Thursday, December 31, 2009

Be Prepared - Dec. 31

The shepherds, the wise men, Simeon, and Anna, all witnessed the infant miracle. When the moment came, they were prepared for the momentous event and have been blessed for eternity for their faithfulness. They are examples to each of us of the need to prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord.

Today we read:
Luke 2: 25 - 38

25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

  26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

  27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

  28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

  29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

  30 For mine eyes have seen thy asalvation,

  31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

  32 A alight bto lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

  33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is aset for the bfall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

  35 (Yea, a sword shall apierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

  36 And there was one Anna, a aprophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

  37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with afastings and prayers night and day.

  38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for aredemption in Jerusalem.

I love that the elderly have a special part in the Christmas story. Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph. I think of them both young, desperately poor, away from family, just having had a baby and traveling, marveling at the experiences they had had. What a tremendous blessing Simeon and Anna must have been for them. And what a blessing for Simeon and Anna - two devout disciples of Christ who served tirelessly, both near the ends of their lives. What an example for us.

Take a few minutes and compare & contrast the witnesses of Christ's birth - the shepherds, Simeon and Anna, the Wisemen. What spiritual qualities do each represent? I love that some were waiting and watching, some were actively searching, and some were faithfully fulfilling their callings. I love that all were sensitive to the Spirit, all were spiritually prepared to recognize and bear witness of the Savior. Am I doing what it takes to become that spiritually prepared? Would I recognize him?

Today's invitation is to make a Family Commitment - a goal that the entire family will work toward to improve spiritually and prepare for the Second Coming. Post your commitment on every bathroom mirror in the house to remind you of your commitment.

Today's song: Come Let Us Anew

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Second Coming - Dec. 30

Jesus came to Bethlehem a humble babe, born in poverty. But He was promised to return to the the earth in majesty. Then heaven and earth will be reconciled, and the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will reign.

Today we read:
Acts 11:1
 11 Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into aheaven? this same Jesus, which is btaken up from you into heaven, shall so ccome in like dmanner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

Matthew 24: 27, 29-31, 36 - 42, 45-47
  27 For as the alightning cometh out of the beast, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

29 ¶ Immediately after the tribulation of those adays shall the bsun be cdarkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

  30 And then shall appear the asign of the Son of man in bheaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth cmourn, and they shall see the dSon of man coming in the clouds of heaven with epower and great fglory.

  31 And he shall send his aangels with a great sound of a btrumpet, and they shall gather together his celect from the four winds, from one end of dheaven to the other.
36 ¶ But of that aday and bhour knoweth no man, no, not the cangels of heaven, but my Father only.

  37 But as the days of aNoe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

  38 For as in the days that were before the aflood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,

  39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
42 ¶ aWatch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
4 Therefore be ye also aready: for in such an bhour cas ye think not the Son of man cometh.

  45 Who then is a afaithful and bwise cservant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?

  46 Blessed is that aservant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

  47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
(emphasis is mine)

Alma 34:32-33
32 For behold, this alife is the time for men to bprepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of cthis life is the day for men to perform their dlabors.
  33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many awitnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not bprocrastinate the day of your crepentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the dnight of edarkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

In the past, we have had had discussions about what that day will be like. What will we be doing? Will we have said our prayers that day? Argued? Read our scriptures? Slept in? Exercised? Eaten breakfast?  Today, I asked Ryan the question "What if He was coming tomorrow - What would you do today?" I loved his answer - "I'd clean up my suit. I get my scriptures ready and I would say my prayers." We talked about how to make those things (and others) a habit - part of our diligent doing, not something that  we procrastinate.

I have sang today's song since I was a tiny girl. I love the message. "I Wonder When He Comes Again"

Monday, December 28, 2009

He Lives - Dec. 29

He lives! Jesus is no mere figure from the past, captive in the pages of scripture. He lives today! He holds the universe to its course and guides the work of his servants on the earth.

Resurrection by Liz Lemon Swindle

Today we read:
John 20:1-18

1 The afirst day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet bdark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the cstone taken away from thedsepulchre.

2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other adisciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the bLord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,

7 And the anapkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must arise again from the bdead.

10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

11 ¶ But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

12 And seeth two aangels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and asaw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, aMaster.

