Monday, December 14, 2015

My Sacrament Meeting Talk on the Meaning of Christmas

I spoke yesterday on the meaning of Christmas. 

I started by sharing my daughter's quote after attending the temple for the first time: 

We spend so much time building the kingdom of God that we forget to establish Zion.

I then said that the meaning of Christmas depends greatly on how we view the Kingdom of God. I asked everyone to close their eyes and picture a kingdom. Then I asked them how they would describe what they saw in their mind's eye. I asked them if there were large castles, clean and bright streets, smiling and happy and well-fed people, etc. Nearly all of them smiled and nodded in agreement. Then I said: 

So, when we think of the Kingdom of God, we usually picture a Disney movie - but that is radically different than what we see in the New Testament about Jesus, of Nazareth, his own life and the followers he gathered around him during his ministry.

I told them I believe we miss the real meaning of Christmas if we don't focus on and understand Jesus' early life, his ministry and whom he focused on teaching. The following is a simple outline of how I addressed that misunderstanding: 

1) "The whole need not a physician, but the sick." 

2) Mary was unmarried when she became pregnant. Without Joseph's acceptance and support, her baby probably would have been raised in abject poverty - and it is likely he either would have been discarded as trash, literally, to die or sold into slavery, as was the custom in that time and culture for babies born without available support. 

3) When he was a young child (probably 1-2 years old), his parents took him and fled a terrorist attack in his homeland, seeking refuge in the strongest opposition to the Roman Empire - Egypt. We have no idea in the Bible how many others in that area learned what Herod had decreed and was doing and fled with Joseph and Mary - but it is reasonable to believe there were many. 

4) When he started his ministry, he taught in the synagogues, but his followers were mostly the poor, the sick, the sinners, the publicans, the outcast, the rejected - "the least of these". In a very real way, he served those like himself in his earliest years. 

I told them that I see the meaning of Christmas as the message that every person on this earth, including those whom others can't love and accept and serve, is of equal worth in the eyes of God, with equal potential - and that we will not honor the true meaning of Christmas if our congregations and dreams resemble a Disney movie more than the people whom Jesus served in his ministry. I asked them to think of persons and people whom they naturally tend to judge and avoid - and to reach out, somehow, in their busy lives, to those specific people. After all, he said: 

Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.

The following are two posts that were the foundation of my talk: 

"Thoughts on the Meaning of the Birth of Jesus" (Brad - By Common Consent) 

"It Is Finished: Death on Easter Sunday"