2000 CHRISTMAS TALK ON CHRISTS LOVE
by Steven A. Cramer
At Christmas time we think of love perhaps more than any other time of the year. I want to speak of Christs love for us, but it is difficult because His love is so perfect, so infinite, that it cannot really be expressed in words but must be experienced to be understood.
For most of my life I shut that love out because I was not living worthy of it. But when I finally opened my heart enough to let it in I discovered His love is not based on how good or bad we are, but simply on WHO we are His brothers and sisters, the children of our Father in Heaven.
No matter how hard you may try to improve your life, there is nothing you could possibly do to make Christ love you more than He already does. No matter how wicked or disobedient you might choose to be, there is nothing you could do that could cause Him to love you less than He does right now.
Christ does not require us to change before He loves us, because He knows that if we need changing, experiencing His love will change us. Thats basically all He really did during His ministry. Walk among the people each day people who felt unimportant and unworthy and show them His love.
Everywhere He went, people were changed by that incredible love and acceptance. For example, in New Testament times nothing was as repulsive and abhorrent as the leper. Everywhere He went, lepers were required to call out a warning, such as "Unclean, unclean. Stand clear. Dont get too close." And that is exactly how Satan wants us to feel when we sin. "Unclean, unclean. Dont love me, dont respect me, dont get involved in my life. Stand clear, unclean."
But Christ was not repulsed by the lepers. Without hesitation He said the same thing to them that He says to each of us today, "Come to me." And when they came, He actually reached out and touched them! That fearless touch of love and acceptance amazed the Jews far more than the healing did.
Even though we are all spiritual lepers to some degree, the scriptures teach that there is no filthiness too repulsive to separate us from the healing touch of His love, if we will only reach out and accept it.
We see His love in everything He did. The way He spoke. The way He looked at people with compassion and kindness. Even the way He heard them. Today we can be preoccupied with urgent matters in an airport, paying no attention to the loud speakers, and yet hear our name the instant we are paged. A mother can hear her baby's cry even when she is exhausted and sleeping.
And Christ showed that His ears and the Fathers are always alert to our cries for help. Near the end of His ministry, the Savior was often accompanied by large crowds. "And there went great multitudes with Him, Luke reported, even "an innumerable multitude of people insomuch that they trod upon one another " (Luke 14:25; 12:1) We find a great lesson about ears on the Savior's way to His last Passover in Jerusalem. "And it came to pass, that as He was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: And hearing the multitude pass by, He asked what it meant." (Luke 18:35-36) In our society, we are used to massive crowds and the accompanying noise, but such an occurrence would have been astonishing in the little town of Jericho.
It was the Savior's practice to teach as He traveled, so we can assume that He was occupied with such matters when the beggar called to Him from the side of the road, saying "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me." (Luke 18:38) Surrounded as He was by hundreds if not thousands of people, it is improbable that Christ could have even seen the beggar on the side of the street, much less heard him. But Christ's eyes and ears were always attuned to the needs of people and so He did hear the blind man even above the noise of the crowd. Jesus instantly stopped the journey and "commanded him to be brought unto Him: and when He was come near, He asked him, Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And He said, Lord, that I may receive my sight." (Luke 18:40-41)
The request was granted and the people probably marveled over the healing but I marvel to know that no matter how busy He is with other things, He will always hear my prayer and know of my needs.
One of the saddest parts of the Christmas story is all the people who turned Joseph and Mary away. How many innkeepers might have been the one to receive the birth of the Christ child? But they had no time for him, no room for him. Perhaps they had no choice, but today you and I do have a choice. Are we making room for Him in our hearts today, in our time and our priorities and emotions?
In this new millennium there is much talk about Christs Second Coming. And of course none of us know how soon that will be. But when He comes into your own life and heart is up to you. It wont matter very much when He comes back to the whole world if we haven first allowed Him to come into our personal lives.
Christ characterized His love for us as a shepherd who is willing to leave the 99 sheep safe in the fold under the care of others while He personally goes in search of the one who is lost. One would think that He would wait for us to come to Him, but He does not. He shows His love by coming to us.
In our last testimony meeting, Sister Morris taught us this: She told us how three-year-old Austin was visited in the hospital by the Savior Himself and told that he was going to have a very tough day, but that Jesus would be there to help him through it. Did that surprise you? That He came from the throne of God to comfort one little boy?
