Share the Gift
Welcome, friends, to our annual Christmas devotional. By my count, this is our eighth annual Christmas devotional. We’re just delighted that you would join us. We’re grateful to be able to celebrate this season together in this way. As we come to a close of not only another devotional series, but of another year, we’d like to extend our gratitude to all those who have made devotionals possible, including our speakers and our student speakers, student leadership, musical numbers—Brother Allen, we really appreciate you and your choir and the things that you do to contribute to the spirit of these meetings. We’re grateful to our service missionaries for hosting us. We’re grateful to the good people who work for the Church who help put on this production. We’re grateful to the First Presidency for inviting us to Temple Square to have devotionals here and for making this devotional series possible. We’re grateful to you—we’re grateful for your spirits and your goodness, for coming and for sharing of your hearts. And most of all, we’re grateful to Him, He who is our Savior, the reason for this season.
And we’re very grateful for Cathy Smith! I just want you to know that we’re grateful for you. She is the woman that hides behind there and you never see her, but without her, all would be lost.
Let’s get in the spirit of the devotional by getting your phones ready. We’re going to use the hash tag #ShareTheGift today. If you’d like to share any thoughts or impressions that you have about the devotional or about the Savior, we’d invite you to share in what ways He is a gift to you or how you may try to give back to Him this Christmas season. In fact, every one of you that knows how to share with your phones—I am not one of them—but every one of you that knows how to do that, the invitation is that you will do it at least once during the devotional today. We’re going to do a lot of singing today, but as you sing, pay attention to the messages that are shared today—most especially, pay attention to the Spirit and its quiet whisperings in your mind and heart. I testify that if you listen carefully, thoughts and ideas will come to your mind, feelings of gratitude, feelings of love, promptings to act. And if you’ll make note of those, Heaven will bless you and Heaven will help you become a blessing to others.
That was great. Thank you very much, choir. I’ve been asked to share a few remarks with you. Following my remarks we’ll begin our program proper. We’ll begin with a special musical number that’s been a little bit of a tradition since I have been here at the College. For the last eight years, the people that I work with have offered a small little Christmas present to you: “Away in a Manger.” We are not the College’s regular choir. We don’t sound that way, but we’ll be singing from our hearts and sharing a message from our hearts. We invite you to listen to the sweet message of that song. Then, some of our students will be narrating the Christmas story.
“He is the Gift” is the theme for today. This is a season of gift giving, but I’ll tell you something that has been on my mind. It goes something like this: the gifts that are most worth giving are not actual gifts at all. The gifts most worth giving are gifts of living, or ways of living. So I’m going to share with you a story here in just a moment, and as I do, I’m going to ask you to listen to the Spirit and to think about some of the questions in your mind, which might go something like this: what am I supposed to learn from this story for me and for Christmas? I’m going to suggest to you that the best gift we can give to Him who has given us all things has something to do with how you live, has something to do with our hearts, and sharing our hearts and giving from our hearts. So make note of some impressions or some insights that you have, and you’ll have the opportunity to share some of those afterward. So it’s not as important what I say as much as it is what you hear. Okay, here’s my story:
Ten years ago this Christmas Eve was a most wonderful event in my life. December 23rd is Joseph Smith’s birthday, and on that day also began my proposal to my, now, wife. It was a 30-hour long proposal. I will not tell you the whole story because we don’t have time, but it really did last 30 hours. Let me fast-forward now to December 24th, where over in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building we spent the evening together I will tell you this one fun little part. As we’re getting ready to leave—all the lights now were turned off on Temple Square, everyone has left; we’re getting ready to go down. She has no idea what’s coming—I had worked so hard to help her not know what was about to happen. I was so good.
Right before we go down—there are windows kind of like the windows in this building, only a little wider and a little deeper, and we’re standing by the window looking at the temple. It was the only thing that was lit.
And one of the themes this day is a theme espoused by the song, “In the Bleak Midwinter.” I think you’ve been given part of the third verse. True? [Receives and answer.] False. You’re going to get it afterward. So you can keep these words; you don’t have to write them down. Let’s see if I can remember them. Ten years ago is a long time. It goes something like this:
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part.
Yet what I can, I give Him—
Give my heart.
And this of course, is a song about the Savior, but I was prepping my wife, you see. My mother-in-law told me, “So this is a surprise, right?” So we hadn’t done ring shopping. And my mother-in-law said, “Don’t go buy a ring. You really want her there for that.” But I had to have something for the proposal, right? So I bought a necklace. In fact, I bought a heart-shaped necklace. Do you like that? “What I can, I give you; I give you my heart.” This is good. I thought this was really good.
So we leave the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and she goes to the restroom. I am super nervous. I get the necklace all ready in position, in my hand in my glove. And she comes, and she has no idea that in our hands that we’re holding together, because we both have gloves on, is this heart necklace that I’m about to give her. And we come down to that little granite pedestal that—you know that, over there—and again, the temple is lit up. And I got down on my little knee feeling quite inadequate and said, “Gold and silver have I none, but such as I have, give I unto thee. Lisa Michelle Funk, wilt thou marry me?”
