Church News viewpoint: Lessons learned from the Nativity

“This is the season beloved of the year. Sing a rhyme; Christmastime soon will be here. Tell the true story of Jesus’ birth, when, as a baby, he came to the earth” (Children’s Songbook, “The Nativity Song”).

As the month of December begins, Christians around the world join together in celebrating and honoring the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

For many, displaying a Nativity set in their home reminds them of the Savior at Christmastime. While some Nativity displays are simple, others are more elaborate with many intricate pieces and colors. Some come from far-away lands while others are homemade. Some are large, while others fit in the palm of a hand. No matter their size or color, all act as a visual reminder of God’s greatest gift — His Son, Jesus Christ.

“The spirit of Christmas is something I hope all of us would have within our hearts and within our lives, not only at this particular season but also throughout the years,” President Thomas S. Monson said during the 2011 First Presidency Christmas Devotional.

Although a Nativity scene may seem like a simple decoration, it can also be a catalyst for reflection, as President Monson has taught. Sometimes out of the simplest of objects come great lessons.

For one young mother, the Nativity set in her home has been an instrument to teach her children. As a young mother she would gather her children together and carefully unwrap each piece of the set, explaining who the people are and what role they play in the sacred scene.

One year the mother found her Nativity scene moved around time after time. Each time she would move the pieces back to where they started, but quickly they would get moved around. Over and over, she would find the figurines displaced and would then move them back to where they were “supposed” to go.

After they moved yet another time, the mother began wondering why the scene kept changing. As she looked closer, she noticed the placement of the figurines.

All had been placed inside the stable.

Remembering the placement of the Nativity pieces on previous days, the woman realized each time the wise men and shepherds had been moved to the same place — in the stable. All along, the placement was intentional.

Wondering why they would be organized in that way, the mother asked her daughter about the Nativity set. The young girl said she was the one who moved the pieces around because she “wanted all of them to be able to see the baby Jesus and be close to Him.”

The simple actions of the young girl taught her mother a very important lesson. Just as the young girl placed the figurines around the Savior to see and be near Him, the woman realized that as a disciple of Christ she must “move in close and make room” as she draws close to the Savior. That would take time and effort, but the results would be worth it.

“Christmas is a glorious season of the year,” President Monson said during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional in 2013. “It is also a busy time for most of us. It is my hope and prayer that we may 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.”

A simple action of a child helped her mother recognize the importance of doing all she could to be close to the Savior — especially at Christmastime. How do we “move in close” to be near the Savior at Christmastime and throughout the year?

With busy schedules and long to-do lists, it takes effort to turn one’s thoughts to the Savior. For some families, focusing on the Savior comes in the form of service. For others, it is through reading passages of scriptures. Most of the acts — however detailed or simple — take deliberate action and focus.

“Christmas is what we make of it,” President Monson said. “Despite all the distractions, we can see to it that Christ is at the center of our celebration. If we have not already done so, we can establish Christmas traditions for ourselves and for our families which will help us capture and keep the spirit of Christmas.”

Drawing from the words of English poet Christina Rossetti, President Monson shared these words during the 2013 First Presidency Christmas Devotional:

“ ‘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.’

“Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done. We find the real joy of Christmas when we make the Savior the focus of the season.”

It is through focusing on Christ that we will find the “real joy of Christmas,” taught President Monson.

“Our celebration of Christmas should be a reflection of the love and selflessness taught by the Savior,” President Monson 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.”

May we all look for ways during the Christmas season and always to come closer to Him.