17 Jesus saith unto her, aTouch me not; for I am not yet bascended to my cFather: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my dFather, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

He is Risen by Greg Olsen

I love Mary Magdalene's story. I love that she came when it was still dark, technically breaking the Sabbath. I love that she couldn't stay away. Having lost loved ones, I doubt that she slept that night. I love that she ran to the disciples. I love that when they left, she stayed and my heart breaks for her heartache. I love that Christ came to her first. I love that he calls her Mary. I always wonder if more was said between them or if just seeing him was enough.

The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles

© 2000 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.
English approval: 12/99. 36299

As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.

He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38),yet was d   espised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.

He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.

We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.

He rose from the grave to “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered among His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10).

Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:

“I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:3–4).

Of Him the Prophet also declared: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).

We declare in words of solemnity that His priesthood and His Church have been restored upon the earth—“built upon the foundation of … apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).

We testify that He will someday return to earth. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.

We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.

Resurrection by Mark Mabry

The song for today is another favorite: I Know That My Redeemer Lives

I love the get up early and turn on all the Christmas lights and wake the family with hymns of the resurrection, turned way up. Today is a beautiful celebration! I like to read the "The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles" and talk about it. One of these years, I would like to write a family testimony that we could all sign.

We talk about Christ. Does his image show in our countenance? How can we have the light of Christ shine in our eyes? When people see us, do they see him? We almost always read the following story and talk about it.

The Gift
One cold Christmas Eve day, a little boy about six or seven was standing out in front of a store window. The little child had no shoes and his clothes were mere rags.

A young woman passing by saw the little boy and could read the longing in his pale blue eyes. She took the Child by the hand and led him into the store. There she bought him some new shoes and a complete suit of warm clothing.

They came back out into the street and the woman said, "Now you go home and have a Merry Christmas." The boy looked up at her and asked, " Are you Jesus' Momma?" She smiled at him and replied, "No, son, I'm just one of His children." The little boy then said, "I knew you had to be some relation."

Sometime today, we pack away the old "dead" Christmas tree and look for living ways to honor Christ.

Red Envelope today - I put Ryan's Christmas letter in a Red Envelope. Today we had our Christmas. I still have to power to surprise him with the perfect gift.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Calvary ~ Dec. 27

Some things are almost too painful to think about. To see our Savior mocked and murdered is one such thing. And yet, through the scriptures, we should visit Calvary from time to time. We must never forget Jesus died so that we might live and live more abundantly.

Today I read:
Matthew 27: 11-50
11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.
12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered anothing.
13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?
14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.
15 Now at that feast the governor was awont to brelease unto the people a prisoner, whom they cwould.
16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.
17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?
18 For he knew that for aenvy they had bdelivered him.
19 ¶ When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a adream because of him.
20 But the chief apriests and elders bpersuaded the multitude that they should cask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.
21 The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.
22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be acrucified.
23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out athe more, saying, Let him be crucified.
24 ¶ When Pilate saw that he acould prevail nothing, but that rather a btumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this cjust person: see ye to it.
25 Then answered all the people, and said, His ablood be on us, and on our children.
26 ¶ Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had ascourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the acommon hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.
28 And they stripped him, and put on him a ascarlet robe.
29 ¶ And when they had aplatted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a breed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
30 And they aspit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

Luke 23: 33-38
33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
34 ¶ Then asaid Jesus, Father, bforgive them; for they know not what cthey do. And they parted his draiment, and cast lots.
35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them aderided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, thebchosen of God.
36 And the soldiers also amocked him, coming to him, and offering him bvinegar,
37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.
38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE aKING OF THE bJEWS.

Mark 15: 29 - 34
29 And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,
30 Save thyself, and come down from the cross.
31 Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.
32 Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him areviled him.
33 And when the sixth hour was come, there was adarkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, aEloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou bforsaken me?

For me, today is a quiet day. I spend some time reading the accounts of the crucifixion. In the past, we have watched "The Lamb of God" video (you can get a free copy here). Other years we have read "The Tale of the Three Tree" and talked about how the Atonement has changed us. I always turn off the Christmas lights on this day.

For many, a reflection of Calvary might mar the Christmas celebration and I thought about that as I was putting these devotionals together. It is a hard day. Tears are near the surface throughout the day as I read and think and pray. Yet this day is filled with tender, personal, sacred moments. I have come to look forward to the two days after Christmas to visit the Atonement personally. Today, I am grateful that this year it falls on Sunday.

Gethsemane ~ Dec. 26

The greatest victory of all time was not won on a battlefield but in a quiet hillside garden. We cannot fully understand the cost of that triumph, but as Christmas draws to a close, we should visit that moment in our salvation.

