Week 52 is scheduled for study Dec. 19-25, 2022. There is a lot of anticipation that goes into celebrating Christmas. What might we receive, and how many ways can we give? To find the greatest joy in Christmas this year, let’s evaluate how we approach Christmas.

Day 1

During this Christmas season, consider how the Old Testament has strengthened your testimony of Jesus Christ throughout the year.

I rejoice in my Redeemer

Let’s get some perspective on this most joyous of seasons. We look at Christ’s birth as a happy celebration of what happened more than two thousand years ago. That one birth changed history. And we don’t just celebrate his birth. When we think of Christ we usually see his whole life, including his sacrifice, death, and resurrection. We see Christ as one who has already completed his mortal mission. But what about those who lived thousands of years before Christ’s birth?

From the days of Adam and Eve, every prophet God sent to teach His children taught of the future birth of the Savior and Redeemer of mankind. Our hope is in a Christ who lived before us. Their hope was in a Christ who would live millennia after their own deaths. Which hope requires more faith I wonder? Or perhaps these two types of faith are both just the two sides of the same coin. In any case, even if you were living on the thin edge of that coin, during the life of Christ, faith is required of everyone if they want to find joy in Christ. Does it really matter if that faith is directed into the future or into the past? After all, don’t we still look forward to his second coming with the same kind of faith with which they looked forward to his first coming? Even when he was in mortality there were precious few who put faith in his Messiahship.

Power in the person of Christ

The life of Jesus of Nazareth didn’t just distress the Pharisees and Sadducees of his day. Belief in Christ has changed the course of nations, brought wars, crusades, caused holocausts, and given strength to millions of people to live and die for what they believe. No one has had the kind of impact on history that Jesus had. Even today the celebration of his birth in December influences both believers and nonbelievers to pause and seek to do good and find joy in this season of celebration.

I have noticed as I watch Hallmark movies about Christmas, that Jesus has mostly been removed from the season. They rarely make mention of his name, and almost as rarely make mention of his birth. For example, almost all the Christmas plays are about dancing trees and candy canes. Instead, the nativity focuses on the performance of the child participating. Rarely is a nativity depicted through a moment of reverence. But his influence is still felt in powerful ways as people seek to find joy in family and friends, and peace in doing good for others. Not bad for the influence of a man of no means who lived two thousand years ago. (And has been a thorn in the side of Evil the whole time.)

When the focus of our lives is on Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives.

Russell M. Nelson 10/2016 Conference

Here is a larger quote from President Nelson’s talk.

Saints can be happy under every circumstance. We can feel joy even while having a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year!

My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.

When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation, which President Thomas S. Monson just taught us, and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy. We feel it at Christmastime when we sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” And we can feel it all year round. For Latter-day Saints, Jesus Christ is joy!

That is the short answer to the ageless question, “How do I find happiness and meaning in life?” It is also the answer to why we rejoice in our Redeemer.

What do you do deliberately during this season to think on the joy having faith in Jesus brings?

How do you specifically center your celebrations at Christmastime on Christ?

One last quote from President Nelson’s talk.

Just as the Savior offers peace that “passeth all understanding,” He also offers an intensity, depth, and breadth of joy that defy human logic or mortal comprehension. For example, it doesn’t seem possible to feel joy when your child suffers with an incurable illness or when you lose your job or when your spouse betrays you. Yet that is precisely the joy the Savior offers. His joy is constant, assuring us that our “afflictions shall be but a small moment” and be consecrated to our gain.

Day 2

During this Christmas season, consider how the Old Testament has strengthened your testimony of Jesus Christ throughout the year.

Symbols can help me remember Jesus Christ.

During your time in the Old Testament this year, have you noted many of the symbolic representations given Israel for Christ? He is the lamb that was slain, pure and without blemish. He is the branch from which we all must draw nourishment or spiritually perish on the vine. Christ is the light that shines in the darkness giving us comprehension and a sense of direction. So many things were used by the prophets to point the people to Jesus for their salvation.

Now think about the symbols you have surrounded yourself with in your home this Christmas. How many symbols used in your decorating are pointing you to specifically think of Christ, and how many of them are symbols of the world? Over the last century or so, many of the symbols that once made us think of Jesus have become changed into symbols of the world. For example, Santa, once a symbol of St. Nicholas who was a saint in the Catholic church was a symbol of someone who gave to others in need. He didn’t directly represent Christ, but was a good man. Now Santa is displayed and paraded in grocery stores, malls, and parties as a source of someone who partly controls what we may or not get for Christmas presents. Hardly the same symbol he started out to be.

