Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Thank you so much for trying so hard to send me something haha, hopefully the message I'll share later in this will make you see that all is well.

Lets see, this week was slow. The car was in the shop for 4 days and we were unable to get  to the area. That wasn't fun. 

Alright, here is a message for y'all from things I've been thinking about.

Throughout the centuries preceding the coming of the Savior, heavenly messengers were proclaiming His soon to occur arrival and explaining the signs that would usher in his coming. My favorite prophecy of the coming of Christ is the following - Micah 5:2, "But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."

This scripture speaks of a ruler who shall come forth from Bethlehem against the odds, be of the tribe of Judah, and will be of eternal significance. The simple and eloquent language of Micah is astounding and from it we can learn dozens of different things about the Savior, but for the time being we will move on from this scripture and come back to it later on.

The prophets of old knew of the reality of the Savior and many wore out there life in the purpose of sharing their testimony with their fellowmen. Nephi, (a book of mormon prophet) had a particularly vivid vision of the conception and birth of Christ. His words are as follows. "And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white. And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou? And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins. And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God? And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things. And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things. And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul. And after he had said these words, he said unto me: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men; and I saw many fall down at his feet and worship him."

So far, Micah has taught us of the antemortal existence of Christ, and Nephi has explained to us how it is that He will enter the world and gain a body, but the thing most people don't quite understand is to what end was He born? What has His purpose? In Micah He is described as the Ruler of Israel, in countless other scriptures He is said to be the One to destroy the enemy of the kingdom, and unfortunately for the millions of Jews alive at His birth these are commonly misunderstood. His purpose is started quite clearly in John 3:16, "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. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."

His purpose is quite clear. He was born to atone for our flawed existence. Because we choose to not do what we are told, a perfect being had to enter the world and offer Himself as a ransom for our sins. Now back to Micah, we know that at some point in the premortal existence Christ was chosen by the Father to be our Savior. So, Christ has now being given His mission. To atone for us. Thousands of years before He even came to earth he was fully away of what his life would be like. Isaiah 53, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."

What kind of man, left with thousands of years to ponder the cruelties of their mortal existence, would press forward and carry on with the plan to redeem God's children? Well, a man with perfect love would. Christ chose to be born into this twisted world, in perhaps the most humble setting imaginable, because He loves us. Unfortunately, in the main stream, Christmas has turned into more of a commercial holiday rather than a day to reverence the Only Begotten. But does it have to be so? How would our Christmas change if we made it about the first gift rather then the ones currently under the tree? If we could just remember that the first gift was not wrapped, it did not have a bow, or fancy lights, but was born into a stable. Wrapped in swaddling cloth and placed in a manger came the first gift of Christmas into the world. Would a remembrance of that not bring back the true spirit of Christmas?

I can honestly say, this will be the first Christmas of my life in which there is not a single present to unwrap. There will be no fancy dinner or elaborate family activities. Heck, I'll be surprised if anyone other than a missionary will even make mention to show that this day is set apart from others. But I am absolutely positive that this Christmas will surpass the others by far; for it will be the spirit of Christ I am enjoying, not the spirit of our modern day "Christmas."

Please do not mistake me, I'm not condemning those who are going to give or receive presents. My thought actually is that giving should be our focus of the day. "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another? And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!"

Being the celebration of Christ's birth, would it not be wise that we exert a bit of effort giving Him a gift? Fortunately for us, for the Babe of Bethlehem is no longer accepting gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. All He asks is for a willing body and a humble heart. Would serving Him not be the best gift we could give Him this Christmas? Would it not be the best gift we could give Him each and every day?

The first gift of Christmas is a gift that keeps on giving, so why should our show of appreciation ever cease? There are many who proclaim to follow the Christ, but blaspheme before Him by their actions. If faith without actions is dead, should we not choose to be doers of the word? (James 1 and 3). Christmas should not be a question of "what am I going to get?" It should be a question of "do I have enough to give?"

Though it was far from perfect this past year has been the best of my life. I'm not sure life has ever been harder, but I sure know that nothing yet left me in a state of ecstasy as serving the Lord has.

Love, Elder Kelly McClellan

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