Sister Craven at First Presidency Christmas Devotional: ‘A Swaddle and a Heavenly Hug’

As a young boy in the colonies of Mexico in the late 1800s, Heaton Lunt experienced a Christmas morning very different than those enjoyed by many individuals today.

He recorded in his personal history of going early Christmas morning to check on his sheep. He heard a “tiny bleating” in the stable and found that Nelly had given birth to two tiny lambs.

He ran back to the house and clapping his hands, proclaimed to his mother, “I’ve got the best Christmas of any of you…’O’ Nelly’s got two little lambs.”

The children left their Christmas oranges and things on the table and ran to the barn to see the little lambs. “It was the biggest wonder of anything we ever got on Christmas,” Heaton recorded.

Sister Becky Craven, second counselor of the Young Women general presidency, said when she first heard the story of the Christmas surprise for Heaton, who is her husband’s grandfather, her mind and heart were drawn to thoughts of another Lamb born on Christmas Day — Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

“Just like Heaton ran to see his new lambs, I imagine the shepherds hastening to see the newborn Son of God,” Sister Craven said in her remarks during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional on Dec. 6. “Can you visualize what they must have witnessed in that humble and sacred setting? I envision a loving Joseph attending to his wife, Mary, as they pondered the birth of the promised Messiah.”

Sister Craven said she finds the account of Mary wrapping her newborn baby in swaddling clothes particularly tender. Recently, she watched her daughter-in-law wrap her new daughter in a soft, warm blanket and hold her close. 

Swaddling — or tightly wrapping — a baby in blankets has been used throughout history to calm a fussy baby, Sister Craven noted. “As I watched our daughter-in-law swaddle her new child, I thought of others who might be in need of a swaddle, even a virtual one. A kind word, a listening ear or an understanding heart can comfort and soothe the troubled soul of another.”

Church leaders are seated prior to the start of the First Presidency Christmas Devotional broadcast from the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020.
Church leaders are seated prior to the start of the First Presidency Christmas Devotional broadcast from the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

A few years ago, as Sister Craven’s son-in-law underwent heart surgery, her daughter sent a message to update her in-laws who were serving a mission in a far away country. Her mother-in-law responded with the message, “Sending you heavenly hugs.” 

As Sister Craven’s daughter sat alone in the hall of the hospital, a nurse stopped and, looking into her daughter’s tear-filled eyes, asked if she would like a blanket. Although she declined, the nurse returned and wrapped her tightly in a warm blanket. “I feel like you need a heavenly hug,” the nurse said.

After relating the above story, Sister Craven testified, “The Lamb of God, also known as the Good Shepherd, knows each of His flock. In our moments of need, He often sends earthly angels, like the compassionate nurse to our daughter, to wrap and encircle us in the arms of His love.”

Sister Craven said as she considers the many ways the Lord cares for each individual, she feels a desire to share that love and to “better recognize the heavenly hugs and swaddles I have received but have been slow to acknowledge.”

Gentle words, acts of compassion and kindness can be like wrapping another in a warm, swaddling blanket, Sister Craven said. The more individuals act on promptings to serve, the more “heavenly blankets the Lord gives us to share.”

Sister Craven invited listeners, as they feel the love, compassion and peace of the Savior, to share those blessings with others. “As I ponder the gift of the Lamb of God, the babe swaddled and laid in a manger, I echo the words of young Heaton, He is ‘the biggest wonder of anything we ever got [or will ever get] on Christmas.’”