 I can, I give Him — give my heart.”
Perhaps the only gift any of us truly have to give our Savior in gratitude for His life and for His infinite and atoning sacrifice is to love as He loved and to serve as He served.
Jesus Christ taught: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is … Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Mark 12:30-31).
This year the young women and young men of the Church have responded to the Mutual theme to “come unto Christ, . . . and love God with . . . might, mind, and strength” (Moroni 10:32). As sons and daughters of God who keep their covenants, they witness their love for the Lord through repentance and obedience. We see youth increasing in prayer and scripture study. They strive to live standards in For the Strength of Youth with greater devotion.
President Ezra Taft Benson taught that to love God this way “is no lukewarm endeavor. It is total commitment of our very being — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually — to a love of the Lord. The breadth, depth and height of this love of God extend into every facet of one’s life. Our desires, be they spiritual or temporal, should be rooted in a love of the Lord. Our thoughts and affections should be centered on the Lord” (“The Great Commandment — Love the Lord,” Ensign, May 1988).
Because we love Him we serve Him. Our beloved prophet has taught, “We cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey. Likewise, we cannot fully love our fellowmen if we do not love God, the Father of us all” (President Thomas S. Monson, “Love — The Essence of the Gospel,” Ensign, May 2014).
In 2015, the Mutual theme invites young men and young women to manifest their love of God through service. “Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:2).
Our great-grandmother, Emma Sommerville McConkie, had a sacred experience that reminds our family that service motivated by the pure love of God sanctifies our souls and endures as a sure witness of God’s love forever. Her son wrote this account in his journal:
“Mother was president of the Moab Relief Society. (A [young man] who opposed the Church) had married a Mormon girl. They had several children; now they had a new baby. They were very poor and Mother was going day by day to care for the child and to take them baskets of food, etc. Mother herself was ill, and more than once was hardly able to get home after doing the work at the home.
“One day she returned home especially tired and weary. She slept in her chair. She dreamed she was bathing a baby which she discovered was the Christ Child. She thought, Oh, what a great honor to thus serve the very Christ! As she held the baby in her lap, she was all but overcome. She thought, who else has actually held the Christ Child? Unspeakable joy filled her whole being. She was aflame with the glory of the Lord. It seemed that the very marrow in her bones would melt. Her joy was so great it awakened her. As she awoke, these words were spoken to her, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ ” (Matthew 25:40) (“Charity Which Never Faileth,” Relief Society Magazine, March 1970, p. 169).
At Christmas, we look upon the baby Jesus cradled in His mother’s arms and remember that His birth, His life and His atoning sacrifice are gifts of love. His life is a legacy of compassion for the downtrodden, the poor, the weak and the weary. Though He was the Son of God, He bore our sorrows, our sicknesses, and all that is unfair about life. He laid down His life and overcame death that every man, woman and child may obtain immortality. Though sinless, He suffered in body and in spirit for the sins of all who will come unto Him with “a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (2 Nephi 2:7). His infinite and atoning sacrifice is the greatest demonstration of love ever manifest for all mankind.
As we worship the Father in gratitude for the matchless gift of His Beloved Son this Christmas, let us consider how we may embark in the service of God with all the love we have to give.
“What I can, I give Him — Give my heart.”