Elder Bednar on Christmas symbols, light and the question ‘Are you and I ready for Christ?’

Consider Christmas symbols, look at them differently and find links to the Savior

In sharing Christmas messages in recent years, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has asked his listeners and readers to consider the symbolism of Christmas decorations, traditions and celebrations — and to look at them differently and link them with the source of truth, even Christ.

To the oft-asked holiday phrase, “Are you ready for Christmas?” Elder Bednar often suggests another question — “Are you and I ready for Christ?”

Elder David A. Bednar | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

He explains: “The Father’s gift to us was His Son. The gift from the Son to us is His Atonement. Perhaps the only thing we could give Them is a growing conviction of and a deepening conversion to the Savior and His Atonement and what it means in our lives.

“Perhaps the only thing we could give would be a more diligent desire and commensurate study — to not just know about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, but to know Him who brought His Atonement and to more fully understand the blessings of His sacrifice in our lives.”

Like other general authorities and general officers, Elder Bednar has used devotional messages, holiday speaking invitations and social-media posts to speak of Christmas symbols.

From stars and bells to shepherds and Wise Men, those symbols can have one not just thinking of Christmas and Christ’s birth but also expand focus on the Savior’s ministry and mission.

Following are some of the Christmas symbols of which Elder Bednar has spoken:

The wise men travel to visit Jesus.
The wise men travel to visit Jesus. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Christmas stars symbolize the star of Bethlehem, which guided the Wise Men to the baby Jesus as they brought the newborn child gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, Elder Bednar teaches. “The star reminds us to follow the light of the Savior.”


Bells at Christmastime symbolize the announcement of the birth of Christ, when angels in heaven praised God and declared, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).


For Elder Bednar, red — the first color of Christmas — represents Christ’s sacrifice to redeem God’s children from death and sin.

And green — the season’s second color, he says — is seen as a thriving evergreen tree in the dead of winter, “reminding us of hope and new life.”

The green and red colors are prominent in the next two symbols.


Speaking of the evergreens used as Christmas trees, Elder Bednar teaches: “Because of Jesus Christ, we can have everlasting life. Thus, the evergreen tree is a natural symbol of Him and His gift to us.”

In Christmas messages, he has noted the importance of the tree being a central figure in Lehi’s vision (1 Nephi 8). “The tree is a symbol that can represent Christ, and the fruit on the tree are the blessings of the Atonement.”

Candy canes

Candy canes suggest the staffs carried by the shepherds who anciently visited the baby Jesus. Staffs often have a crook, bend or curve at the top to hook sheep by the neck and gently lead them to food or water or to protect them from harm, he teaches. “It reminds us that the Good Shepherd lovingly brought lost lambs back to the fold. The red stripe represents Christ’s sacrifice, and the white stripe symbolizes His purity.”

The angel Gabriel appears to shepherds at night to tell of Christ’s birth. The image is from the Bible Videos. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Shepherds and sheep

Elder Bednar has spoken more specifically about the shepherds and sheep from the account of Christ’s birth, explaining that the flocks were destined for divine sacrifice.

“There were many shepherds in Palestine, but only to those who watched over the temple flocks did the herald angels come. Only they heard the heavenly choir. Those were not ordinary sheep,” he said.

Noting that many Nativity scenes with Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus also include sheep and shepherds, he invites: “Please don’t look at the sheep and shepherds quite the same way again.”

Wise Men and gifts

The Wise Men brought their gifts to honor the birth of Jesus and inspired the tradition of Christmas as the season of giving. But the greatest gift of all came from our Heavenly Father, he says, citing John 3:16:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,” our Savior, Jesus Christ.


Perhaps the greatest symbol involves different kinds of lights at Christmas — lights on trees, lights in and on our homes, and candles on our tables, Elder Bednar says. “Christmas lights remind us that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World. May the beautiful lights of every Christmas season remind us of Him who is the source of all light.”

He points to two seminal moments in the Book of Mormon that underscore the Savior and light, including mention of “a new star.”

Mary holds the baby Jesus, with Joseph watching — a photo from “The Christ Child” video. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Light at His birth

Samuel the Lamanite, who preached repentance and prophesied of Christ, taught:  “And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day. … And behold, there shall a new star arise … ; and this also shall be a sign unto you” (Helaman 14:3, 5).

And yet five years later, believing in that prophecy became a life-or-death matter.

“But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite. … Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet” (3 Nephi 1:5, 9).

Asks Elder Bednar: “Can we even begin to understand what it might have been like to await the sign of His coming and also face the dire deadline of death? Would you and I stand firm and steadfast in the faith, or would we waver and shrink?”

But as prophesied, the sign of Christ’s birth was given, with the sun going down that evening and yet there was no darkness — a day of deliverance for believers in the New World, Elder Bednar instructs.  “Light as the sign of the Savior’s birth literally saved their lives.”

The resurrected Jesus Christ appears to and teaches the Nephites in an image from the Book of Mormon Video Series. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Light at His New World appearance

Elder Bednar also recounts the Book of Mormon signs of the Savior’s death — the three days of intense darkness foretold by Samuel, the Lamanite prophet.

“What might it have been like to experience those three days of indescribable darkness and then, a short time later, gather with the multitude of 2,500 people at the temple in the land of Bountiful?” Elder Bednar asked. “Can you envision the majesty of the moment as the Savior descended from the heavens and declared, ‘Behold, I am Jesus Christ. … I am the light and the life of the world’?”

He notes that the first two words the Savior used to describe Himself are “the light.”

“The account of the first Christmas in the Book of Mormon helps us to learn and more fully understand that Jesus Christ is the ‘light which shineth in darkness’ (Doctrine and Covenants 10:58),” he says.

“In every season of our lives, in all of the circumstances we may encounter, and in each challenge we may face, Jesus Christ is the light that dispels fear, provides assurance and direction, and engenders enduring peace and joy.”

Elder Bednar says that especially during the Christmas season, there isn’t anything he loves more than declaring his witness of Jesus Christ. “He lived, He walked the earth. He taught His doctrine. He organized His Church. He is the Son of God. I witness that He was crucified, and more important, that He is resurrected, that He lives, that He speaks, that He stands at the head of His Church in this very day.”

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