My wife Marcia and I have six children. When they were very small we noticed something each Christmas day that caught our attention. As we would give these tiny children a gift in a beautifully wrapped box, with colorful paper and ribbons, they were distracted so much by the wrapping paper and box that they were not interested in the gift inside. They would play with the paper and ribbons and enjoy the box, never understanding that the actual gift was inside the box. As they became older and more mature, when they received a gift for Christmas, they quickly cast aside the wrapping paper, ribbons and box to get to the actual gift. They understood through experience that the most precious and valuable gift was inside the box.
As I watch the Christian nations of the world celebrate Christmas with the beautiful lights, brightly colored packaging, endless shopping and the rush of the Christmas season, I think of my children when they were small. There seems to be a tendency to be distracted by the colorful wrapping paper, lights, ribbons and the box, sometimes ignoring the precious gift inside---the very reason that we celebrate Christmas.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we understand that the precious gift inside the box is described best in John 3:16 in the New Testament, “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.” The gift that was given to us by the Father is His Son.
Just as my children matured and gained understanding that the real gift was inside the box, as we mature in the gospel and gain understanding, we know that beautiful lights and brightly colored packaging bring color and excitement to the Christmas season, but the precious gift in the box is the Son, Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
I bear witness that Jesus Christ is our Savior and our Redeemer. There is no way back to the Father, but by Him. (John 14:6) He was with us in the pre-mortal life and when the Father presented His Plan of Salvation to us, it became very evident to us that we would sin during our time on this earth. We also learned that no unclean thing can enter back into the presence of the Father. (3 Nephi 27:19) It seemed that we were in an impossible situation. We wanted to come and obtain a body. We wanted to become like our Father, but if we were sure to sin, how could we make it back to His presence? The Father taught us that he would provide a Savior who would pay for our sins. To our great joy, the Savior stepped forward and said, “here am I, send me.” (Abraham 3:27) He agreed to come and pay the price for us.
Through His Infinite Atonement and His Crucifixion, He has opened the way for all of us to be cleansed from our sins and be healed. In order for His Atonement to work for us, there are certain steps we must take. The Savior describes those steps as, “the Doctrine of Christ.” (3 Nephi 11:31-39) We must first exercise faith in Jesus Christ. We must repent, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Once we have fulfilled those steps and entered in by the way, then we must endure to the end. (2 Nephi 31:17-21)
At this Christmas season, may we understand that the Savior’s invitation is to come. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
May we each look beyond the wrapping paper, ribbons and bows this year and see the gift inside the box, the Savior, Jesus Christ and his invitation to come and partake of His Atonement.