1999 CHRISTMAS TALK

by Steven A. Cramer

 

I appreciate the opportunity to share some of the things Christmas means to me…and what I hope it could mean to all of us.

I would like to do this by discussing a new word that an angel taught to Nephi during a vision of the Savior’s birth. It is a big word, and in 6000 years of scripture it has only been used three times.

I will tell you about this word in a few moments, after some background information that will make it more meaningful.


I think one of the most interesting verses in all of the Scripture is the very last verse in the Book of John…the very last verse presented by the Bible on the life of Christ before it starts relating the acts of the apostles

John says:

"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written."
(John 21:25)

What is so interesting about this verse is that it makes absolutely no sense…if Christ’s life had only begun in the manger 33 years earlier in Bethlehem. Because you could record every word and every minute of a person’s life for 33 years and not even fill a library, much less the whole world.

Well that was the last verse in John.

The first three verses in his book help us understand that last verse, because he starts his testimony of Christ’s life by explaining that Jesus Christ was with the Father from the very beginning of His creations.

In John 1:3 he testified that "all things were made by" Jesus (which means not just this world, but the entire universe. For as John continued: "Without Him was not anything made that was made."

Moses 1:33 gives us another affirmation: "And worlds without number have I created… And by the Son I created them, which is mine only begotten."


Jesus Christ is called "the Firstborn," because He was the very first spirit child born to our Heavenly Father and Mother after they entered the Celestial Kingdom. As their firstborn, Jesus Christ became so advanced in righteousness and perfection that He was able to help Heavenly Father create all those innumerable worlds for his brothers and sisters — even though He was still an unembodied spirit, like you and I were before we came here to obtain our physical bodies.


What do you think the Lord meant by "worlds without number?"

Moses 7:30 tries to give us an idea…but it just boggles the mind. It says:

"And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of Thy creations."

That means if we could somehow count the number of every grain of sand and every particle of dust in this whole planet, it would not even give us a clue as to how many worlds Christ has created.

It also said that if you could somehow number the particles of millions of earths like this one, that would not give us an idea of the size of the universe or number of worlds either, because even that incomprehensible number would not be a beginning to the number of worlds created by Jesus Christ under the direction of Heavenly Father.

And this, my brothers and sisters, is the person who was born in the manger on that first Christmas Day.

The next time you look up and see the night sky filled with countless stars, and realize there are a 100 billion times more that we cannot see, all created by Jesus Christ under the guidance of Heavenly Father, it will help you to understand John’s testimony:

"And there are also many other thing which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written."


Now just a couple more things and we will be ready for that special word taught to Nephi.

Another part of understanding the significance of Christmas is realizing how our planet is unique and different from all the other trillions of worlds that came before us.

Let me share just two reasons why this is so:

First, because ours is the most wicked world that ever existed.


Of course every world has had temptation and sin, but as far as we know, the reason this world is the biggest failure and the most wicked of all God’s creations is because this is where Satan came with over 35 billion spirits who are still fighting the war against us.

And as far as we know, that is something that had never happened before. Now that is not just my opinion.

In Moses 7:36, Christ Himself told Enoch that this world is the most wicked that has ever existed in the entire history of the universe when He said:

"Among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren."

This unprecedented war that began in Heaven and continues here and now and the presence of Satan and his billions of tempters all means that you and I are in greater peril in our probation than any other group of Heavenly Father’s children who have ever left His presence to go through a mortal testing.

And that is why Jesus came here to obtain His own physical body and to rescue us.

There is much more we could say about this. But that is another reason this world is unique. Because out of all the worlds which Jesus created, this is the first and only world where Jesus Christ came to be born in the flesh and obtain His own physical body to conquer physical death and open the power of resurrection so that we could all live again as well as to prove that Satan’s challenge was wrong — that a person could live in a mortal body and obey all of Heavenly Father’s commandments without being forced to do it.

And of course to conquer spiritual death by paying for our sins and making repentance and forgiveness possible.

So a major part of Christmas is being thankful to know that no matter how terrible the damage Satan may cause in your life, Jesus Christ can make it right…if we will only let him.


Now as far as we know, there has never been such a challenge or such a showdown before in all the worlds Heavenly Father and Jesus have created. And that is why all of eternity is watching the outcome of this world.

How do we know that all eternity is watching this test on our little world?

To begin with, D&C 76 tells us that the children of God on all those other "innumerable" worlds that came before us knew of Satan’s treason in the premortal council. Before he became Satan, Lucifer was called a son of the morning. Like Christ, he was one of the oldest and noblest of all God’s children. In fact, he had worked right along with Jesus in organizing and caring for many of those worlds that came before ours.

So when he turned greedy and selfish, and became God’s enemy, D&C 76 tells us how all those previous worlds wept at his fall and the war which he started as he rebelled against Heavenly Father and Christ and caused one third of all our brothers and sisters scheduled for this world to fall with him.

And in D&C 38:11 the Savior said that all those worlds are still watching the war between Satan and Christ. He said:

"And all flesh is corrupted before me; and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth, among the children of men, in the presence of all the hosts of heaven – which causeth silence to reign, and all eternity is pained…"

Let’s quickly analyze that verse:

"The powers of darkness prevailing" means that Satan is winning more souls than Christ. And having this happen "in the presence of all the hosts of heaven" means that the people on all those innumerable worlds that came before us are somehow aware of the battle between God and Satan that is going on here.

