Sunday, December 6, 2009

"Christmas Gifts" RS Lesson Dec. 6th

What is one of the best gifts you’ve ever gotten for Christmas? What’s at the top of your Christmas wish list this year?

Now I’d like for you to ponder the following questions and we’ll come back to them in a little bit: What do you think is at the top of Christ’s wish list? What would He most like to receive from us?

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year when the spirit of Christ is felt more strongly. Often there is an increase in generosity, goodwill, and love for others. But sometimes the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can leave us feeling overwhelmed, burnt-out and longing for the peace that His birth promised us. Sometimes it’s helpful to be reminded of the real reason for our celebrations.

Without Christ there would be no Christmas, and without Christ there can be no fulness of joy.
In our premortal state we shouted for joy as the plan of salvation was unfolded to our view. (See Job 38:7.)
It was there that our elder brother Jesus, the firstborn of our Father’s children in the spirit, volunteered to redeem us from our sins. He became our foreordained Savior, the Lamb “slain from the foundation of the world.” (Moses 7:47.)
He was the Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father in the flesh—the only child whose mortal body was begotten by our Heavenly Father. His mortal mother, Mary, was called a virgin, both before and after she gave birth. (See 1 Ne. 11:20.)
And so the premortal God, the God of the whole earth, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Lawgiver, the God of Israel, the promised Messiah was born a babe in Bethlehem. (Ezra Taft Benson, “Keeping Christ in Christmas,” Ensign, Dec 1993, 2)
… that night of nights the shepherds were abiding in the fields and the angel of the Lord appeared to them, announcing: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. … For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

The shepherds with haste went to the manger to pay honor to Christ the Lord. Later, wise men journeyed from the East to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. … When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”
Since that time, the spirit of giving gifts has been present in the mind of each Christian as he or she commemorates the Christmas season. (Thomas S. Monson, “What Is Christmas?,” Ensign, Dec 1998, 2)

I think that the principle of giving gifts is an eternal one. Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have been the supreme example of this to us. They have shown us how to be generous, kind and charitable.

What are some of the gifts that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have given to mankind as a whole? What are some of the gifts they’ve given to you individually?

All that we hold dear, even our families, our friends, our joy, our knowledge, our testimonies, would vanish were it not for our Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Among the most cherished thoughts and writings in this world is the divine statement of truth: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

“This precious Son, our Lord and Savior, atoned for our sins and the sins of all. That memorable night in Gethsemane His suffering was so great, His anguish so consuming that He pleaded, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Later, on the cruel cross, He died that we might live, and live everlastingly. Resurrection morning was preceded by pain, by suffering in accordance with the divine plan of God. The world has witnessed no greater gift, nor has it known more lasting love.” (Thomas S. Monson, “Gifts,” Ensign, May 1993, 59)

“Never did the Savior give in expectation of receiving. He gave freely and lovingly, and His gifts were of inestimable value. He gave eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf, and legs to the lame; cleanliness to the unclean, wholeness to the infirm, and breath to the lifeless. His gifts were opportunity to the downtrodden, freedom to the oppressed, forgiveness to the repentant, hope to the despairing, and light in the darkness. He gave us His love, His service, and His life. And most important, He gave us and all mortals resurrection, salvation, and eternal life.” (Howard W. Hunter, “The Gifts of Christmas,” Ensign, Dec 2002, 16)
Anciently the three Wise Men came from afar to bring gifts to the baby Jesus. Wouldn’t it be marvelous this Christmas if we could personally give gifts to the Savior? I believe this is possible to do.

Jesus said in Matthew 25: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. …
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:“Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?“When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
“Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:31, 34–40).

Jesus is the source of all we have. Because of this He really has no need for anything that we can give Him. But He never rejects our gifts. He simply asks that we transfer our gift to someone else who is in need of it.

We’ve already talked about the many gifts He’s freely given each of us. Now we need to go back to the question I asked earlier. What would be at the top of Jesus’ wish list? What would He most like to receive from us? (Obedience, serving others, love) How can we give to the Savior? (Serving others) What are some specific acts of service that you can do? We’ve been given a built-in opportunity to serve when we were asked to be visiting teachers. This month is the perfect time to find a special way to serve the sisters on your route!

The only things that Jesus has asked for that we can really give Him is our obedience to His commandments, and a willingness to follow His example, which includes serving others. As we follow His example in serving, loving, teaching and giving we’ll be blessed to have a full measure of the real spirit of Christmas in our hearts.

An unknown author wrote:
I am the Christmas Spirit.
I enter the home of poverty, causing pale-faced children to open their eyes wide in pleased wonder.
I cause the miser’s clutched hand to relax and thus paint a bright spot on his soul.
I cause the aged to renew their youth and to laugh in the glad old way.
I keep romance alive in the heart of childhood and brighten sleep with dreams woven of magic.
I cause eager feet to climb dark stairways with filled baskets, leaving behind them hearts amazed at the goodness of the world.
I cause the prodigal to pause a moment on his wild, wasteful way, and send to anxious loved ones some little token that releases glad tears—tears which wash away the hard lines of sorrow. I enter dark prison cells, reminding scarred manhood of what might have been, and pointing forward to good days yet to come.
I come softly into the still, white home of pain; and lips that are too weak to speak just tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude.
In a thousand ways I cause the weary world to look up into the face of God, and for a little moment forget the things that are small and wretched.
I am the Christmas Spirit.

I’d like to challenge each of you to give a gift to the Savior this month. Reach outside your family circle and give to someone in need. Whether it’s baking cookies for the sisters you visit teach, visiting an elderly sister who is homebound, babysitting for a friend, or sharing your time and talents in some other way, make an effort to go out of your way and give to the Savior through your service to others.

What are some things you do that help you stay focused on the Savior during the holiday season? Do you have any family traditions that help with this?

A couple of great service ideas/traditions were shared:

An empty gift box is passed around to each family member before opening gifts on Christmas Day. Each person is asked to tell what gift they will give to Jesus in the coming year. It could be reading the Book of Mormon, being more diligent in holding family home evenings or doing visiting teaching, or many other things.

Firefighters often have to work on holidays in order to help others. You can take cookies, goodies, or even a meal to any firehouse in the area on Christmas Day to show your appreciation for their sacrifice and to help them enjoy their Christmas.

If you and your family or friends like to sing you can visit nursing homes and sing to the residents. Just check in at the front desk and make sure it’s okay (most homes will welcome it!)

Take cookies to neighbors.

I tried to remember all of the ideas that were shared, but if I’ve missed one, or if you weren’t there for the lesson and would like to share your family tradition or special service opportunities, please email me and I’ll be happy to add it! -Sis. Radabaugh

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