Sunday, December 21, 2008

What Gifts Can We Give to Jesus This Christmas?

We expend copious amounts of energy, time and money at Christmas time. Along with this seasonal flurry of activity we direct our focus to the humble birth of Jesus Christ.

I would like to discuss this focus of the birth of the baby Jesus. In fact, given His birth occurred 2,000 years ago, I would like to move the discussion forward to our day. It is customary to give presents to one on their birthday, so what gifts can we give to Jesus this Christmas?

Specifically, one of the greatest gifts we could give the Lord would be to sanctify ourselves. We must be sanctified, since no unclean thing can dwell with and see God. This process will entail a lifelong series of changes and improvements until we reach the point “That [our] minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him”.

So how do we begin or, if we have already started on this course, then to augment our effort to progress spiritually in the midst of the turmoil and decline about us?

The elders of the Church were in conference and desired to know what the Church should do “in view of the critical times that had been predicted.”

The Prophet Joseph Smith asked such a question of the Lord during this same time of year – in December of 1832. What resulted was revelation, which became Section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants. This revelation contains several points for achieving spiritual peace.

Promises from the Lord contained in the first few verses were given to these men. He promised them another Comforter. Joseph Smith explained there were two Comforters spoken of. One is the Holy Ghost and the other Comforter spoken of is the Lord Jesus Christ.

He went on to explain when a person obtains this last Comforter that Christ will attend to this such a person, He will manifest the Father unto him, the visions of the heavens will be opened and that he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.

Further along in D&C 88, the Lord lays out guidelines for us. “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you: seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."

And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness within you; and that body filled with light comprehendeth all things.” Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God.”

This scripture received from the Savior is a message of peace. Herein we find the positive steps we must take to be acceptable to Him. In following these steps, we will not only earn the highest degree of glory, but also we can escape the trials and judgments of our times.

Throughout the scriptures we find other guidance about sanctification. In Helaman we read:

“…they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, into the fulfilling of their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.”

Jesus teaches us in 3 Nephi; “Repent…and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost”.

Paul, beckoned by King Agrippa, recounts to him of his conversion on the Damascus road and Jesus’ instruction to him to become a “minister and a witness”. Paul relates to Agrippa the Lord instructed him,

“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

In the very final teaching of Moroni in the last chapter of the Book of Mormon, he states;

“if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God.”

While explaining how the gospel prepares us for eternal glory, Paul explains to the Thessalonians,

“…because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord instructs the saints to act in all holiness. He states; “Purge ye out the iniquity which is among you; sanctify yourselves before me;”

In conjunction with the Lord’s covenant to make Israel a holy nation and kingdom of priests, he said unto Moses, “Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow…”

The Lord further commands Israel, “For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy.”

The Lord promises an endowment of power to those who sanctify themselves. “Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power”.

We obtain this promise by receiving our endowment in the holy temple. We can also receive this endowment as proxies for those who have died without the knowledge and opportunity to receive it and thereby enable them to become sanctified.

Doctrine and Covenants Section 76 teaches us “That [Jesus] came into the world…to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness.”

In doing these things, Christ brought forth the Plan of Salvation for us.

We learn from the scriptures that the Earth will be sanctified from all unrighteousness preparatory for celestial glory. This transformation is necessary so that the Earth will be fit for the presence of God the Father. It will also be the abode of resurrected beings.

“Therefore, it [the Earth] must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;”

In conclusion, may I quote Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “To be sanctified is to become clean, pure and spotless; to be freed from the blood and sins of the world; to become a new creature of the Holy Ghost, one whose body has been renewed by the rebirth of the Spirit.”

Our gift to Christ of pursuit and progression along the course of sanctifying ourselves will manifest great approval from Him. Blessings will accrue upon us, our family and even our posterity as we live in companionship with the Spirit. As the Apostle Peter proclaimed, “Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”

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