Editor's note: Our bi-weekly Friday column, “Found in the footnotes,” explores some of the footnotes from remarks given by General Authorities and General Officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
For me, part of what makes the Christmas season so special is tradition. I love how the decorations, the food, the rituals, and the songs instantly bring with them the Christmas spirit.
One tradition that has become a part of my regular Christmas season is the First Presidency Christmas devotional. Archives for past Christmas devotionals are available dating back to 2009, when each member of the First Presidency shared remarks focused on the reason for the season—Jesus Christ.
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In 2013, the list of speakers extended beyond the First Presidency to include members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other General Authorities and General Officers of the Church. Since then, President Russell M. Nelson has spoken three times:
- 2013: “Jesus the Christ—Our Prince of Peace”
- 2018: “Four Gifts That Jesus Christ Offers to You”
- 2020: “Divine Gifts”
As I studied each of these messages, I noticed a common theme: the gift God gave to us of His Son, Jesus Christ.
In fact, each address has one footnoted scripture reference in common, John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
What does having this gift mean to us? Speaking in December 2020, President Nelson said, “Jesus Christ was born to bless all humankind, past, present, and future.” Here’s a look at some of the ways Christ blesses us, using quotes from all three of President Nelson’s Christmas devotional addresses.
1. The Blessing of Resurrection | “Divine Gifts”
“Even as we sing ‘Silent Night,’ we know the life of that Babe of Bethlehem did not begin there, nor did it end on Calvary. In a premortal realm, Jesus was anointed by His Father to be the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of all humankind. He was foreordained to atone for us. ‘He was wounded for our transgressions [and] bruised for our iniquities’ (Isaiah 53:5). He came to make immortality a reality and eternal life a possibility for all who would ever live.
“That means every one of us will be resurrected—including those dear to you who have departed during this turbulent year, and who now live on the other side of the veil. It means each of us can continue to progress. It means we can hope for better things to come.”
2. The Blessing of Reaching Our Potential | “Divine Gifts”
“Jesus was baptized in the lowest body of fresh water on earth, symbolizing the depths to which He would go in order to save us and from which He would rise above all things—again, to save us. From His example, He taught that we, too, can arise from the depths of our individual challenges—our sadness, weakness, and worries—to reach the heights of our own glorious potential and divine destiny. All this is possible by virtue of His mercy and grace.”
3. The Blessing of “Unspeakable Joy Forever” | “Four Gifts That Jesus Christ Offers to You”
“I invite you, as King Benjamin did for Saints in his day, to ‘consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.’ That blessing is for us here and now, but added to it is the eventual promise of ‘never-ending happiness’ (Mosiah 2:41). Simply stated, true followers of Jesus Christ have the privilege of experiencing unspeakable joy forever.
“May you and your families be blessed with peace, with an increased ability to hear the voice of the Lord, and receive revelation with an enhanced capacity to feel how much our Father and His Son love you, care for you, and are ready to guide all who seek after Them.”
4. The Blessing of an “Unlimited Capacity to Love” | “Four Gifts That Jesus Christ Offers to You”
“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.”
5. The Blessing of the Ability to Forgive | “Four Gifts That Jesus Christ Offers to You”
“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.”
6. The Blessing of Repentance | “Four Gifts That Jesus Christ Offers to You”
“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.”
7. The Blessing of His Example | “Jesus the Christ—Our Prince of Peace”
“As our great Exemplar, Jesus taught us how to live, to love, and to learn. He taught us how to pray, to forgive, and endure to the end.
“He taught us how to care about others more than we care about ourselves. He taught us about mercy and kindness—making real changes in our lives through His power. He taught us how to find peace of heart and mind. One day, we will stand before Him as our just Judge and merciful Master.”
8. The Blessing of Peace | “Jesus the Christ—Our Prince of Peace”
“Peace can come to all who earnestly seek the Prince of Peace. His is the sweet and saving message our missionaries take throughout the world. They preach the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored by Him through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Missionaries teach these life-changing words of the Lord: ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15).
“Peace can come to all who choose to walk in the ways of the Master. His invitation is expressed in three loving words: ‘Come, follow me’ (2 Nephi 9:41).”
President Nelson’s Blessing
At the conclusion of his Christmas remarks this year, President Nelson left us with a prophetic blessing:
Now, as an authorized servant of the Savior, I would like to invoke a blessing upon each of you, my beloved brothers and sisters. May you and your families be blessed with peace, with an increased ability to hear the voice of the Lord, and receive revelation with an enhanced capacity to feel how much our Father and His Son love you, care for you, and are ready to guide all who seek after Them.
As we think about the gift of the Savior the next several days, I hope we can see how our Heavenly Father has given the greatest gift to all mankind and how, through that gift, we will feel divine love and peace.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that First Presidency Christmas devotionals began in 2009. The archives for these devotionals have been available online since 2009, but the earliest record of them being held dates back to 1964.