This week’s “Come, Follow Me” study guide focuses on the Christmas story, especially the significance of Jesus Christ’s birth.
Church News recently searched the archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to learn what leaders have said about the Christmas season.
Focusing on the Christ Child
“The promised birth of Jesus Christ brought ‘great light’ (Isaiah 9:2) and ‘good tidings of great joy’ (Luke 2:10) to the world. Christmastime is the perfect opportunity to focus our hearts and minds on the Christ Child born so long ago and the hope, peace and love that the message of His gospel brings into our hearts as we willingly follow Him. …
“Reading the sacred accounts of the Savior’s birth in the New Testament is at the center of many of our favorite Christmas traditions, but let us not forget that we would not have Christmas without His Atonement and Resurrection. The Book of Mormon testifies of the reality of the risen Christ as well as the richness and depth of His doctrine. If you use the truths about Christ found within its pages during the Christmas season and share it with others, you will add more meaning to your Christmas celebrations.
The true spirit of Christmas
“The prophecy of Micah in the Old Testament foretells the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ in these words: ‘But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting’ (Micah 5:2).
“In Hebrew, Bethlehem means ‘house of bread,’ and into this house of bread the Son of God was born in a stable and was laid in a manger — coming from heaven to Earth in mortality to establish the true kingdom of God.
“The true spirit of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ — in the house of bread — and the joy of the spirit of giving, loving and caring for one another. The real spirit of Christmas is about giving of ourselves. We should seek to follow our perfect leader, Jesus Christ, who at the end, gave His life, enabling us to qualify for the greatest gift of God, which is eternal life.”
— Elder Pungwe S. Kongolo in the December 2020 Liahona article, “True Christmas: See the Spirit of Simplicity, Peace, Love and Generosity”
‘Just think about that little baby’
“When we talk about the birth of Jesus Christ, we appropriately reflect on what was to follow. His birth was infinitely significant because of the things He would experience and suffer so that He might better succor us — all culminating in His Crucifixion and Resurrection (see Alma 7:11-12). But His mission also included the beauty of His service, the miracles of His ministry, the relief He brought to the suffering and the joy He offered — and still offers — to the mourning. …
“With all of that to come, though, I think it’s appropriate this time of year to just think about that baby in the manger. Don’t be too overwhelmed or occupied with what is to come; just think about that little baby. Take a quiet, peaceful moment to ponder the beginning of His life — the culmination of heavenly prophecy but the earthly beginning for Him.
“Take time to relax, be at peace and see this little child in your mind. Do not be too concerned or overwhelmed with what is coming in His life or in yours. Instead, take a peaceful moment to contemplate perhaps the most serene moment in the history of the world — when all of heaven rejoiced with the message, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’ (Luke 2:14).”
‘To this end was I born’
“I cannot think about the birth of the Savior without thinking of His words to Pilate: ‘To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice’ (John 18:37).
“Christ’s coming was foretold for thousands of years. About 2,000 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, Abraham taught about His role in the plan of salvation. About 1,400 years before His birth, Moses taught the same wonderful truths. About 700 years before His birth, Isaiah revealed the circumstances of His birth, life, and death…
“May we take time this Christmas season to renew our covenants to follow the Savior and to do His will, just as He did the will of our Heavenly Father. As we do so, the words of King Benjamin’s people, recorded 125 years before the Savior’s birth, will be fulfilled for us today: ‘O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men’ (Mosiah 4:2).”
The Lamb of God
“Return with me to that sacred first Christmas in Bethlehem to contemplate the birth of our Lord. He came in the quiet of the night, in the meridian of time, He who is Immanuel (see Isaiah 7:14), the Stem of Jesse (see Isaiah 11:1), the Dayspring (see Luke 1:78), the Lord Almighty (see 2 Corinthians 6:18). His birth marked the promised visitation of the Creator to the earth, the condescension of God to man (see 1 Nephi 11:16-27). As Isaiah wrote of the event, ‘The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined’ (Isaiah 9:2). …
“The boy child who arrived that birthing season is known as ‘the Lamb of God’ (John 1:29; 1 Nephi 11:31; Doctrine & Covenants 88:106). It is a title of deep significance, for He arrived with the lambs and would someday be ‘brought as a lamb to the slaughter’ (Isaiah 53:7). Yet paradoxically, He was also the Good Shepherd (see John 10:11), one who cares for the lambs. Thus, these twin symbols of His life represent both those who serve and those who are served. It was only right that Christ should play both roles, for in life He ‘descended below all things’ (Doctrine & Covenants 88:6), and in eternity He ‘ascended up on high’ and is in and through and ‘round about all things’ (Doctrine & Covenants 88:6, 41). He knew life from every side and every angle, both above and below. He who was the greatest made Himself the least — the Heavenly Shepherd who became the Lamb.”
