And our December incoming elders and sisters with the Eatons--front: Pres. & Sis. Eaton, Sisters Mickelson, Souza, and Baker; back: Elders Pinckney, Stoker, Ovard, Sisters Pope, Erickson, and Whitney.
Being a Witness at Christmas
How fitting it was that God called shepherds to be among the few who witnessed the newborn Savior, the Good Shepherd. Surely one reason God sent angels to these particular shepherds was because he knew how they would react. After the heavenly messengers announced where they could behold the newborn Christ, the shepherds wasted no time in responding. “They came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16).
After seeing the Christ-child for themselves, what they did next instinctively made them worthy witnesses: “when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17). They had no key indicators, no ward mission plan, no one pressuring them to open their mouths. These humble servants simply couldn’t keep such Good News to themselves. They knew they had seen the Savior, and they wanted to share that message with others.
Nearly 34 years later, others would react similarly after being allowed to see and feel and know the resurrected Savior personally. At the end of one of the most miraculous days in scriptural history, the 2500 saints gathered at a temple in Bountiful prepared themselves for the Savior’s return the next day.
What would you have done that night after experiencing the events of 3 Nephi 11 – 17, knowing that the Savior would return the next day? These faithful descendants of Lehi also could not keep such Good News to themselves. We read that “it was noised abroad among the people immediately” what had happened and that Christ “would also show himself on the morrow unto the multitude.” In fact, “even all the night it was noised abroad,” which resulted in many people who “did labor exceedingly all that night, that they might be on the morrow in the place where Jesus should show himself unto the multitude” (3 Nephi 19:2 – 3).
The next day, great multitudes were able to be taught by the Savior because of those messengers who labored through the night. I cannot help but wonder how he looked on those who sacrificed so much through the night to bear witness of him and invite others to literally come unto him.
I like to think that the Twelve Jesus called to be his special witnesses were among the messengers who spread abroad the news of his coming. Perhaps it was with awareness of such sacrifice that the Savior looked upon his disciples so fondly that next day: “his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them” (3 Nephi 19:25).
Before my mission as a young man, Christmas mostly meant being with my family and getting presents and eating so much fudge I got sick and occasionally getting a good present for someone else. But as a full-time missionary I discovered another whole layer of meaning to Christmas—a layer filled with deeper significance and greater joy. I discovered the joy of being a witness at Christmas.
What kind of witness will you be this Christmas and this year? Will you be a reluctant, distracted, halfhearted witness? Will you be a dutiful but mechanical witness? Or will you follow the example of the shepherds and the people at Bountiful, sharing with others your witness of the Savior out of the love of your heart with holy haste and a sense of purpose, “glorifying and praising God for all the things that [you have] heard and seen”? (Luke 2:20).
This Christmas, I invite you to be a giver of the best gift of all—the salvation made possible by Jesus Christ. Be a witness this Christmas. I bear you my witness that as you do, his countenance will smile upon you and your efforts on his behalf.