One of the greatest acts of His kindness and love was a side trip the Savior took just before His birth in Bethlehem.
Over here in the Americas, the disciples were in grave danger because the apostate unbelievers were sick and tired of hearing the prophecies of His birth, and they finally drew the line and said if the promised signs did not appear that night, they were going to kill all the believers the next day. The prophet Nephi was greatly distressed and praying earnestly about this. Now Christ was going to be born that night. The signs would be given. The people were going to be just fine whether Nephi got an answer to his prayer or not. But Christ showed great kindness and love by taking a detour on His way to Marys womb in Bethlehem. He took the time to first come to America and answer Nephis prayer, giving him the assurance that this was the night that He would come into the world.
President Hinckley told how he was touched by the experience of Ginger Evans, a single parent raising seven children by herself. Weighed down by the burdens in her life, she pleaded with her Father in Heaven for the privilege of coming to Him, if only for one night, to find comfort and strength for the trials to come. Tender was the answer that formed in her mind: "You cannot come to me but I will come to you."
President Hinckley then observed, "No, we do not leave this life at our own will for a heavenly respite. God our Eternal Father would not have it so. But He and His Beloved Son can come to us by the power of the Spirit to comfort and sustain, to nurture and to bless," (Ensign, June 1989, 74.) This same compassion is available to each one of us in our own difficulties, because the Savior has promised the faithful, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you," (John 14:18.) But are we too busy to notice the love He is trying to give us?
What do you do when you hear someone knocking on your front door? Day or night, dont you rush to open it and see who it is? Speaking of our hearts and emotions, Christ said, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him " (Revelations 3:20) For half of my life, I not only failed to open that door to Him, I didnt even believe He would bother to knock on my door.
Isnt it incredible that is not the opposite. We would think He was sitting in heaven, waiting for us to knock on His door, but no. He comes down here, banging and shouting "Let me in. I want to love you. I want to heal you of your hurts and wounds. I can help you to be happy. I can help you to feel clean and stand confident before our Father. Please let me in to your heart."
One of the saddest visions the Prophet Joseph Smith ever had was a symbolic vision where he saw nine of the twelve apostles in a foreign land. He saw them standing in a circle without shoes. They had been beaten. They were tattered and discouraged, looking at the ground in despair. Standing above them in the air was the Savior, reaching toward them, yearning to lift them, to comfort, strengthen, and encourage them with the arms of His love. But they were too discouraged to discern His presence.
In this vision, the Savior looked upon them and wept. It is said that the Prophet could never relate this vision without weeping himself. Why should He be so touched? Because Christ came to earth and personally tasted every pain and suffering and heartache that we experience so that He could understand our pains and sorrows. So that He could have perfect compassion and mercy for us. And then it all goes to waste because no matter how much He wants to love us and help us, we wont let him. We look down instead of up.
We recently watched some incredible election battles in the courts and when the ended up before the Supreme Court, the first question was "Do we have jurisdiction? Is there a federal issue? Do we have a right to consider this case?"
There is no such question with your Saviors jurisdiction. He is interested and concerned about everything going on in your life. There is nothing too small to be of concern to Him. If it is of concern to you, it is of concern to His love.
In the December 2000 issue of the Ensign, Elder Wirthlin told us: "Some may mistake the Church for a place where perfect people gather to say perfect things, think perfect thoughts, and feel perfect feelings. May I quickly dispel such a thought? The Church is a place where imperfect people gather to help and strengthen each other as we strive to return tot our Heavenly Father. The Church is a mutual improvement society with the goal to help every son and daughter of God to return to His presence."
His love is perfect, and if we will allow it into our hearts, He can make us holy and perfect. But without that love, our life is cold and empty.
At the beginning of His mortal life, there was no room for Him in the inn.
At the end of His life, as He died, there were actually people playing games at the foot of the cross, gambling for His robe.
President Hinckley asked us to take an hour this Christmas season and make sure that we treasure the Saviors love, to make sure our life is not filled with the games and entertainments and other concerns of the world, to make sure that we are about the business of receiving His love into our life and then passing it along to others.
© 2000 Steven
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