What Gift Will You Give?
Brother Decker and the choir, that was beautiful, thank you so much. And President and Sister Kusch thank you for this opportunity. Brothers and Sisters, Merry Christmas! It is absolutely wonderful to be with you this morning! I am truly humbled and I am grateful for the opportunity to share a few thoughts with you. Not only I am grateful for that, but I am grateful that my wife, Rachel, is here. Sweetie, I love you, thank you and thank you for being here, she hear from me all the time and she decided to come! And to my students, those of you that are here, you all get A’s, but the final is still due on the last day of the semester, remember that!
Oh my dear friends the Christmas message would not be a Christmas message without first going to the scriptures and reading the words of ancient prophets who prophesied of that first Christmas day! So, can we start by going to the scriptures?
And can start with Isaiah, don’t you love Isaiah? Here it is, you know this, you’ve read these words before:
“Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Isaiah later on wrote: “For unto us a child is born,….and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin prophesied: “The time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent…shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay…he shall suffer temptations, and pain,…and he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mosiah 3:5, 7-8).
Some 83 years before the birth of Christ, Alma prophesied: “For behold, I say unto you there be many things to come; and behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all—for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people” (Alma 7:7).
Then came that night of nights, when Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem. “And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-7).
And shepherds were “abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). The angel of the Lord appeared to them, proclaiming:
“Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). As you know, the shepherds with haste went into Bethlehem and found Mary, Joseph, and “the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:15-16).
Later, wise men traveled from the east, and found the “young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him” (Matthew 2:1-2, 10-11).
Well, “[Jesus] the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit…[and] increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:40, 52).
Perhaps one of my favorite Christmas scriptures is when the babe of Bethlehem is now a man, teaching an inquiring Pharisee named Nicodemus. Jesus said to Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth (or we can also add receiveth) him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16; see also Romans 8:32).
My dear friends, that is Christmas!! Giving and receiving is what Christmas is all about. The Father gave His Son, and the Son, our Savior and our Redeemer, gave His life, the greatest gift of all! May we remember, “what doth it profit a man [or a woman] if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? (D&C 88:33).
May we receive that greatest gift, even our Savior Jesus Christ every day of our lives. Because as you and I receive this gift, there grows within us a great desire to give. Because, as we receive the Savior, we become more like Him. We become more kind, more considerate, loving, forgiving, patient, sensitive, and giving. The Savior taught, “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8).
Seeing that the Father and the Son have given us so much (see Mosiah 2:19-21), perhaps this Christmas season Brothers and Sisters, we can prayerfully ponder the following question and here it is: “What gift can I give Them?”
Almost six years ago, we began a family Christmas tradition. Weeks before Christmas day each person in our family carefully considers what gift they want to give the Savior. On Christmas morning with all the excitement and anticipation and before going to the Christmas tree – that at times it drives our kids crazy, to go and see what “Santa” brought them before exchanging gifts one with another, we gather as a family and we pray. Then each person writes down a “gift” they want to give the Savior at Christmas time and throughout the year (Show papers). My dear friends that has done something for our little family. It’s become a wonderful tradition, one in which that has helped us focus on the true meaning of Christmas and show our gratitude to the Father and the Son by giving them something of ourselves.
Speaking about gratitude, President David O. McKay once taught: “Gratitude is deeper than thanks. Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts” (President David O. McKay, “The Meaning of Thanksgiving,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1964, 914). Let me repeat that last line from President McKay “Gratitude is shown in acts.”
So what gift can we give the Father and the Son? We can show our gratitude through different acts. Elder Marvin J. Ashton, who served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, taught a powerful lesson that can help us better understand how and what kind of gifts we can give the Father and the Son. Elder Ashton said:
“Undoubtedly our Heavenly Father tires of expressions of love in words only. He has made it clear through his prophets and his word that his ways are ways of commitment, and not conversation.
And listen to this line of Elder Ashton: He prefers performance over lip service” (Elder Marvin J. Ashton, “Love Takes Time,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, 108).
Brothers and Sisters, commitment and performance. The Savior taught the principles of commitment and performance to His disciples just days before His death. Listen closely to His words. And as you listen, I think you will hear Him telling you what you and I can give.
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:35-40).
Performance, commitment or in the words of King Benjamin: “when [you] are in the service of your fellow beings [you] are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).
Brothers and Sisters as we ponder what gift we might give the Father and the Son this Christmas, please listen closely to the following counsel given by President Howard W. Hunter in his last public address to the Church. He delivered this message during the 1994 First Presidency Christmas Devotional:
“We should strive to give as He gave. To give of oneself is a holy gift. We give as a remembrance of all the Savior has given.
“Christmas is a time for giving. Someone once said he couldn’t think of what to give for Christmas….
Then President Hunter gives the following suggestions:
“This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter [or dare we say, send an email or a text]. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again” (President Howard W. Hunter, “The Gifts of Christmas,” First Presidency Christmas Devotional, 4 December 1994, Ensign, Dec. 2002).
My dear friends, what will you get them this Christmas? Remember, when we receive the Father and the Son’s gift, we desire to give, and give more of ourselves. And what greater gift can we give the Father and the Son, then by giving more of ourselves?
I leave my testimony with you that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of the Almighty God and the Savior and Redeemer of the world. I pray that each of you will have a wonderful and joyous Christmas, wherever you may be. And we may find joy in receiving, and we may find joy in giving. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
The 2018 Christmas devotional will include Christmas music, scriptures and remarks about the miracle of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Music will be provided by The BC Choir and BC Voices.
Jonathan Browning, a LDSBC Institute of Religion instructor, will be our concluding speaker on December 11th.
December 11, 2018
11:15 a.m. to Noon
Assembly Hall on Temple Square
Jonathan E. Browning was born in San Diego, California and lived in Southern California until the age of 14 when he moved with his family to Bountiful, Utah. Brother Browning attended Viewmont High School where he played on the football team, participated in track and field, and served on the seminary council his senior year.
He served a mission in the Mexico Mazatlán Mission. Following his mission, he attended the University of Utah where he completed a bachelor’s degree and met his wife, Rachel, at the LDS institute. They are the parents of two sons (McKay and Hunter) and one daughter (Sydney). Their oldest son is currently serving in the Spain Barcelona Mission. Brother Browning also holds a master’s degree from Idaho State University.
For the past 20 years, Brother Browning has been a release-time seminary teacher and principal in Southeast Idaho and in the Salt Lake Valley. Before his current assignment at LDSBC, he worked with the Training Division and Curriculum Division of seminaries and institutes.
Brother Browning has served in numerous Church callings including as Elders Quorum president, bishopric member, Stake Mission president, ward Young Men’s president, temple ordinance worker, and bishop. He is currently serving as the 1st counselor in his stake presidency.