This Christmas season, as I’ve reflected on the Savior, I’ve contemplated His effect on my life. I’ve always loved Christmas. Even as a little child, I was totally immersed in the wonder of that special birth. I may not have been able to comprehend the importance of Christ’s atonement for me personally, but instinctively I knew that His birth was not like any other. It was special and wondrous. It was many years before I began to understand the importance of His ministry and His sacrifice. It was a long time before I understood the great blessings of the plan of salvation.
I’m writing this on my 65th birthday, and since I was born in a 7.2 magnitude earthquake after my mother had spent more than two weeks experiencing labor pains, I can’t help marvel at the sheer miracle of any birth. We are awaiting the arrival of another granddaughter in about eight weeks, so my mind is obviously on the miracle of birth. The whole process of creating life is sacred, special, and miraculous. The added miracle of the identity of the Christ child is almost incomprehensible to the human mind. Do we really understand who He is and His relationship to us? If we could really comprehend it, would we make some of the choices that we make?
I’ve done some pretty stupid stuff in my lifetime—including spending 20 years away from the Church. My mind has also been mulling over that time lately as I’ve watched a few friends begin to make some of the same mistakes that I made. I was very frustrated with people in the Church who spoke of love but whose actions were filled with pettiness, meanness, anger, and even hate. I couldn’t separate the actions of members from the good of Christ’s Church. While waving my own banner of rightness, honor, and dignity, my focus was not on following Christ. The Savior forgave the actions of those who sinned, while I harbored resentment and negativity.
Our congregations are not perfect—and some are downright pitifully imperfect—but we are all trying. We are committed to being the best we can be. We are all on different levels of spirituality, and we each start where we are to move forward on the path of righteousness. My path is not the same as your path. My path is not the same as my bishop’s path, or the gospel doctrine teacher’s path, or a youth leader’s path. Yet, we are all headed in the same direction—trying desperately to hang on to the rod of iron.
If I had really understood the miracle of Christ’s birth, ministry, and sacrifice, would I have made different choices all those years ago when I distanced myself from His Church?
In the October 2019 General Conference, Elder Ulisses Soares talked about taking up our cross and following the Savior.
Additionally, for those who feel bitter, angry, offended, or chained to sorrows for something you feel is undeserved, to take up one’s cross and follow the Savior means to strive to lay aside these feelings and turn to the Lord so He can free us from this state of mind and help us to find peace. Unfortunately, if we hold on to these negative feelings and emotions, we may find ourselves living without the influence of the Lord’s Spirit in our lives. We cannot repent for other people, but we can forgive them—by refusing to be held hostages by those who have harmed us.
The scriptures teach that there is a way out of these situations—by inviting our Savior to help us to replace our stony hearts with new hearts. For this to happen, we need to come before the Lord with our weaknesses and implore His help and forgiveness, especially during the sacred moment when we partake of the sacrament each Sunday. May we choose to seek His help and take an important and difficult step by forgiving those who have hurt us so that our wounds may begin to heal. I promise you that in your doing so, your nights will be full of the relief that comes from a mind at peace with the Lord (Elder Ulisses Soares, “Take Up Our Cross,” Oct. 2019 General Conference).
These last days are tough. Sometimes taking up our cross actually means forgiving members of our own congregations when they do things or say things that are not in keeping with Church doctrine or policy. It might mean hanging on to the rod of iron and holding faith in our hearts when we don’t feel local church leaders are being supportive of our family’s needs. Taking up our cross might even mean continuing to go to Church when we feel wronged or misunderstood.
Elder David A. Bednar spoke in October 2019 General Conference (“Watchful unto Prayer Continually”) about being watchful of the distractions that Satan plants in our path. What if those distractions are the misunderstandings and backbiting in our own congregations? Will we take up our cross with faith that the covenants we’ve made will get us through, or will we distance ourselves from what we perceive to be a non-functioning ward?
This Christmas, as I look at my nativity sets, tell the story of Christmas, and contemplate my relationship with the Savior, I am also thinking about how I take up my cross to follow Him. What is the sacrifice I am making for Him? Have I fully repented? Do I continue to repent each day? Do I readily forgive? Do I set aside the distractions and find the faith to endure? Do I apply Christ’s atonement in my life? Do I give others the benefit of their own relationship with the Savior without questioning their motives or actions?
The miracle of Christmas is more than just the miracle of birth. It is more than a baby lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes. The miracle of Christmas is our relationship to the Savior. Let us take up our own personal cross and follow Him. Let us set aside the distractions, forgive or neighbors, ditch the negativity, and be true disciples of Jesus Christ.
May you have a beautiful Christmas contemplating the wondrous miracle that it is and your relationship with Jesus Christ, our Savior. Christmas is more than the birth.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.