— Elder Bruce D. Porter in the December 2013 Liahona article, “Come, Let Us Adore Him”
The shepherds and the angels
“In the well-known verses from Luke 2, we learn significant facts about those first witnesses of Christ’s birth, the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem. When ‘the angel of the Lord came upon them… they were sore afraid’ (verse 9). But they heard ‘good tidings of great joy’ that the long-foretold Savior, the Messiah, the Christ, had been born (verse 10). They listened to know the sign by which they could recognize the Savior, that He would be ‘wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger’ (verse 12). When the heavenly host had concluded their joyful proclamation, the shepherds responded immediately, saying, ‘Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass’ (verse 15). They came ‘with haste’ (verse 16) and found the Christ child just as the angel had said, and then they ‘returned, glorifying and praising God’ (verse 20). Wanting to share the glorious news of the Savior’s birth, ‘they made [it] known abroad’ (verse 17).
“Like the shepherds, we must respond immediately, with haste, whenever the Spirit speaks to us. … Sometimes after heeding a prompting, we cannot clearly see why we have been guided by the Spirit to act in a certain way. But often, like the shepherds, we see miracles occur, and our faithful response to a prompting is confirmed. We can then take opportunities to share our joy and our witness with others. Doing so can strengthen others’ faith and hope, further confirming our own testimonies and bringing us closer to the Savior and His ways.”
Pondering the Savior’s birth
“As I read the account of the birth of my Savior, I long to have the experience the Wise Men had — to be led by a star; or to experience what the shepherds did — to be invited to Bethlehem, invited by a choir of angels. I want to kneel at the manger and smell the clean straw and see that tiny baby with His earthly mother, to witness for myself this miracle. I believe that in every mortal there is an instinctive desire to come unto Christ. Perhaps we have a basic human need, because each of us is a child of God, to make that commitment to the spiritual part of our being. We each try to meet this need according to what we know.
“As members of His true church, perhaps we do not need to be taught new things as much as we need to be reminded of what we already know. This is what pondering the birth of our Savior does for all of us. I believe it reminds our mortal minds of things our spirits already know.”
— Sister Betty Jo N. Jepsen, then the first counselor in the Primary general presidency, October 1992 general conference, “‘By Way of Invitation’ (Alma 5:62)”
The sacredness of birth
“I have never walked in the silent streets of Bethlehem. I have not seen the blue waters of the Sea of Galilee nor the stars over the field of the shepherds.
“Yet, sometimes I feel that I can understand the paths Mary walked, for I too am a mother. I have known the overwhelming joy of holding an infant in my arms and have felt awe as I looked upon my newborn child. …
“For most women, there is a reverence for life that grows as the child grows. There is a giving of oneself to faith as the process of birth occurs, and there is a wrenching of body and spirit. But for Mary, the experience must have been even more reverent. For Mary knew she was clothing with mortality the immortal spirit of the Son of God, who would become the Christ, the Redeemer of mankind. …
“To most persons in Bethlehem, the child born to Mary would be one more Israelite to be added to the tax rolls: born, a son, to Joseph and Mary of Nazareth, descendant of David, through the tribe of Judah. But Mary looked at the little infant, so tiny and helpless, and knew that He was no ordinary child. His great potential and his utter helplessness must have been overwhelming. The manner of His conception had been miraculous, and she must have trembled to realize that the responsibility of nurturing this divine child was hers.
“Christmas blesses us with an awareness of the sacredness of birth, an understanding of the miracle of human life unfolding.”
— Sister Barbara B. Smith, former Relief Society general president, in the December 1989 Liahona article, “No Ordinary Child”
‘What did you give for Christmas?’
“‘What did you get for Christmas?’ This is the universal question among children for days following that most celebrated holiday of the year. …
“If we change but one word in our Christmas question, the outcome is vastly different. ‘What did you give for Christmas?’ prompts stimulating thought, causes tender feelings to well up and memory’s fires to glow ever brighter. …
“Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. 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 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.”