And finally, He told us that because of the enormous fatalities of this spiritual war, because one third of all the children assigned to come here to this planet fell away before they even entered mortality and now the majority of people coming to this world have fallen into Satan’s way, all eternity is in pain and silence as they see the wickedness and loss on this, the most wicked of all his worlds.


So what should all this mean to us and our life?

Each time we look up at the stars, we should not just be thinking about how many innumerable worlds our Savior has created, but also how they are all watching the outcome of the battle on this earth…the battle for your soul and mine. And that they want to know how your life is going to turn out and how my life is going to turn out.

They want to know who is more powerful — who is winning the most souls — Satan or Jesus Christ. They want to know who is the only one who can cleanse us of our sins and take us back into the presence of our Heavenly Father.

Part of Christmas is realizing that the answer to those questions is not up to Christ and it is not up to Satan. It is up to you and to me as we decide each day which of them is the most important in our priorities.


Another part of Christmas is the new star that appeared when Christ was born.

Creating a star is not something easy to do. It is a major event.

What was it for?


Here are three quick reasons for that:

On this world, the new star guided the wise men to Bethlehem so that they could bear witness to the royalty of Jerusalem that a new king was born to the Jews,

And so they could give Joseph and Mary the gold and other treasures that would enable them to flee to Egypt to save the Savior’s life when Herod tried to destroy this new king by killing all the babies born in Bethlehem.

The new star was also the promised sign to the Book of Mormon people that their Savior had finally been born.

But that new star — hanging over this little planet — was also a signal to the entire universe that Christ had created, a jubilant announcement to all those innumerable worlds, not only that their brother, the Savior and Creator of the universe had finally been born on a mortal world, but it also showed them just where that world was in his vast universe.


And now, if you would like to turn to Chapter 11 of 1st Nephi, we are ready to learn about that special word taught to Nephi by the angel.

In verse 13, Nephi was shown the great city of Jerusalem as well as the city of Nazareth, where he beheld the virgin Mary. When the angel asked Nephi, "What beholdest thou?" Nephi said that he saw a virgin who was most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.

What a lovely tribute to Christ’s mother, Mary.

And then in verse 16, the angel gave Nephi a word test. This is a test that can challenge our personal understanding of Christmas.

"Knowest thou the condescension of God?"

And there is the word: condescension.

Nephi squirmed. He was not sure what this word means. Are you?

So he said, "Well, I know that He loveth His children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things."

Nephi didn’t have the advantage of a Webster's dictionary to help him pass this test. Listen to what Webster says this word has to do with the baby Jesus in the manger.

First, the root word condescend: To descend to a less formal or dignified level. To waive the privileges of rank. Isn’t that what Christ did when he left His throne of glory as the Creator of the universe to become a helpless baby in a manger?

What does Christmas mean?

That depends on how we feel when we look into that manger and whether we see the baby Jesus or the Creator of the universe condescending to leave His glory to become one of us.

Paul said that when Jesus became mortal, He took not on Himself the nature of angels, but normal mortal flesh. He did not come here as royalty, but as a mortal person who suffered fatigue, heartaches, disappointments, rejection, and temptations beyond anything you and I could possibly endure. So when we grow weary and discouraged, we can know and trust that even though He was perfect, he does truly understand how we feel.

And now Webster gives the angel’s word: condescension: A voluntary descent from one’s rank or dignity in relations with an inferior.

Jesus never sought out the most righteous or perfect people, but lived and spent all His time with sinners…with the common folk whom He wanted to make uncommon.

He condescended to come down here and join us in the fallen flesh, to live in our fallen, imperfect world of filth and squalor and pettiness and hatred…so that He could rescue us and take us each back to the loving arms of our Heavenly Father and Mother in Heaven.

One of the most important messages of Christmas is that no matter how flawed and imperfect we are, no matter how sinful we have been, He can make us clean and new…if we will only let Him.


Another part of what Christmas means depends on how we feel when we read of Jesus being mocked and ridiculed, tortured and crucified. Not as the carpenter from Nazareth, but as the Creator of the universe, the second in command, the highest and purest and most holy and powerful Being in the entire universe, next to Heavenly Father.

You are familiar with Malachi’s challenging question: "Will a man rob God?" We always hear that question in connection with tithing, but it can also evaluate our feelings about the kind of Christmas we have been discussing.

The prophets have told us that you and I were reserved to come into this world in these, the latter days, because Heavenly Father needed our personalities and our devotion and talents to help prepare the world for the second coming of Christ.

How are we doing? How seriously have we been taking this end-of-the-world mission and assignment? Are we giving back to Him everything He needs us to be so that our influence can help Him to save more of His brothers and sisters? Or are we robbing Him of the influence He needs from us in our particular circle of influence?

Part of Christmas means expressing our love by giving gifts. We have learned of Christ’s condescension in the gifts he gave to us. Let’s not let anything get in our way of loving Jesus Christ, of honoring and treasuring Him, of remembering and obeying Him. Let’s not look at Christmas as the end of the year, but as the opportunity for a new birth, the beginning of a new life in Christ.

Let us each use this new year and new millennium to give Him the most precious gift we could give…the gift of becoming more like Him and helping some of our brothers and sisters to love Him and become like Him, too.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 


1999 Steven A. Cramer
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