Our Greatest and Only Hope…
“A few days before Christmas last month I was pruning trees in front of my home along the sidewalk that borders our street. While elevated about 10 feet off the ground, I noticed a vehicle at high speed careening out of control and headed straight for me. There was nothing I could do in my position to change what was about to happen. I had no time to reach for my phone, dive for shelter, or to brace for impact. I simply recall saying to myself, ‘Well, this isn’t very good,’ and then feeling a profound sense of peace, because I knew that none of my children nor coworkers were in the same path of danger. I have no memories beyond that until two days later waking up in the Fresno Community Medical Center with multiple injuries under the care of kind doctors, nurses and therapists whom I had never met before. They cared for me and treated me as worthy of their every effort, and I felt moved by unconditional love offered, and hope extended beyond the capacity of my understanding at that moment.”
“As a young teenager I was given the assignment, with my friends Darl and Mark, to perform a special musical number during Sunday Christmas services of our congregation in Sanger, CA. We took on the roles of kings, performing the John Henry Hopkins Jr. (1857) classic Christmas carol, ‘We Three Kings.’ We practiced singing together, memorizing our lines, and preparing for the hour of our performance, each of us representing a specific king in solo performance. My recollection is that we all felt relatively confident in our memorization and preparedness, nevertheless, at the moment of our performance, we carried the music with us just in case we needed to lean on the written lyrics. For me that proved to be a mistake. When my part, the voice of King Gaspard, was to be lifted, I felt a moment of panic, and found myself grasping for the words of the music we had carried with us. Unfortunately, I could not find my place and ended up humming my part instead of singing the words, ‘Born a King on Bethlehem plain, Gold I bring to crown Him again, King for ever, Ceasing never, Over us all to reign.’ Perhaps the congregation never noticed the error, but I did, and I carried it with me long. I learned from that unfortunate experience that unless I am planning to read or follow notes, it is better that I do not bring them with me at all, so as to avoid risking losing my place and embarrassing myself or my companions. I have long lived by that lesson, ever grateful to my companions and those kind congregants.”
“Today, on the day honored by much of the Christian world as ‘The Day of the Kings’ (Día de los Reyes), a memorial to those ancient wisemen who followed a star to see the Newborn King, I am a especially comforted to have been treated as a precious little child by men and women who knew me not, but only found me worthy of compassionate care and effort, saving effort. I did not celebrate Christmas at home in 2023, but I am gratefully home now to rejoice in the King who saved us all, our greatest and only hope.”Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 6 January 2024
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). When a new baby comes into our lives there is so much hope, yes dare I say “faith,” that this child will make our lives better just by joining with us. It is certain that Mary and Joseph felt this hope as they gazed down at the little child in a manger, His innocence and promise written in the soft contours of His countenance. But there was so much more to be hoped for, and I believe that Mary and Joseph felt that as well. How could they not know? It was foretold of God by His holy messenger?
Yes, He looked like any other child, and the birth of any child should be rejoicing to our lips. It is a time for celebration and for honoring. Why else would we count the days to each passing year and celebrate that day of birth with candles and with cakes? The shepherds came to see the little babe and rejoiced understandably at the birth of new hope, but they too knew that there was more, for they were invited by angels to come and see a Savior.
The birth of a child is indeed worthy of the greatest honor. Kings and presidents hold them up in honor as a symbol of a hopeful tomorrow, but of this child there was more to behold. By heavenly inspiration wisemen came from the east to witness the birth of a baby that would be King of all. They honored Him with gold, and myrrh and frankincense. Any child is worthy of gifts of honor, but these kings from the east knew that this was the promised Messiah, for all the signs had pointed Him so to be. He was not just hope for a promising tomorrow, but the very foundation of salvation for us all, for all our tomorrows.
The story of Jesus is rife with miracles and teachings that should unite humanity in proclaiming peace and goodwill to all men, but it is so much more. There is so much more to tell but is often forgotten in the sweet true stories of outreached healing hands, and heart piercing words that brought peace to those who would hear. There is so much more, and the very foundation of our religion, of the gospel of Jesus Christ, of our salvation depends upon it.
Of Jesus Christ and the atonement Elder J. Reuben Clark said, “Brethren, it is all right to speak of the Savior and the beauty of His doctrines and the beauty of the truth, but remember, and this is the thing I wish you to always carry with you, the Savior is to be looked at as the Messiah, the Redeemer of the world. His teachings were ancillary and auxiliary to that great fact.”
It is true. While we celebrate Christmas, and we should celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ with exceeding joy, there is so much more. As we read through the scriptures we recognize that the teachings of Christ are heard on the lips of prophets throughout the ages and to the present day, inspired by Him. The miracles of Jesus, the healings, raising the dead and feeding thousands, have also been done through the ages by faith and priesthood power under His divine hand. But salvation, that atoning sacrifice, the grace that saves us all, lies squarely on the shoulders and sacrifice of our Redeemer, even Jesus Christ, and without it we are lost and without hope. Without the blood of Christ all the beautiful teachings and faith strengthening miracles are for naught, as none of them will return even one of us to the presence of our Heavenly Father.
God’s Son, His Only Begotten, born of Mary, is the Redeemer of the World. Mary knew it, and so did Joseph, and the shepherds, and even the kings, for they saw their salvation in the gentle contours of a baby’s face. For this we celebrate His birth above all others. For this we have hope above all other hope. For Jesus Christ we have faith that is substance and evidence of the greatest miracle ever known. This miracle is the true evidence of God’s love for His children, that He sent His Only Begotten Son to this end, to save us all. Merry Christmas always in celebration of our greatest and only hope, the very child of hope, and the hope of all children! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.