The simple symbols of the evergreen tree and all the ornaments that had religious meaning have devolved into garish displays of purple trees and neon lights. It is now about the bling, not the Christ child. I know it has been difficult for me to try to separate out what the world has taught me over the decades of my life to see what is truly about Christ and what is questionable. Lately my wife and I have begun to reserve our living room for Christ at Christmas. If we look at whatever it is (like Christmas stockings), and if it doesn’t remind us of Christ, it goes somewhere else in the house. The living room is reserved for pictures of Christ, a simply decorated tree with Christ-centered ornaments, and multiple nativities in various corners. We have pictures of temples, of family, and lights that are white to represent purity.

I know that this isn’t for everyone, but celebrating Christmas focusing on Christ has made Christmas regain the magic it had when I was a child. We now are more concerned with giving more than getting. Our buying of presents has become less of a burden as we have sought for ways to perform service for others instead of purchasing things. Yes, we still get tokens of love to give to others, but we are trying to give of ourselves as their main gift.

I have also been looking at my Christmas play lists. Is the music I listen to focused on reindeer, Santa, presents, or whether or not I saw mommy kissing Santa? These are fun songs, songs of my childhood. But do they do anything to bring Christ into the center of my celebration. It is, after all, a celebration of his birth and life.

This year might be a good opportunity for you to also look around and consider how focused on Christ your Christmas traditions are in your home. I have room for improvement. I hope I am the only one who still needs to continue to place Christ more consistently at the center of my celebrations.

Day 3

During this Christmas season, consider how the Old Testament has strengthened your testimony of Jesus Christ throughout the year.

His name shall be called Wonderful.

My suggestion today is that we take a few minutes to read the scripture references in the manual that point to some of Christ’s many, many titles. Unlike many titles in this world, Christ’s titles are all descriptive of his personal attributes, power, and position in the plan of salvation. As you read a particular title of Christ, try to think of ways in which that title describes him. How can his titles give us a better sense for who he is? Can we gain a greater appreciation for him through coming to learn and cherish the titles by which he is called?

FHE/Personal Study

Family traditions

Things to consider as you evaluate your personal or family traditions.

Which of your traditions unite you with your friends or family, making you feel like you all work together better and appreciate one another more?

Which of your traditions during this season might be better or appropriately used during other times of the year?

Do you have a tradition that serves the purpose of pointing your heart and mind to Christ?

Which of your seasonal traditions are just fun, versus the ones that bring you closer to those whom you love?

How many traditions you have established involve serving and blessing the lives of others?

If you were required to explain to the Lord why you observed your current traditions this season, would you still observe the same ones, or would you feel the need to make some changes?

I want to make something very clear here. I am not questioning your personal attitudes or traditions surrounding Christmas. I am asking these questions and making the statements made above in the other days’ lessons for my own review. You are just reading my own self reflection questions. I wrote an article a few years back about how Lot, from the Old Testament, was eventually sucked into Sodom, because he started by placing his tent so that it faced the city. Eventually, he moved into the city. Their children married into that culture. Their grandchildren were all born into the culture of Sodom. When the city was destroyed, Lot’s entire family, except his wife and two youngest daughters were destroyed with the city.

We live in a world that is well represented as a Sodom, for Sodom represents all the vices and views of the world. We are surrounded by every device Satan and evil people can devise to lure us as far away from Jesus as they can. We can’t escape the world when we are out and about doing good in the world, but we can when we are in the privacy of our home. We just have to make sure that we know the difference between what the world would have us believe and what the prophets have taught us of Christ and what his influences should be in our lives.

How our changes to the celebration of Christmas come about is an individual thing. It will be different for every person, for worship is a deeply personal and individual thing. What and how we worship is based on our outlook and attitudes, our knowledge, and our experiences. There is no one-size-fits-all when it come to finding Christ in the season. I just hope that I have given you some things to help you in your own search for more reverence of Christ’s birth and life, his position in your own life. Merry Christmas!

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OT52-2022 – Christmas

Week 52