Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Looks a lot like Christmas

            A Christmas song titled “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”  was written by Meredith Willson in 1951. It has been recorded by many famous artists, such as Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, and Big Bird.

            There is a popular belief that Willson wrote the song while staying at the Grand Hotel in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The reason for this belief is that the song refers to a “tree in the Grand Hotel, one in the park as well” and there is a park directly across the road from the Grand Hotel.           Another possible site is the Historic Park Inn Hotel in Willson’s home town of Mason City, Iowa. The Park Inn Hotel is in downtown Mason City and overlooks central park. It is also the last remaining hotel in the world that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

            “It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas” because winter weather finally arrived in Anchorage, Alaska. We had several snow storms earlier in the year and even periods of cold weather. However, in just the last week or so the weather was warm enough to melt all the snow off the rooftops, and the green grass was bare of snow. A foot of snow fell in the past two to three days, and it looks like it will be staying for the winter. The temperatures are cold enough that it will not be melting soon, and more snow is forecast for tomorrow.

            “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” because my tree is finally up with lights twinkling. The bright red bulbs reflect the lights and make it look like a tree full of lights. There is nothing that says “Christmas” like a Christmas tree does, but it is not so much the tree itself as the twinkling lights upon it.

            “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” because neighbors and businesses have strung lights on trees and bushes and around various parts of their houses or buildings. Anchorage has long dark days, and the lights around the neighborhoods and city push back the darkness. These lights remind me of the “Light of Christ,” and how His light dispels the darkness of sin and death. 

            “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” because my nativity sets are all out, and I am reminded of the Son of God who came to earth to live as a mortal Man and make it possible for all of us to live with Him for eternity. I took ten of my nativity sets to the church last week as part of community wide celebration of Christmas. My newest nativity set is outside in my garden where I can see it every morning through my kitchen window. It is about three feet tall, four feet wide, and two feet deep and is made of white PVC material. I could see it much better if there were lights on it, but I have not yet discovered a way to get lights that far from the house.

            “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held its annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional. The devotional consisted of inspiring words and beautiful music. The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square sang five Christmas songs/hymns and joined the congregation for a sixth one. The speakers consisted of four Church of Jesus Christ leaders with the final speaker being President Russell M. Nelson. He speaks of angels, heaven, and the possibility that we all have to return to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. He speaks of personal desires and gifts.

Desire is important in this season of gift giving, when we are particularly mindful of the desires of those whom we love. During this season, I invite you to consider your own desires. What are your deepest desires? What do you really want to experience and accomplish in this life? Do you really want to become more and more like Jesus Christ? Do you really want to live with Heavenly Father and with your family forever and live as He lives?

If you do, you will want to accept many gifts offered by the Lord to help you and me during our time of mortal probation. Let us focus on four of the gifts Jesus Christ gave to all who are will to receive them.

First, He gave you and me an unlimited capacity to love. That includes the capacity to love the unlovable and those who not only do not love you but presently persecute and despitefully use you.

With the Savior’s help, we can learn to love as He loved. It may require a change of heart – most certainly a softening of our hearts – as we are tutored by the Savior how to really take care of each other. My dear brothers and sisters, we can truly minister in the Lord’s way as we accept His gift of love….

A second gift the Savior offers you is the ability to forgive. Through His infinite Atonement, you can forgive those who have hurt you and who may never accept responsibility for their cruelty to you.

It is usually easy to forgive one who sincerely and humbly seeks your forgiveness. But the Savior will grant you the ability to forgive anyone who has mistreated you in any way. Then their hurtful acts can no longer canker your soul.

A third gift from the Savior is that of repentance. This gift is not always well understood. As you know, the New Testament was originally written in the Greek language. In passages where the Savior calls upon people to repent, the word translated as “repent” is the Greek term metanoeo. This is a very powerful Greek verb. The prefix meta means “change.” We also use that prefix in English. For example, the word metamorphosis means “change in form or shape.” The suffix noeo relates to a Greek word that means “mind.” It also relates to other Greek words that mean “knowledge,” “spirit,” and “breath.”

Can we begin to see the breadth and depth of what the Lord is giving to us when He offers us the gift to repent? He invites us to change our minds, our knowledge, our spirit, even our breathing. For example, when we repent, we breathe with gratitude to God, who lends us breath from day to day. And we desire to use that breath in serving Him and His children. Repentance is a resplendent gift. It is a process never to be feared. It is a gift for us to receive with joy and to use – even embrace – day after day as we seek to become more like our Savior….

A fourth gift from our Savior is actually a promise – a promise of life everlasting. This does not mean simply living for a really, really, really long time. Everyone will live forever after death, regardless of the kingdom or glory for which they may qualify. Everyone will be resurrected and experience immortality. But eternal life is so much more than a designation of time. Eternal life is the kind and quality of life that Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son live. When the Father offers us everlasting life, He is saying in essence, “If you choose to follow my Son – if your desire is really to become more like Him – then in time you may live as we live and preside over worlds and kingdoms as we do.”

These four unique gifts will bring us more and more joy as we accept them. They were made possible because Jehovah condescended to come to earth as the baby Jesus. He was born of an immortal Father and mortal mother. He was born in Bethlehem under the most humble of circumstances. His was the holy birth foreseen by prophets since the days of Adam. Jesus Christ is God’s transcendent gift – the gift of the Father to all of His children. That birth we joyfully celebrate each Christmas season.

With our thoughts and feelings so focused on the Savior of the world, what, then, do we need to do to receive these gifts offered to us so willingly by Jesus Christ? What is the key to loving as He loves, forgiving as He forgives, repenting to become more like Him, and ultimately living with Him and our Heavenly Father?

The key is to make and keep sacred covenants. We choose to live and progress on the Lord’s covenant path and to stay on it. It is not a complicated way. It is the way to true joy in this life and eternal life beyond.

            This Christmas season I desire to become more like the Savior. I want to love like He loves. I want to forgive as He forgives. I want to repent as He never had a need to repent. I want to receive the gift of life everlasting. Therefore, I will do all that I can to walk the covenant path. I choose to use the gift of Christmas to become more like the Christ Child whose birth we celebrate. It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas because the Christmas Spirit is abiding in my home.

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