The following is a talk I presented in my ward last Sunday.
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is given a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you:
(Luke 2:10-12, modified)
The Christmas Tree - An evergreen that is cut down and then erected, glorified with decoration which calls to remembrance the resurrection and glory of our Savior.
Candles and Christmas lights - Reminding us of the light of Christ. “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12).
Candy Canes - Shaped like a shepherd's crook, reminding us that Christ is the good Shepherd who has commanded us to feed His sheep. Also, the peppermint flavor, is reminiscent of hyssop which has medicinal purposes. This reminds us of the healing powers of the atonement.
Mistletoe (Not just for kissing) - It’s an aerial parasite that doesn't have roots of its own thus in order to survive it attaches itself to trees for nourishment and sustainability. Likewise, we must attach ourselves to Christ if we want exaltation.
Presents - Remind of the generosity and love of our Heavenly Father who gave us a Savior, the Holy Ghost and this Earth School. And of course, the gift of the Atonement from our beloved brother, Jesus Christ.
(Source: A Christmas Testimony mingled with my own interpretations).
This is called the most wonderful time of year and it can be for it brings us together to celebrate and hold mass for our Savior.
But as you participate in Christmas festivities, do these symbols remind you of Christ? Or have they become decorative and common placed?
Complacency can be an unfortunate byproduct of repetition. The more frequently we do something, the more common it becomes, and the less we are acutely aware of its significance and value.
Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you given the sacrament.
And this shall be a sign unto you:
(Luke 2:10-12, modified)
The bread: A remembrance of Christ’s body.
The Water: To remind us of His blood that was shed for us.
The Sacrament table: A reminder of the last supper and the burial tomb.
The Sacrament cloth: Reminds us of Christ’s shroud. Just as the shroud enveloped His body, we are reminded that because of His enveloping love we too will be resurrected.
The administering of the sacrament: Reminds us that Christ administered to His Apostles, such as when He washed their feet, and that He administered His disciples, which reminds us that the we have covenanted to bear one another’s burdens.
The way in which we, Latter-Day Saints, administer the sacrament differentiates us from other Christian faiths. It is not given to us one by one by our Bishop. It is a communal ordinance.
Worthy males use the Priesthood to administer the Sacrament to the congregation. The congregation then passes it to each other. You to me. Me to you. This is not insignificant. This is the only ordinance where everyone in attendance participates in the execution of the ordinance.
I love the way Cheryl Esplin, 2nd Councilor in the General Primary Presidency translates this into a sacred act. When we offer the sacrament to each other,
“...it is as if the Savior Himself were extending His arm of mercy, inviting each one of us to partake of the precious gifts of love made available through His atoning sacrifice—gifts of repentance,forgiveness, comfort, and hope.”
I think its important that we do not hurry through this exchange for the sake of time or efficiency. I encourage you to allow your neighbor to offer you the sacrament. For you to partake of it, THEN for you to take possession of the tray and offer it to your neighbor, continuing this sacred ritual.
This reminds us to accept the service from others and for us to be of service to one another.
The Eating: Reminds us to internalize Christ’s teachings, making it a part of who we are. It also reminds us to feed his sheep.
These symbols of Christmas and the Sacrament are to remind us of Christ and our relationship with Him. When we partake of the sacrament we are covenanting to remember Christ.
In the blessing of the bread we covenant to be “...WILLING to take upon [us] the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments…” (D&C 20:77)
When partaking of the water we covenant that we, “...DO it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for [us]; that [we] may witness unto thee, Oh God, the Eternal Father, that [we] DO always remember him…” (D&C 20:79)
At first we are willing and then we do.
It is important to the Father and Christ that we remember.
When you participate in the sacrament, sitting in these pews, what is it that you call to remembrance?
When you are in poor health do you remember that Christ healed the sick, the lame and the blind.
When you are harboring guilt for transgressions or sin do you remember that Christ not only forgave the woman found in adultery but advocated for her? It is not possible for you to sink to a depth that the atonement can’t find you.
When you are consumed with doubt, do you remember that Christ and Peter walked together on the water. That the raging sea caused Peter to doubt, but that Christ extended His hand and reminded Him of the power of faith.
When you’re feeling isolated and alone, do you remember that while in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ asked His friends to stay awake with Him but they didn't. That in the moment He was the most vulnerable He felt incredibly alone. Yet we know from Luke, that the Father had sent a strengthening angel to be with Him. Do you not think that the Father continues to send strengthening angels to His children?
When you are overcome with joy and think that you may not be worthy of it, or you fear that it might not last, do you remember that you are that you might have joy?
Do you remember that the good tidings of great joy, which is given to all people, in this dispensation, is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ?
I don’t. I don’t always remember. But I want to. As I sit in the pews with you and you offer me the sacrament and I offer it to you, I’m going to remember that we are in this together. That all of these things are possible because of our Savior.
I want to be like Mary. After she gave life to her son, our Savior, and witnessed all of the miracles, it is said that she “...kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) I believe she did so that she could always remember.
During this Christmas season may we remember. As we participate in the Sacrament ordinance may we remember.
I wish you a Merry Christmas.