Immediately, she said, “Are you sure?” I want you to know that’s the same thing that Danzel Nelson told Elder Nelson when he proposed to her; it made me feel so much better when I found that out. Are you sure? Yes, I’m sure.
I want you to know that that question has reverberated through my mind and heart for the past ten years, and I want you to know that I am sure. I am sure. That’s my story. But it has something to do with you and Christmas. So I want you to take a moment now, and you can do one of two things. You can either make a note in your journal an insight you gained or what does this mean for you, or turn to your neighbor and share. You have thirty seconds. Ready, go.
Anyone had a great insight from the story or something you feel compelled to do as you listen to the Spirit, that you want to share with us? Shall I get your juices flowing? I’ll get your juices flowing. Here’s one: Christ is the bridegroom. The notion of being yoked to Christ is marriage imagery. My question to you is, are you sure? And it’s one thing for you to answer yes now; it’s another thing to show that you are sure in the ensuing months and years ahead. There’s one.
One other that’s pretty obvious is this idea of I can give my heart. There is another one. This is terribly personal. He’s talking about ways we worship, right? Like through kneeling. Do you know that after my wife said yes, I kissed her for the very first time? She was the first woman, other than my mother and my grandma, that I kissed because these lips and what comes out of these lips, or what happens with these lips, is very important to me. And that was an important sign from me to my wife. And the same to my Savior—how I use these lips matters. Right? Well, there are lots that we could think of. Here’s just a few little thoughts for you as I wrap up.
I felt quite inadequate. Do you ever feel inadequate when you try to give to the Savior and try to give to those that you love? You may not be able to give something, but you will be able to give of your heart. You may not have gold; you may not have silver. But such as you have, you can give. Even on days when they are the very darkest of days, and you feel like you have nothing left to give, I have found that I can give something from my heart. It is my testimony that if we are in the service of our fellowmen, we are only in the service of our God (see Mosiah 2:17). If, inasmuch as we do these things to the least of our brethren—inasmuch as you and I give of our hearts to others—we are more fully giving of our hearts to God. It is likewise my testimony that the two great commandments are more than just commandments. They delineate God’s greatest gifts to us—God’s love for us and the ability for us to learn to love our brothers and sisters as He loves. And not only are those two great commandments also His greatest gifts, they are the greatest gifts that we can give to Him. When we show Him love and strive to love one another as He loves, those are likewise the greatest gifts that we can ever give to another. We grow in our love for God, and we strive to show that love to one another.
May God bless you and I in our efforts this Christmas season and always—because Christmas is more than a season. It’s not just about giving a gift; it’s about ways of living. Every day—today and tomorrow and this week and this month and this year—let you and I find ways to share of our hearts and share His love more freely with one another, and watch the blessings that will flow into your life and the lives of others. Will you take that challenge? Will you make note of someone that comes to your mind, that you can go share love with, His love with, today? And will you try that again tomorrow? I testify of God’s love for each of us and do so humbly in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. . . .
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (See Luke 2:1, 3–7.)
[“Away in a Manger”]
President Monson has said, “In these busy days there are many who have time for golf, time for shopping, time for work, time for play—but no time for Christ.” We have time for activities that are part of our daily lives, but do we have time for Christ? “Lovely homes dot the land and provide rooms for eating, rooms for sleeping, playrooms, sewing rooms, television rooms, but no rooms for Christ. . . . No room, no room. Ever has it been” (“The Search for Jesus,” Ensign, Dec. 1990).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught that “each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus” (“Settle This in Your Hearts,” Oct. 1992 General Conference) This Christmas and always, let us consider how we can make more room for the Savior in our lives. The more we invite Him to our hearts and homes, we will live as He would have us live. We will become more like Him, and we will feel Him near.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid (Luke 2:8–9)
[“The First Noel”]
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2:10‑14)
[“Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful”]
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them (Luke 2:15‑20).
[“Glory to God on High”]
President J. Lawrence Richards: Brothers and sisters, we’ve spent a good time together. I love to hear you sing. You ought to be part of the larger choir. I suspect there was a day when you were part of a larger choir, and I suspect that was on the night of the Savior’s birth. I just bet a good portion of us were with the shepherds in the field when the veil between earth and heaven was broken and the angels burst forth singing. And the scriptures said what they sang (see Luke 2:13‑14). We just may have been there.
The question is, why were we there, and what were we so doggone happy about? Yes, it was the birth of the Savior, but I believe it was more than just His birth. The Atonement of Jesus Christ was now on its way. And that which you and two-thirds of our brothers and sisters in heaven voted and fought for with our testimony—so says the book of Revelation. There are days when I am not sure I made the right vote. There are days when compelled obedience for me would have been a really good thing. I don’t know about you.
We had two brothers in our pre-mortal life, and one Brother said, “Will you take a chance on me? I will go down, Father. Here am I, send me. I will be perfect. I will not sin. I will pay the price for all these brothers and sisters who stand behind me, that they may make it back. And with the stripes that will be put upon me, they will be healed—they—my brothers and sisters.” (See Abraham 3:27.)
