Manger Beginnings

December 23, 2021

By Maria Fontaine

Audio length: 10:28
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There are many things we can celebrate at Christmas, but I think you will agree with me that the most essential is the gift of our relationship with God through His Son Jesus. To paraphrase a beautiful promise the Lord spoke through Daniel, the closer we grow to Him, the more His wisdom will “shine as the brightness of the firmament in us,” and His righteousness through us “as the stars forever and ever.”1 Remembering to pause and take those moments to acknowledge Him allows His Spirit to flow into us and replace the stress and strain that bottles up our joy. All we have to do is let that peace flow in, and He will help it shine out to others.

Christmas marks the beginning of the most wonderful and important relationship we’ll ever have. It’s not just knowing about that babe born in a manger. It’s about our relationship with a friend who sticks closer than a brother, with the one who has made us part of God’s family, who has called us His bride, His beloved. It’s about the bond we have with our hero who rescued us from death, who bestows on us all that is His. It’s about the one who is our mentor, guide, and protector, the one we can always trust and rely on, no matter what!

Everything that Jesus is to us involves a relationship that changes who we are to the very core. That is what Christmas—all year long—is really about.

To celebrate Him this Christmas I’d like to share some of my favorite quotes, along with impressions about how they might apply to us.

Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values.—Thomas S. Monson

What a simple but all-encompassing picture of Jesus’ love, which is at the center of all that He did for mankind. His was a life of giving. He gave up His life in heaven to come to this world. He gave up the unimaginable riches of His kingdom to live on earth without even a place to call His own. He gave His time, His strength, and His reputation to seek out the beggars, the outcasts, the sick and dying who could never offer anything of this world in return for all He offered them. He laid down his own life in order to rescue us, and He did it purely out of love for us.

Why did He do that? To help us to understand what the essence of God is. He gave us the example of how to develop that nature in us, how by His grace we can become children of the Most High. As we discover the joy of helping to bring His love to others, we grow His kingdom. We experience a touch of God’s joy when we emulate His giving without seeking anything in return.

Others’ joy at finding the truth becomes our joy. The eternal Spirit of love that embraces them draws us into that embrace and fills us to overflowing as well. Anything we give for others is never lost. It becomes something greater, something eternal to bring us joy that never ends.

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.—Roy L. Smith

Sometimes we may be tempted to attach too much importance to the traditions of Christmas, like Christmas trees, music, and celebrations. Even giving gifts and doing good deeds have to have the heart of gratitude at their core or they lose their greatest value. Jesus chose to live for our sakes, to pour out His life and to overcome death for us. He was the ultimate gift, given by the ultimate gift giver: God. The reason for this?—That we could have the most perfect illustration of unconditional, unlimited, all-inviting love.

So let’s follow His example. May all that we do and say and give be done with the motivation of sharing God’s love that has grown in us because of Jesus’ example.

Christmas is the day that holds all time together.—Alexander Smith

Have you ever wondered why Jesus came to earth when He did? I wonder if it might have been to illustrate that He is the center of everything. He makes sense out of all that came before His life on earth, and He brings the promise of all that is ours to claim through Him. He walked with Adam in the garden in the beginning, and He walked with humankind when He became a human in this world. He will come again to unite His children in His eternal kingdom where time will forever lose its grip on us. Christmas is a reminder that He is the focal point of our existence.

The son of God became a man so that men could become the sons of God.—C. S. Lewis

When people look at the story of a baby in a manger and angels singing and the wise men visiting, do they truly grasp what this event means for mankind? It marked the beginning of the transformation from the earthbound, time-constrained, sin-prone existence of this temporary life into the supernatural, eternal, unfathomable wonder and beauty of eternity.—An existence immersed in unbounded joy and purpose and oneness with the King of all! It marks the arrival of the gift of perfect love.

Jesus, who had everything, gave it all up. He chose to suffer and face humiliation at the hands of men who misunderstood, hated, and reviled Him. He allowed such things for our sakes in order to offer us the unimaginable privilege of becoming children of God. And it all started with that baby in a manger.

Jesus was God and man in one person, that God and man might be happy together again.—George Whitefield

Jesus was the personification of God’s love for mankind. He was God’s merciful offer of rescue to a world drowning in the folly of their own way. He was a living demonstration of how far God’s love is willing to go, even to the point of showing us a tangible manifestation of His love. I can’t imagine anyone foolish enough to turn down an opportunity like that. That’s why He asks us to spread the truth to others, because it is the offer of all eternity.

Here are a few more quotes that I like to meditate on and share with others as a reminder of what Christmas is all about.

Christmas is not a time or a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.—Calvin Coolidge

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly happy Christmas.—Peg Bracken

My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: Loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?—Bob Hope

Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.—Mary Ellen Chase

I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Christmas is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.—Dale Evans

I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world.—Norman Vincent Peale

Peter and I pray that your life will be filled with the Lord’s Spirit this Christmas and that God’s many wonderful blessings will be yours in the coming year. We love you! God bless and keep you!

Originally published December 2018. Adapted and republished December 2021.
Read by Debra Lee.

1 Adapted from Daniel 12:3.

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