On this Christmas Eve, as I awoke, I thought of the glorious events being celebrated this week throughout the world. I thought of the events of this night in the New World, and realized we celebrate something far greater than the mere birth of a babe. The events leading up to His birth began eons ago, as measured by man. Each of us existed as spirits, in the presence of the Father. But, without a physical body and a mortal experience, in which we could prove our willingness to keep the commandments of God, we could progress no further. Each had to prove obedience to His laws and ordinances, without the memories of the premortal life, its teachings and experiences.
Elder Russell M. Nelsen said of the events critical to our eternal progression, “The entire Creation was planned by God. A council in heaven was once convened in which we participated. There our Heavenly Father announced His divine plan…The purpose of the plan is to provide opportunity for the spirit children of God to progress toward an eternal exaltation…
This season, I celebrate the creation of the planet on which I live, the sun, moon, and stars, the flowers that bloom, and the animals that inhabit the sea, land, and air. I celebrate my life, and that of all others who have lived, live now, and yet will be born into mortality.
The organization of matter proceeded as planned, and Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden. Although commanded to be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth, this was impossible while in the Garden. Father Lehi explained to his children, “And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the same state in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.” (2 Nephi 2:22-23)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall. Joseph Smith taught that it was not a “sin,” because God had decreed it. Brigham Young declared, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least.” Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin…This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin…for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!”
“This suggested contrast between a sin and a transgression reminds us of the careful wording in the second article of faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” It also echoes a familiar distinction in the law. Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin – inherently wrong – but a transgression – wrong because it was formally prohibited.”
This season, I celebrate the courage of Mother Eve and the wisdom of Father Adam, in making possible my eternal progression, and that of all mankind, through their transgression.
With man in a fallen state, subject to death, the only way back to the Father was through the sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son. Elder Nelsen said, “The plan required the Creation, and that in turn required both the Fall and the Atonement. These are the three fundamental components of the plan. The creation of a paradisiacal planet came from God. Mortality and death came into the world through the Fall of Adam. Immortality and the possibility of eternal life were provided by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement were planned long before the actual work of the Creation began.”
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, said, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)
As part of the plan, my Elder Brother, Jehovah, volunteered to be the Redeemer, to atone for my sins through His suffering in the Garden, and to make possible the reuniting of my body and spirit, one day separated by death, that I may be able to return to the presence of the Father, and continue my eternal progression.
And so, He came to earth as an infant, born to his mortal mother, Mary, son of the Father, the Only Begotten in the flesh. That birth we celebrate this holiday season. The birth was celebrated by Nephi and the believers when “the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying: Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophet. Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son – of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.” (3 Nephi 1:13-14)
“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:6-14)
This season, I celebrate the birth of a babe, born in lowly circumstances, yet born a King, in a future day, to rule and reign forever upon the earth.
Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, spoke of the life of this babe, saying, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Hebrews 5:8-9)
Throughout His life, He learned about the mortal experience, so He could understand and comfort our trials. Alma said He would live “…suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities…the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance.” (Alma 7:11-13)
This season, I celebrate a child, growing to manhood under the care and teaching of His mother and her faithful husband, guardian of the Son of God. I celebrate my Savior’s ministry among His brothers and sisters, His love, compassion, and care for all He met, in the most humble of circumstances.
After three years of earthly ministry, He traveled to Jerusalem, knowing He would be crucified there. Celebrating the Passover meal with His apostles in the upper room, He gave them the Sacrament, providing a reminder of the sacrifice He soon would make. Then, heavy with the weight of the suffering that was coming upon Him, He lead his apostles to Gethsemane, and went farther alone, praying, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39)
Of this time in the Garden, Christ said, “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent, they must suffer even as I’ Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit – and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink – Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” (D&C 19:16 – 19)
Of these events, President Joseph F. Smith said, “…I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great. And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality; And who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name. All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand. They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death. Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided, that they might receive a fullness of joy. While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful…And the saints rejoiced in their redemption, and bowed the knee and acknowledged the Son of God as their Redeemer and Deliverer from death and the chains of hell. Their countenances shone, and the radiance from the presence of the Lord rested upon them, and they sang praises unto his holy name. ..For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage…” (D&C 138:11-18, 23-24, 50)
“And while they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arrive in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. (Luke 24:36-39)
This season, I celebrate the Atonement and resurrection of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In a future day, not far off, as the prophets tell us, will come the great and glorious day when He returns to earth.
“…Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
“…then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory;” (JS-Matthew 1:36)
“…saying to all people, both in heaven and in earth, and that are under the earth – for every ear shall hear it, and every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess, while they hear the sound of the trump, saying, Fear God, and give glory to him who sitteth upon the throne, forever and ever; for the hour of his judgment is come. (D&C88:104)
“Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God…” (Mosiah 27:31)
This season, I celebrate the future day, when Jesus Christ shall again stand upon the earth, taking His rightful place as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And on that day, I, too, shall rejoice!
It’s not just about the birth of a babe…but far more.