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Come, Follow Me — New Testament Study and Teaching Helps
Lesson 52, December 18 — 24
Matthew 1:18–25; Luke 1:26–38; 2:1–20
“Christmas, “Good Tidings of Great Joy”

A King Is Born

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “Christmas”? Consider the following:

  • The birth of Jesus Christ was celebrated by a small group of people on earth, escaping the attention of all others. Yet His birth had been prophesied and anticipated by prophets of God for thousands of years; it was foretold by angels (Matthew 1:20-21; Luke 1:26-33), and upon His birth “a multitude of the heavenly Host” praised God and declared glory, peace, and good will (Luke 2:13-14).
  • Shortly before Jesus’s birth, the father of John the Baptist, Zacharias, “was filled with the Holy Ghost,” and spoke these words: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, … As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began” (Luke 1:67-70).
  • How many people in today’s world recognize the significance of the Christ Child’s mortal birth? How is the Christmas holiday celebrated in our time? How do you celebrate Christmas?
  • What moves you most as you go through your daily routines? As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we covenant weekly during the ordinance of the sacrament to eat and drink in remembrance of Him, and to always remember Him (Mormon 4-5; D&C 20:77, 79). Do these weekly covenants sway your heart on a daily basis?

His Gifts to Us

Read 2 Corinthians 8:9. Jesus makes us rich. At Christmas we traditionally share gifts among those we love. This can be considered a reflection of our gratitude for the gifts of Jesus Christ to us—His teachings, example, Atonement, Resurrection, restored gospel, and so much more. Does He want anything from us in return for His immeasurable gifts? Even our best efforts are feeble, but here is a small sample of scriptures that teach us what we can do:

  • “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28-29).
  • “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
  • “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. [And] thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:36-37, 39).
  • “I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. … Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40).

And the Lord keeps giving back to us—even far more than we can ever deserve or repay:

  • “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall have rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
  • “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst…. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever (John 6:35, 51).
  • Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve taught in the October 2022 general conference: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints considers the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ to be the central fact, the crucial foundation, the chief doctrine, and the ultimate expression of divine love in God’s grand plan for the salvation of His children…. We follow Him everywhere, including, if necessary, into arenas filled with tears and trouble, where sometimes we may stand very much alone.”

The Baby Who Changed Everything

Read and ponder this brief essay:

Every parent throughout history knows that welcoming a baby into the family circle changes everything!

  • When the teenaged Joseph and Mary learned from an angel that they were to become the parents of the Son of God, it changed everything. Did this favor and confidence from their Heavenly Father suddenly infuse their lives with ease, comfort, and privilege? No. Things got worse and became far more complicated.
  • One does not go around informing family and friends that you have changed your wedding plans because your fiancé is soon to give birth to the Redeemer of the World. Do you even dare tell this to anyone? Would they believe you? Do you believe it yourself? Do you even understand it? How a Baby changes things!
  • Soon the time drew near for their Divine Child to be delivered. But what bad timing—that Caesar Augustus would issue a decree from Rome, requiring Joseph and Mary to travel 80 miles south, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Wasn’t there some way they could avoid this journey? Couldn’t someone go in their place to represent them? Or at least, could some family members accompany them and help them? Or, once they arrived in their ancestral city, couldn’t there be some relatives who could take them in? Or a friend? Or a stranger? Why didn’t things go better?
  • Wouldn’t Father in Heaven arrange some way for His Only Begotten to have some comforts at His birth? How can it be that on this night of all nights, nothing is going right? Would Elohim really allow His Jehovah to enter mortality under circumstances more lowly, more humble, more humiliating, than any babe ever born? Could Joseph and Mary feel any more frustrated or stressed? Why weren’t things going better?
  • Somehow they survived the journey and the Baby’s delivery, but my how a Baby changes things! The angel had said to Mary, “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:28), but Mary may not have been seeing or feeling very much favor or blessedness.
  • Soon another dictatorial decree required Joseph and Mary to escape and travel almost 300 miles to the foreign country of Egypt, literally for their lives and for the life of their Baby, as the evil one and evil men sought to kill their little Messiah. Oh, how a Baby changes everything. Why couldn’t things go better?
  • The Child becomes a Man, and the Man becomes the greatest target the adversary has ever set his sights upon. Joseph has evidently passed away, leaving Mary and the other children to fend alone. Jesus departs and develops His ministry, and time and time again Mary experiences the bitter fulfillment of the words spoken by Simeon at the time of Jesus’ circumcision. Simeon had taken the Babe in his arms and said to Mary, “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also” (Luke 2:35).

Things are so hard, including for Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John share with us examples of the horrors of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice:

  • Our Redeemer, as He approached His darkest hour, exclaimed, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death”! (Matthew 26:38).
  • He was “sorrowful and very heavy” (Matthew 26:37), and “sore amazed” (Mark 14:33).
  • The Lamb of God then “went a little further, and fell on his face” and pleaded, saying, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39).
  • But the cup was not removed. “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
  • But the Son of God was determined: “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11).
  • He persistently endured: “Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48).
  • “Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him” (Matthew 26:50).
  • “Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56).
  • “Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death” (Matthew 26:59).
  • “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands” (Matthew 26:67).
  • “And Pilate . . . said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews? And they cried out again, Crucify him” (Mark 15:12–13).
  • “And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe [and] a crown of thorns . . . and mocked him . . . And they spit upon him . . . and smote him on the head . . . [and] scourged Jesus [and] delivered him to be crucified” (Matthew 27:28–30, 26).
  • “And they crucified him” (Matthew 27:35).
  • “And they that passed by reviled him . . . mocking him” (Matthew 27:39, 41), “railed on him” (Mark 15:29), and “derided him” (Luke 23:35).
  • “Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, . . . My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
  • “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30).

HE FINISHED. This Baby changed everything, for all of us! He was the Babe of Bethlehem and became the Savior and Redeemer of the world. He gave us the greatest Christmas gift ever given, and He is the entire reason for Christmas!

“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” (John 3:16).

Merry Christmas! There’s your gift.

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