Christmas is a time ‘to de-emphasize differences,’ President Oaks says

Why the announcement of the Christ child was made to three different groups — ‘the very humble, the very holy and the very wise’

The life of the Savior Jesus Christ “was and is the greatest life ever lived,” President Dallin H. Oaks declared during the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional Sunday, Dec. 4.

“Millions have given their lives [for] and, more importantly, millions have patterned their lives after the Lord God of Israel, Jehovah, Jesus Christ, our Savior,” said President Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency. 

Throughout history prophets have declared the truths of His Atonement, His mission, His teachings and His command to love and serve God and one another. “Repeated through the ages, these declarations are the most important message in all eternity,” he said. 

“For those who follow Christ, these declarations are not to be revised. They are to be renewed in each of our lives.”

Concluding an evening focused on receiving the gift of Christ, sharing His light and looking to Him in times of uncertainty, President Oaks revisited the announcement of Christ’s birth to “the very humble, the very holy and the very wise” and invited all to add their witness of this sacred event by loving one another.

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“Christmas is a time to remember that we are all children of a Father in Heaven, who gave His Only Begotten Son that all would be redeemed from death, and who has offered the blessings of salvation and exaltation to all mankind on the same conditions,” he said. 

‘The very humble’

The divine announcement of the birth of the Christ child includes “an important purpose and symbol,” President Oaks taught. New Testament accounts reveal that announcements were made to three groups, each with different characteristics. 

“Those who received the heavenly announcement of the birth were the very humble, the very holy and the very wise,” he said. 

First, to shepherds in the hills near Bethlehem, an angel and a heavenly choir proclaimed “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people … a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). 

First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“The shepherds were probably chosen to receive these good tidings because they were meek and humble,” President Oaks said. “Thus, they were uniquely receptive to the message of heaven, which they verified by visiting the newborn. Then, the scripture reports, they ‘made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child’” (Luke 2:17).

‘The very holy’

The second announcement of the Messiah’s birth was in the temple in Jerusalem to Simeon and Anna — “two holy workers whose godly lives qualified them to receive the witness of the Holy Ghost,” President Oaks said. 

“When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple for the sacrifice prescribed for the firstborn, Simeon and Anna both witnessed that He was the Messiah.”

Luke records that Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God for allowing him to see “thy salvation,” a “light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” And Anna, a prophetess, “coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (see Luke 2:22-38).

‘The very wise’

A third group also learned of His birth — the wise men. “There came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is the child that is born the Messiah of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 2:1-2).

“From their stated inquiry, we cannot doubt that they were led by the Lord for His sacred purposes. … These wise men were of another land and culture, so a witness to them was a reminder that the Messiah was born for all people,” President Oaks said. 

“Isn’t it interesting that the miraculous event of the birth of Christ and something of the significance of that event was made known only to the very humble, the very holy and the very wise?”

Christmas lights shine near the Conference Center in Salt Lake City following the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The late Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote in “Jesus the Christ”: “[I]ndeed God raised up witnesses for Himself to meet all classes and conditions of men — the testimony of angels for the poor and the lowly; the testimony of wise men for the haughty king and proud priests of Judea.”

President Oaks invited: “Remembering Simeon and Anna can inspire us to be like them and add our witness of the sacred birth and its purpose at this Christmas season.”

Christmas: A time to ‘de-emphasize differences’

Christmas awakens a desire to extend beyond normal ties of love and friendship, President Oaks said, noting that the proclamation “on earth peace, good will toward men” was not limited to loved ones but also includes casual friends, strangers and even enemies.

“Christmas is also a time for forgiving, a time to heal old wounds and restore relationships that have gone awry. 

“Christmas is a time to eliminate arrogance and provocation, to subdue criticism, to practice patience, and to de-emphasize differences among people. We have the incentive to extend sincere fellowship to all persons, those who are and those who are not of our faith … 

“As followers of Christ,” President Oaks continued, “we ought to be the friendliest and most considerate of all people anywhere. We should teach our children to be kind and considerate of everyone. We should, of course, avoid the kinds of associations and activities that compromise our conduct or dilute our faith and worship.

“But that should not keep us from cooperative efforts with people of every persuasion — believers and non-believers.”

The late President Thomas S. Monson, 16th President of the Church, taught: “The shepherds of old sought Jesus the child. But we seek Jesus the Christ, our Older Brother, our Mediator with the Father, our Redeemer, the Author of our salvation; He who was in the beginning with the Father; He who took upon himself the sins of the world and so willingly died that we might forever live. This is the Jesus whom we seek.”

Latter-day Saints listen as they attend the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

With the gift of the Holy Ghost whose mission is to testify of the Father and the Son, “Latter-day Saints are uniquely qualified to celebrate the saving message of Jesus Christ throughout the year,” President Oaks said. 

He closed by reading Doctrine and Covenants 76:41-43: “[H]e came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness; 

“That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him; Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands … .”

Quoting the third article of faith, President Oaks testified: “Therefore, in His restored Church we declare ‘that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.’”

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