So Christmas is on its merry way and media reports are all full of worried merchants agonizing about people not spending enough money. I realize that selling (mostly unneeded) junk is how many people earn their living (starting with the kids who work 12-hour shifts 7 days a week, while still starving, in Asian factories) – but let’s look at why Christmas is celebrated by Christians in the first place.
All speculation about origins and history of Christmas traditions aside, for many people the point is to celebrate the love of God. This love was displayed, among other things, by taking on mortal life in an occupied territory with the idea of sacrificing that human existence for our benefit. There is an existential paradox in it that would be interesting, but I’m aiming at something else right now.
The typical Christmas icon is the Baby Jesus in a manger. And that’s where most people leave him; a baby in a manger. Just like every newborn infant is a message of innocence of beauty from God, so is Baby Jesus. But it wasn’t the Baby Jesus that ordained Apostles, taught his doctrine, submitted to torture and gave his life to reclaim it on the third day. it was the Man Jesus.
The Man Jesus subjected himself to the things all mortals go through (see Alma 7:11-12 for some of those), “that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities”. It is worth remembering, that he had to deal with his natural man, too.
The Man Jesus was the Great High Priest (see Hebrews 5, especially verses 9-10, but the whole chapter is relevant), who performed the Atonement once and for all, and in his blood we are sanctified.
The Man Jesus gave his life. In John 10:18 he is quoted saying, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself”. This is something we could not do, for we do not have the power over life and death.
Then he did something else that nobody else would have been able to do: By the power given him by his immortal Father, his spirit and body were reunited never to be separated again. He was resurrected as a perfect, immortal being. Apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthian saints wrote at some length about resurrection, and in what’s now chapter 15, he says, “[f]or since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive”(verses 21-22).
By all means, let’s appreciate the innocence and beauty of the Baby Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem as a symbol of the condescencion of God. But let us not forget the Man Jesus, who remained innocent, despite being tempted and tried. He is willing to stand by us in the here and now, and we can be assured that he understands us.
We have the Old and New Testaments. The Book of Mormon is another Testament of Christ. We also have, in D&C 76:22-24, the testimony of Joseph and Sidney. January 1st, 2000, the living Apostles published another testimony of the Living Christ. Jesus’ invitation was “learn of me“. For the purpose of learning of him, I suggest visiting the site jesuschrist.lds.org.
To those testimonies I add my own, that the Man Jesus gave a perfect example. I want to follow him, and he has promised to help me in that despite my weakness (see, for example, chapter 12 of Ether). Because of him, I can become cleansed of my sins. Because he lives, I can live – and it doesn’t just mean hope of resurrection in the distant future, it means living as a new creature now (for example, see Romans 6:4). He has given us the Priesthood, and “in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest” (D&C 84:20). I pray with “all the energy of heart” (Moroni 7:48) that I might have his love in my heart.