"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover"

- Mark Twain

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Sacrament Talk

Below is a short sacrament talk I gave in church last Sunday.

Good morning Brothers and Sisters.  I want to say thank you for the service many of you have provided this year.  I know there are many of you that have provided and sacrificed your time and talents in the name of the Lord.  I appreciate you and your talents and your service to the ward.  I hope you can continue to commit yourselves to providing service in the Lords name...

I hope that you have taken the time to prepare for this season and if not, you still have a week until the big day.  

Let me start by telling you that Christmas is on the 25th this year.  It’s one week from today.  And in case you aren't prepared by now for Christmas for this year, it will be on the 25th of December next year, too.  Isn’t it funny that we have an entire year to prepare for the Holiday and that we know the date a year in advance, but it’s nature for many of us to procrastinate.  What do we do when we procrastinate?  We rush things. We hurry to get them done.  How can the Spirit be with us when we are running around trying to get the last minute gifts, and traffic is bad and we are yelling at the cars to move, and we get to the store and can’t find a parking spot and the store doesn't have the gift we were looking for and we’re frustrated and we spend our time thinking about the person in line in front of us taking way too much time to make their purchase, when we should, instead, be thinking about the real meaning of Christmas. I have found the spirit isn't usually with me when I rush things that have been put off.  So please begin preparing for next year, now.

I want to start by wishing each of you a Merry Christmas!  Have you ever thought about the meaning of Christmas when someone said to you; “Merry Christmas”, or when you have said it to others?  I’m sure most of us here today know the story of Christ and that there is more of a reason for the season than gift giving.

In these modern times the phrase “Merry Christmas” is often replaced with Happy Holidays for political correctness, or for fear of offending someone who does not believe in Christ.  While speaking to the Aaronic Priesthood holders in our last conference session, Boyd K. Packer said that “Satan’s effort to stop the work will be reasonably well served if he can just bind the tongue of the faithful.”  I hope it’s not too much for those of us here today to wish others a Merry Christmas.

We have witnessed during the past few days and weeks what has become over the years the annual commercialization of Christmas. Christmas is becoming less and less about Christ and more and more about marketing and sales, parties and presents.

Yet, Christmas is what we make of it. Despite all the distractions, we can see to it that Christ is at the center of our celebration. If we have not already done so, we can establish Christmas traditions for ourselves and for our families which will help us capture and keep the spirit of Christmas.

With the advertisements and the latest gadgets of technology, it’s easy to forget why we celebrate this season.  There was an article on KSL that was written by a Primary Teacher where He said that He was concerned with teaching the kids in his own charge – the kids in his Primary class room and his own children.

He stated that the Holiday marketing of today is to stick a red bow on something and call it a Holiday special.  The result is often confused children.  I would say that it also confuses many adults.  Call it Christmas commercialized, capitalism, marketing, or whatever you like. 

There is a lot of mixed information and this is why the real meaning of Christmas can become lost.  The story of the birth of Christ has competition.  There’s Santa, the North Pole, Reindeer and Elves, Jack Frost, Rudolph, the Drummer Boy, Gramma getting run over by a reindeer…!  There’s Charlie Brown’s Christmas, the Grinch… And every year there is a new story or movie.

This Primary instructor spoke with his class about keeping track of real Christmas and unreal Christmas. He then quizzed them about the story of Christmas and here is what he learned from them…
- Mary and Joseph had a baby because there was no room at the Inn.
            - The Shepherds saw the angels singing because there was no TV, so they could pay attention to things like that.  There might be some sound advice there, how many Angels try to speak to us but, we don’t listen because of a distraction?
            - Before Jesus came down, Christmas was invented so people could pay taxes.  Today, people pay taxes online.
            - In Idaho, they cancel Christmas if the roads are bad.
            - A manger is good for oats, hay and small toys, but is too small for a mattress.
            - The wise men were very slow because their crowns were heavy and their donkeys were really camels.  They gave gold, frankincense and myrrh because they smelled good and smelling good is better than money.
            - The Pioneers’ trek west used the same trail that Mary and Joseph used to get to Bethlehem – only it took them somewhere different.
            - And last, but not least, a coupon gets a cheaper price at a hotel.

These are all good thoughts from children in a Primary class.

So, whether it’s Mary and Joseph travelling East, or the Pioneers heading West, it’s up to us to educate others with the correct information so they can get it right enough to teach their own children.

I found a few quotes I would like to share about the definition of Christmas.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  They must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller
“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” – Charles Schulz
“Christmas is not a time or a season, but a state of mind.  To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the spirit of Christmas.” – Calvin Coolidge
“Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day”. – Helen Steiner Rice
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” – Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge, In A Christmas Carol.

In verses from Luke 2, we learn about the first witnesses of Christ’s birth, the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem. In (verse 9) When “the angel of the Lord came upon them,… they were sore afraid”. In (verse 10) But they heard “good tidings of great joy” that the Savior, the Messiah, the Christ, had been born.  In (verse 12) They listened to know the sign by which they could recognize the Savior, that He would be “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger”. In (verse 15) When the heavenly host had concluded their joyful proclamation, the shepherds responded immediately, saying, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass”.  In versus 16 and 20 It reads: They came “with haste” and found the Christ child just as the angel had said, and then they “returned, glorifying and praising God” . Wanting to share the glorious news of the Savior’s birth, “they made [it] known abroad” (verse 17).

I too wish to make our Savior known to all.

There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus Christ.  Because He came and paid for our sins, we have the opportunity to gain eternal life.

Again, I wish you all a Merry Christmas Season.  I know our Savior lives and I know that Joseph Smith was a modern day Prophet.

 I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Good Son

We received the following email from Noah's Teacher this morning...


I just wanted to take a minute to tell you what a wonderful son you have!
Today while we were waiting in line for our pictures to be taken, Noah noticed that a kindergartener had gotten separated from her class and was upset that she couldn't find them.  He put his arm around her, and very gently and kindly calmed her down and helped her find her class.  He knew immediately how to help her and jumped into action without being asked at all.  I was extremely impressed!  He is a wonderful young man and you should be very proud of him!

Brittany Stephenson
6/7 Science

Wow!  I couldn't be more proud of my son.  That kid brings a tear to my eye.