2020 First Presidency Christmas Devotional #LightTheWorld #ChristmasDevo

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Shepherd at night

Why were shepherds in the field at night when the angel came?

By S. Kent Brown

The nativity account in Luke tells of “shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Usually, a young teenager would stay with the flock at night while the adults, the shepherds, slept at home. Having shepherds out at night suggests that it was spring, the lambing season. Learn more in this short excerpt from the commentary The Testimony of Luke.

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Bonus Feature

We’ve prepared a selection of short reads from the BYU New Testament Commentary page for the Christmas season:

What on Earth Are Swaddling Clothes? Luke’s mention that the newborn Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes is a sign that this baby was properly cared for. John W. Welch explains how swaddling clothes also signify the baby’s helplessness and thus Christ’s condescension and coming to earth in mortality. Read more about the symbolism of swaddling clothes →

How the Wise Men Became Kings. Are the wise men really kings? Eric D. Huntsman points out that Matthew uses the term “magoi,” magi, for the special visitors who come to Jesus bearing gifts. The idea of them being royalty may stem from Psalm 69 and 72. Learn more →

History of the Christmas Crèche. Do you set up a nativity scene for Christmastime? The display is also known as a crèche, from French. Eric D. Huntsman tells that the earliest depiction of the nativity may be in paintings dating to AD 380. Saint Francis of Assisi staged a living nativity scene in Italy in 1223. Learn more here →

Chronicles of Mary and Joseph. Read this short four-part series about Mary and Joseph’s experience surrounding the birth and infancy of Jesus, excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown.
Part one: “An Angel Comes to Galilee”
Part two: “Mary”
Part three: “Joseph and Mary”
Part four: “Bethlehem and Beyond”

Come, Follow Me

Study Resources

Christmas

“We Have Waited for Him, and He Will Save Us”
December 19 to 25
Jesus Christ, his mission, and his Atonement are the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The message “We have waited for him, and he will save us” (Isaiah 25:8) gives hope to us in our day as we wait for the Messiah to return.

“A Precious and Powerful Witness of Jesus Christ,” John M. Madsen, Sperry Symposium Classics: The Old Testament, BYU Religious Studies Center 
The Old Testament bears testimony of Christ. Jesus Christ was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament. The prophecies and psalms indicate that salvation is found through this Jehovah, the Lord.

“Good Tidings for Christmas,” BYU New Testament Commentary
Here are twenty brief articles about Mary, Joseph, the infant Jesus, the wise men, and more that comment on the nativity account in Matthew and Luke.

“Types, Shadows, and Symbols of Christ Seen by the Church Fathers,” Alonzo L. Gaskill, The Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, BYU Religious Studies Center 
Early Christians and Church Fathers saw people in the Old Testament as foreshadows of Christ. Adam’s deep sleep foreshadows Christ’s death; when the Israelites drank water from the rock that Moses struck, it foreshadowed Christ on the cross and his blood. Moses’s hands outstretched as Joshua and men battled symbolized Christ’s arm outstretched on the cross.

“The Holy and the Jolly,” John S. Tanner, Notes from an Amateur: A Disciple’s Life in the Academy, BYU Religious Studies Center 
Christmastime is both sacred and festive. We worry that the fun overshadows the holiness, but Christmas reminds us that merriment, song, and good cheer belong within the precincts of heaven.

Mary and Joseph with young Jesus

We Are Responsible for Our Own Learning

December 26 to January 1
To follow Jesus, we need to understand what he taught and how he lived. These resources look at how Jesus lived (specifically Jesus forgiving the soldiers who put him to death), how we can be humble about our gospel learning, and the need for deep learning for all disciples.

“Becoming and Being a Disciple, Mathetes,” video by Eric D. Huntsman, BYU New Testament Commentary, conference 2019
A disciple is one who learns diligently and strives to become skilled like the teacher. The Gospels often refer to the disciples as devoted followers in Jesus’ close circle, but not always the twelve called as apostles. The Gospel of John focuses more on discipleship than the other Gospels do. For John, discipleship involves knowing, doing, and being.

“Jesus on Forgiveness, from Luke 23:34”, excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, New Testament Commentary, by S. Kent Brown.
Jesus’ example of pleading for forgiveness for the soldiers who crucified him (Luke 23:34) is certainly an example of Godly mercy. Jesus is clear in latter-day scripture (for example D&C 45:5) that forgiveness is extended to those who believe on his name. Is it also extended to these soldiers? Kent Brown writes, “Only he knows. Scripture shows us a door, and they need to turn the lock.” Read more on divine forgiveness as Luke records it.

“The Spirit and the Intellect: Lessons in Humility,” Duane Boyce, BYU Studies 50, no. 4
Some individuals have great confidence in their knowledge of both intellectual and spiritual things. Boyce does not share this confidence. “I have come to believe, after many a false start,” he admits, “that if I am honest and thorough in my approach to the gospel, and if I am honest and thorough in my approach to intellectual disciplines, there resides in each the imperative for a profound sense of humility. I discover in both of them that what we don’t know far outstrips what we do.” He then goes on to illustrate the limits of human knowledge by presenting three examples: Ludwig Wittgenstein, logical positivism, and the long theoretical debate in quantum physics between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. “These incidents from recent intellectual history,” writes Boyce, “suggest that significant intellectual matters are often less settled than the current orthodoxy implies, whatever that orthodoxy happens to be and in whatever field.” Even in spiritual matters, our current understanding may often be inadequate. “Beyond the certainties of the gospel,” Boyce concludes, “the only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility. Humility is endless.”

“Thy Mind, O Man, Must Stretch,” John W. Welch, BYU Studies 50, no. 3
Welch placed emphasis on hard work and keeping an open mind while searching for truth. Latter-day Saint thought thrives, he said, because it welcomes the idea that the world is fundamentally pluralistic: scriptures, priesthoods, worlds, revelations, covenants, even gods. Latter-day Saint thought also brings together rights and duties: with all rights come powers and privileges, and with powers and privileges come duties. Scholars have inherent duties to selflessly serve and teach others, unashamed of the gospel of Christ.


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