Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Bethlehem Innkeeper - Christmas 2008

Dear Greetings Reader:

The Bethlehem innkeeper never got a second chance to house the holy family but those who seek to follow the babe born in his stable will not only make room for Christ they will emulate his light his love and his care for others.

That is the message I desire to share with you at this time of this year 2008.

The innkeeper missed his greatest opportunity the night Christ was born. "Long years afterward it would not do any good for him to repeat over and over again the words'If only I had known who they wereI would have made room for them.'"

Today many enjoy homes with rooms for eating, sleeping, playing, sewing and TV "but no room for Christ". While many desire to make room in their hearts for the Savior"no matter how successful we have been thus far. . . .I am confident we would all wish to do better." This Christmas season is the time to do so.

Life's busyness requires a "conscious committed effort to bring Christ into our homes and lives." And while opportunities to give of self are limitless"they are also perishable. There are hearts to gladden. There are kind words to say. There are gifts to be given. There are deeds to be done. There are souls to be saved."

Someone told me of visiting a care center to see five elderly women he knew(Ka Noo) and after enjoying their company he noticed one woman looking out the window waiting for her son to come. "I wondered if he would for there had been other Christmas seasons when he had never even called."

Those who take the time to seek out those in need emulate Christ. "As we do serve him we will not forfeit our opportunity as did the innkeeper of old -- to make time for him in our lives and room for him in our hearts." said President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of Christmas traditions including amateur family pageants that re-create the story of Christ's birth. After a few years they began a pageant with Samuel the Lamanite standing to testify on the American continent of Christ's birth in Bethlehem. (read about Samuel in the Book of Mormon)

Over time they added a "disbelieving crowd armed with foil balls to throw at him as he stood above them." As the members of the angry mob grew stronger and more accurate over the years"we had to remind them forcefully that Samuel could not be hit because he was God's protected servant" he said drawing laughter from thousands in the Conference Center in Salt Lake CityUtah.

He said he wished he'd taken time to explain to those who played lambs in the nativity that the lamb of God would be Christ himself who "volunteered to come down from royal courts on height to be born in a humble stable. By his life and sacrifice he gave us all the gift of resurrection after death the certainty that we would live again."

Those who wish to receive Christ's gift "must try with all our hearts and strength to do what he did. We cannot give the great gift he gave to others" in the atonement for sin"But we can try to do his works and help him serve others as he would serve them."

One bishop in RexburgIdahodid so many years ago as he and his family often fed sheltered and even clothed needy travelers who passed near their home because "they welcomed strangers in need." Family Christmas traditions vary but they will have some things in common" including drawing hearts to the Savior and acts of kindness.

As a child in GermanyPresident Dieter F. Uchtdorf recalled celebrating Advent the season of light and walking through the streets on Christmas Eve with a parent seeing "how the smallest light penetrated the dark night."

Upon returning home he found the other parent had decorated the tree and lit it with real candles. "Perhaps it is no wonder that I have always associated the Christmas season with light" said President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency
Modern Christmas celebrations with their focus on material gift scan "detract from the simple dignity of the season and distract us from celebrating the birth of our Savior in a meaningful way." The economic challenges that may cause some to scale back their gift giving this year may "be a blessing in disguise" he said. "I know from personal experience that the most memorable Christmases can be those that are the most humble."

Expensive gifts aren't required to make Christmas meaningful but giving to those in need creates memories for those who serve others as Christ did. He recounted a story from Elder Glen L. Ruddan emeritus general authority who told of taking his own children out on Christmas Eve to gather gifts for a mother and children in desperate need including a small boy who simply requested a bowl of oatmeal.

That night as the family gathered around their own dinner table"they gave thanks that the little boy had received his bowl of oatmeal."

God chose to "honor the birth of his son as Jesus was found in the simplicity of a lowly stable. On that holy night angels appeared not to the rich but to shepherds. The Christ child was born not in a mansion but in a manger" wrapped "not in silk but in swaddling clothes."

"May we remember the humble dignity of his birthhis gifts and his life. May we through our simple acts of kindness charity and compassion fill the world with the light of his love."

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