Tonight I read:
Matthew 26: 37-39
37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and abegan to be sorrowful and very heavy.
38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is aexceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and bwatch with me.
39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and aprayed, saying, O my bFather, if it be possible, let this ccup pass from me: nevertheless not as Idwill, but as ethou fwilt.

All of the pictures of Gethsemane show Christ humbly kneeling by a rock praying in Gethsemane. That is not the picture the scriptures paint. He was sorrowful unto death. He fell on his face. He begged 3 times if there was any other way. The mental and emotional anguish, sorrow, depression, suffering he felt that night caused his body to bleed from every pore. He intimately knows our pain, sorrow, & suffering. He knows each of us by name.

Doctrine & Covenants 19: 16-19
16 For behold, I, God, have asuffered these things for all, that they might not bsuffer if they would crepent;
17 But if they would not repent they must asuffer even as I;
18 Which asuffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might bnot drink the bitter cup, and shrink.
19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and afinished my preparations unto the children of men.

I read this talk for the first time on my mission in Chile. I still have a copy of it in Spanish in my journal. It hit me with such power, I still choke up reading it.

The song for today is

I want to include this song - "I Stand All Amazed". I grew up singing this song. I have sang this song so many times to my kiddos as I have tucked them in at night, it has become part of my testimony.

In the past, we have packed away all of the Christmas ornaments, leaving only the lights and the Christ or Nativity ornaments. We would clean up and throw away all the mess from presents & stockings. For me it was symbolic of laying aside the worldly trappings and spending the day thinking of Christ and his ultimate gift for us. I have really loved having a "nativity" tree for the last few days of Christmas and having the house surrounded with Nativities.

Many years we talk about repentance. Christ himself said "For behold, I, God, have asuffered these things for all, that they might not bsuffer if they would crepent;" Repentance is one of those very deep wells that I know I only understand the surface. I always remember my 11 yr. old Sunday School teacher, Bro. Holden, who taught me the 5 R's (or steps) of Repentance: Recognize, Remorse, Repent, Restitution, & Never Repeat.

This year I came home. I had my devotional book in my carry on so I read it and thought about it throught out the day. Planes and me don't seem to get along lately and after hours of delay, bump, transfer, & re-connection, I made it home last night after 18 hours of travel. I made some interesting observations. First, no one makes me get home. There are many people there who will help me, but it is up to me to ask for their advice, direction and counsel and then do it. Second, it is very easy to mindlessly waste my life. In the airport there is so much sitting and waiting, but I realized that is up to me as well. I can always find excuses not to change. I did a little experiment on the way home and suddenly a long, boring, waste of a day trip turned into a meaningful day. It wasn't any big deal except my attitude changed and then my actions and in turn, blessed my life and others. And lastly, I came home to beautiful, white snow. I love to see fresh snow late at night, when it is fresh and clean and glistens in the moonlight. I thought of what it means to come home spiritually. Anyway, those were some of my jumbled thoughts for today.

Today's Red Envelope - RYAN COMES HOME!!!! I am so excited to see him.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Joy ~ Dec. 25

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

The Savior proclaimed, "This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1: 39) Spend this day honoring his life by fostering peace and love with your family. Worry less about the Christmas feast and instead feast on the joy of giving, laughter, & love. Work & play together. Enjoy each other and say, "I love you" often.

My favorite gift on Christmas day has been the years we exchange Love Letters. It started with me writing a letter to each family member for them to open on Christmas. Last year, Ryan wrote one to me. I try to be very specific and share special moments from the year in my letter. I want my loved ones to know how much they mean to me and how truly special they are. I have been working on Ryan's letter this week. I love taking a few minutes to reflect on the blessing of being his mother.

Today was so much fun. The kids were told that they couldn't get up until 7:00p.m. They woke me up first at 7:01. :) They were so fun to watch. They were so excited and grateful for every little thing they got. They helped each other and were so happy for each other. They would give each other a hug and a kiss after they opened up a sibling's gift.

D&C 128: 23
Let the amountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid brocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the cmorning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, anddimmortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!

2 Nephi 2:25
And men care, that they might have djoy.

The song for today - Joy to the World

Merry Christmas all!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Birth Story - Dec. 24

Many anxiously awaited the birth of the Savior, just as we await his return. In America, the righteous watched for the promised signs. In the old world, wise men followed the star, the sign of his birth and humble righteous men, shepherds for the night of Passover, heard the angels proclaim his birth.

