Boyd Matheson: ‘All is well’ during this Christmas 2020

In his Christmas message to the world our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson extended an invitation and a promise. Combining his words with ancient prophets, as prophets, seers and revelators often do, President Nelson joined Moroni saying, “I commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written,” then promised that in so seeking this Jesus, “that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost,…may be and abide in you forever.”

Pursuing this invitation and receiving this promise will enable each of us — even in the midst of a pandemic, difficult days, trying times or personal problems — to confidently say, “all is well.”

Of that first Christmas night it has been said and sung for over 2,000 years that all was calm, all was bright. Indeed, the weary world rejoiced and saints and angels sang that because of this babe, born in a stable and laid in a manger, “all was well.” And all would be well, not just for that moment but for all moments, for all men and for all women and especially for all children — for all-time. Jesus Christ is not just the reason for this season, He is the reason for every season of our lives here, and hereafter.

I would note that the “all is well” we receive through seeking this Jesus does not mean that all is great or even that all is good. Joseph and Mary and saints down through the ages can attest to that. All is well does not connote that our lives are to be free from care. All is well does not suggest that our hearts will not experience deep disappointment, discouragement and even despair. All is well also does not include a free-pass from sickness, weariness, loneliness and worldly worries. It simply means that in Christ, Jesus all is well, or all will be well, according to His loving kindness and infinite compassion.   

President Gordon B. Hinckley was known for his enthusiastic expressions of, “It will all be ok in the end.” To which someone added, “If it’s not all ok, it’s simply not the end.”

For all to be well in the end we must hearken and heed the invitation to seek this Jesus.

Another Latter-day witness, for Him who came on upon that first midnight clear, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, shared in his Christmas devotional message that, “One irony this quiet, unpublicized scene belied was the fact that no baby had ever been born about whom so much was already known, of whom so much had already been written, and regarding whom so much was already expected. Indeed, knowledge about who and what He was started in the realms of heaven before anyone had been born!”

About 124 years before the birth of Jesus, the ancient prophet-leader King Benjamin gave his people an invitation to seek the Christ who would soon come, that they too could declare that “all was well.” King Benjamin said:

“For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

“And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.

“And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.

“And he shall be called Jesus Christ,  the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.

“And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.

“And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men. …

“And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy” (Mosiah 3: 5-13).

I have noticed that throughout this season of pandemic, economic upheaval and social strife that Elder David A. Bednar has included a unique phrase, related to the exceedingly great joy King Benjamin promised, when making in his own declarations of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Whether speaking to members, the youth, young adults, academics, attorneys, business leaders or global government officials Elder Bednar says, “I joyfully declare my witness,” or “I joyfully do what for me is essential. I express these thoughts and share these hopes in the name of Him whom I serve, whom I love, and whom I represent, even Jesus Christ.”

Regardless of our circumstances, such joy can be ours as we earnestly seek the Savior. Such exceedingly great joy can cause us to have increased confidence that all is indeed, well.

At the conclusion of the Christmas Devotional President Nelson pronounced a most powerful blessing. I pray as you listen to the words of his blessing that you will hear and feel them anew, as if pronounced upon you personally for the first time and that you will receive them with joy.

President Nelson began, “As an authorized servant of the Savior, I would like to invoke a blessing upon each of you, my beloved brothers and sisters.” Then prayed, “May you and your families be blessed with peace, with an increased ability to hear the voice of the Lord, and receive revelation with an enhanced capacity to feel how much our Father and His Son love you, care for you, and are ready to guide all who seek after Them.”

The blessing pronounced from the prophet of the Lord is real and personal. President Nelson has called down the power and blessings of heaven on behalf of each us. To feel Heavenly Father’s love brings exceedingly great joy and helps us know for ourselves that seeking this Jesus is the path to knowing all is well.

I once heard a story about a little girl named Mary Pratt Parish. It happened on the last day of school before the Christmas break. All the children in Mary’s class were excited for Christmas to come and the little classroom was bursting with the energy only young children can create. With about ten minutes before the final bell would ring and dismiss the students a somewhat desperate teacher decided to gather the children around to sing, in hopes it would create at least some order. 

The teacher said to the class, “Let’s sing some Christmas songs!” Then asked, “Who wants to choose the first song?” Every hand shot into the air, each desperately reaching higher in an effort to be the one chosen. The teacher chose Mary.

With great enthusiasm Mary shouted, “Let’s sing ‘Come, Come Ye Saints!’” Everyone, including the teacher burst into laughter. The teacher quickly pivoted, “How about ‘Jingle Bells’?” And all the children began to loudly sing the familiar song. Except Mary.

An embarrassed Mary sat quietly, with a lump in her throat and a pit in her stomach as she attempted to hold back her tears. After what seemed to be an eternity the bell rang. Mary quickly grabbed her things, raced out of the school and ran for home.

By the time she made it to the front door of her house tears were streaming down her cheeks. Mary raced into her mother’s arms and began to sob. Mary’s mother was concerned and asked what in the world was wrong. Mary lifted her head and asked, “Mom, ‘Come, Come Ye Saint’ is Christmas song, right?”

Brushing back Mary’s tears her mother said, “Yes, Mary, Come, Come Ye Saints’ is a Christmas song.” She then reminded Mary how her great-great grandmother, Mary Wood Littleton, had joined the church, left England, sailed the ocean and crossed the American plains — ultimately arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Some historical accounts noted that the Christmas of 1847 was one of the Saints most significant celebrations. 

On that day the Saints gathered to pray, express words of thanksgiving, and sing songs of praise… Concluding with a heartfelt rendition of “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” Thereafter, “Come, Come, Ye Saints” remained a favorite hymn, even a Christmas carol, at pioneer Christmas celebrations. (Elder Stevenson) This included Mary’s family who, on every Christmas morning thereafter, before the presents were open, would gather together to sing Christmas hymns – always concluding with an energetic carol – “Come, Come Ye Saints.”

I can think of no greater Christmas hymn for the year 2020, and the challenging, wearying season we find ourselves in, than this:

“Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear; But with joy wend your way. Though hard to you this journey may appear, Grace shall be as your day.  And from the second verse, “Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. Our God will never us forsake; And soon we’ll have this tale to tell —

“All is well! All is well!”

It all can be well for each of us, individually and collectively as we seek this Jesus. His birth, life and great atoning sacrifice are indeed the reason we can all joyfully declare on Christmas day and every day – all is well.

The Babe of Bethlehem, the Light, the Life and the Redeemer of the world – is Jesus the Christ who makes “all is well” an earthly and eternal reality.