And then we had another brother, very intelligent, a son of the morning—not too bright, but very intelligent. And he simply looked at us and said, “You’re willing to make this bet? That he will do this and be perfect?”
And you and I said, “Yes.” And so the veil from earth was broken, and you and I were probably part of that heavenly chorus, singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace” and the translation is to men of good will (Luke 2:14). Because the Atonement was on its way.
And so, here we are, making choices. Now, I get to work with some wonderful people. Brother Juchau is one of them. When you go to work, you will be smart if you get people much wiser and much more spiritual than you to work with you. They will buoy you up and make you look a lot better. Adrian is like that for me. Adrian told you how he proposed to his wife. How touching. How spiritual. My wife won her diamond ring in a game with my family—and it was the prize in the Cracker Jack box.
And so in this life, for the most part we can choose the people who will surround us. We are wise if we choose those who will lift us up and challenge us to be better. And they will invite us to ponder the same question the Savior asked a group of Pharisees, “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he?” And you know what the Pharisees had to say? He is “the Son of David” (Matthew 22:42). That’s all they got.
On another occasion, on the shore of Caesarea at Philippi, the Savior asked the very same question of His disciples: “Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?” (Matthew 16:13) And they replied to Him, “Well some say that you’re the Baptist, and some say that you’re Elias, some say that you’re Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (See Matthew 16:14).
It’s a wonderful teaching moment when the Savior asked a question in abstract: “Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?” And they gave the textbook answer. And then as the perfect teacher, He asked the better question, the application question. And He said to them, “But whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
And then stands Peter, in the lengthening shadow of his discipleship, and declares, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
Brothers and sisters, whom say ye that Christ is, the Son of man? You said it once before, in heaven, and declared your testimony. And now you’re here on the earth, with a chance every day to answer the question with your choices: Whom say ye that I am? May we be like Peter: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Now let me tie a couple of little things together about this idea of Him being the gift. Have you ever thought about the difference between getting a gift and receiving a gift? I’m going to call on Brother Keith behind me to come up and give us his thought about the difference between getting a gift and receiving a gift. Brother Keith, please share your thoughts. ?
Brother Keith Burkhart: I’m not sure if this is what you want, President, but receiving a gift, to me, is something that with all that I am, with all of my heart, with all that I feel and think, it’s mine. I own it. It becomes a part of me. Getting a gift is, perhaps, something that’s outside of me, that I hold outside and maybe appreciate for a period of time but not, in the true, real sense, within me.
President Richards:Thank you. Jesus is the gift. John 3:16—He is the gift. Now, brothers and sisters, you can “get” the gift of the Savior. Or as Brother Keith Burkhart says, you can “receive” the gift of the Savior with all your heart and pull it inside.
The Savior Himself said, “What doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33)
Brothers and sisters, He is the gift. Will you this holiday season receive Him? And when you do, you will feel the power of the gift of the Atonement —which you fought for valiantly, for which you sang “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of goodwill” (see Luke 2:14)
Now I’m going to ask Craig Nelson to come all the way down. He’s a brand-new grandpa, as of yesterday. Do you know what a Primary chapel clap is? Let’s give him a chapel clap.
Craig is a stake president. He has had bestowed upon him special gifts, and he has received those gifts by the way he lives and the way he tries to live. So Brother Nelson, what is the difference in believing in Christ and believing Christ? Give that one a whirl.
Brother Craig Nelson: Believing in Christ has to do with my faith and my attitude. And believing Christ has to do with my actions and my compelling forward movement.
President Richards: Thank you very much. Let’s add to that. I believe every one of you in this room believes in Christ. The invitation I have for you today is that you more fully receive Him and believe Him. Believe Him when He says, “Come unto me, all ye that . . . are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). I invite you to believe Him.
“I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Brothers and sisters, I invite you to believe Him.
Come, my brethren, “every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1) Brothers and sisters, I invite you to believe Christ.
And finally, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door,”—see, the behavior: open the door—“I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
Brothers and sisters, may you, this holiday season, receive Him who is the gift, and believe Christ and what He has promised you.
My final invitation to you is this: We’re going to sing “Silent Night.” It’s a great song, first composed in Germany for a guitar. And we’re going to sing it a capella. Here’s my invitation to you: Will you take time in this busy holiday season to create for yourself just one silent night? And make it a holy night. Believe Him in that night. Receive Him in that night, and feel with greater confidence and love that which you felt with Him as you stood in the councils with the Father and listened to your Elder Brother say, “Here am I, send me. I will go and do what the Father has asked me to do, for you” (see Abraham 3:27).
I invite you to have that blessing of a silent night and of a holy night. What we have talked about today and what we have sung about is true. I bear testimony of it. It is true. I know it in my heart. And as weak as I am, I know that He is there. I know that I can go to Him heavy laden; I know that I can come to Him and drink of the waters freely because He is my Elder Brother and yours. I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.