Tonight I read: The story of Christ's birth
Helaman 14: 1-8
1 And now it came to pass that aSamuel, the Lamanite, did prophesy a great many more things which cannot be written.
2 And behold, he said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for afive years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name.
3 And behold, this will I give unto you for a asign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.
4 Therefore, there shall be one aday and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is bborn.
5 And behold, there shall a new astar arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.
6 And behold this is not all, there shall be many asigns and wonders in heaven.
7 And it shall come to pass that ye shall all be amazed, and wonder, insomuch that ye shall afall to the earth.
8 And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall abelieve on the Son of God, the same shall have everlasting life.

Luke 1: 26 - 38
26 And in the sixth month the aangel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a avirgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among awomen.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, aFear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name aJESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the aSon of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the bthrone of his father cDavid:
33 And he shall areign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no bend.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I aknow not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The aHoly Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the bSon of God.
36 And, behold, thy acousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her bold age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be aimpossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Matthew 1:18 - 25
18 ¶ aNow the bbirth of Jesus Christ was con this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick aexample, was bminded to cput her away privily.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a adream, saying, Joseph, thou son of bDavid, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the cHoly Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his aname bJESUS: for he shall csave his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 aBehold, a bvirgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his cname dEmmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his awife:
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her afirstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

3 Nephi 1:8-15
8 But behold, they did watch steadfastly for athat day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been vain.
9 Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the aunbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be bput to death except thecsign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.
10 Now it came to pass that when Nephi, the son of Nephi, saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.
11 And it came to pass that he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith in the tradition of their fathers.
12 And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord aall that day; and behold, the bvoice of the Lord came unto him, saying:
13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the asign be given, and on the bmorrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be cspoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.
14 Behold, I acome unto my own, to bfulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the cfoundation of the world, and to do the dwill, eboth fof the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.
15 And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of theasun there was bno darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came.

Luke 2: 1-20
1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all athe world should be btaxed.
2 (And this ataxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called aBethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his aespoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her afirstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in thebinn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the aglory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you agood tidings of great bjoy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is aborn this day in the city of David a bSaviour, which is Christ the cLord.
12 And this shall be a asign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 aGlory to God in the highest, and on earth bpeace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with ahaste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it awondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and apondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

3 Nephi 1: 19-21
19 And it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. And it came to pass that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be aborn, because of the bsign which had been given.
20 And it had come to pass, yea, all things, every whit, according to the words of the prophets.
21 And it came to pass also that a new astar did appear, according to the word.

Matthew 2: 1-12
1 Now when Jesus was aborn in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, aWhere is he that is born bKing of the Jews? for we have seen his cstar in the east, and are come to dworship him.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he ademanded of them bwhere Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou aBethlehem, in the land of bJuda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a cGovernor, that shall drule my people Israel.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 ¶ And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and afrankincense, and myrrh.
12 And being warned of God in a adream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

In the past, tonight has been one of my favorite parts of Christmas. Many years (not every year), we have had a Bethlehem Dinner. We would spread out a blanket on the floor with pillows, candles, and traditional foods from Christ's time in front of the Christmas tree. We would eat a dinner of fish, pita bread, nuts, olives, goat cheese, with grapes and grape juice. Afterward, we would read the the story of Christ's birth by the candlelight and Christmas tree lights and then watch this video.

I have loved the Bethlehem dinner Christmas Eves. It felt like the celebration was complete and Christmas day hadn't even arrived. I loved sitting in the glow of the lights and letting the story replay over my mind and reflecting on the gift of Savior.

Tonight I had a wonderfully rare opportunity. I am at my sister's home and tonight my nephew & nieces acted out the Nativity story. We have always read the story but acting it out was a bit of a one man show with Ryan trying to be all the parts. Needless to say, we rarely acted out the story. I was impressed to see my 8 yr. old nephew Caleb follow the story in his scriptures. 5 yr. old Lexi was so sweet as Mary and 3 yr. old Ella was beside herself with excitement and joy as the angel & shepherd. Caleb served double duty as Joseph and the Wiseman. 7 mo. old Thomas was sitting in his walker so he participated as the donkey with Mary "riding" on his walker.

I am very grateful to have this opportunity. To be with family and to share the Spirit of this Christmas eve. I pray that each of you will feel the spirit of this holy night.

Merry Christmas~

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