Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Merry Christmas! A time to calm down and learn of Christ

My thesis today is that we should learn to put aside various political and social controversies and focus on the gift of the Savior of the world this Christmastime. My first pupil is myself (see photo):

(Art by the adorable Alizabeth Worley (C) 2015)

Today Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk to the BYU Management Society. In it, he discussed both what Jesus said in his time on earth, and what he, so far as we know, did not say in his time on earth:

"Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of the Son of God and also to remember His teachings.

What did Jesus teach the people of His day? And what did He not teach? Ponder this contrast. Perhaps it will have the impact upon you that it had on me when I first heard it about 50 years ago.

What did Jesus teach the people of His day? The people He taught were in slavery to Rome. Yet he did not teach them the military arts or activities they could use to free themselves from the yoke of Rome. He did not even teach them the principles of civil government. He said, “Render … unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).

Infant mortality was high in the society in which He lived and life expectancy was low because of a multitude of diseases. Did He teach them the principles of health? There was much hunger at that time. Did He teach them ways to improve agriculture or nutrition? The whole world needed His message, but He said He was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And what He taught them was how to live their personal lives."

This hits home with me.  There are many problems in this world, and there were many in Jesus' day.  And yes, Christ's teachings today do address select issues (think religious freedom or child trafficking).  But what is the core of Christ's teachings?  Christ himself answered this question:

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

So, I ask myself, where do Facebook debates over controversial topics come into play?  Certainly, one can state one's stance on many political issues on Facebook as an expression of love for God or our fellow man (whether or not the stance is based in religious dogma). But is spending hours debating these issues with people who have different world views than us really showing a love for God.  Likewise, when we look at polls or news articles about our topic of concern, are we  celebrating Christ or doing what the Romans in Paul did: spending our "time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing?" (Acts 17:4).

So, let us have a Christmas season about Christ, and pick up tangential issues only at times that we are sure we will not detract from Christmas (a tall order, see the photo above).  As Elder Oaks said, so I conclude:

"Latter-day Saints are uniquely qualified to celebrate the mission of Jesus Christ throughout the year. We have the gift of the Holy Ghost, whose mission is to testify of the Father and the Son (see 3 Nephi 16:6). For that reason, we have a duty to testify like the shepherds, who, 'when they had seen [what the angels described], they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child' (Luke 2:17).

We know whom we seek and we know why. We are children of a Father in Heaven who declared, 'This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man' (Moses 1:39). And our Savior—the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Lord God of Israel—is fundamental to that work."

As always, these thoughts are my own, are intended to help, but do not necessarily reflect the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thanks for reading,

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