Keeping Christmas in Your Heart by John Bytheway | Digital Firesides Clips | Our Turtle House – powered by Happy Scribe
Keeping Christmas in your heart. We like to keep it all around us in our house. And you know how that is. You put decorations up there’s just a feeling. So much of Christmas is a feeling, and we love that at our house.
And I just want to talk about some of the things that we see around our place. Underneath our Christmas tree, there is a train. Christmases and trains kind of go together. In fact, I was looking at a pile of books we have under our tree. This is the one by President Mormon called The Christmas Train a true story from President Thomas S.
Monson’s childhood, where he actually I mean, there’s a line in here where he says, this is when giving replaced receiving. In my heart, I mean, you got to hear that story about what happened. And also, Sister Bonnie Corden, just a few weeks ago at the First Presidency, christmas Devotional told a story about a train that her father during, I think, World War II, during those hard times, christmas train involving her father. You can go to Church of Jesus Christ.org and watch that devotional. Well, we have a train, too, under my tree.
This is the train right here. And I want to show you when I got this train, my parents were great, but they taught us, you got to take care of your toys. You don’t leave them outside in the weather. You don’t leave them in the dirt outside. You put them back in the box.
This is my hitch and switch train, which I still have, as you can see. 1967, the date of manufacture. This train is 55 years old. I still have it still works. And there’s my name.
I scrawled on the box, there Johnny. And this train runs around our Christmas tree. I found one on ebay. Just I was curious and looked to see if you could buy one. Look, it was $1,850.
But of course, this one’s still in the box. Sealed, rare and antique. These are adjectives which Hank has used to describe me on different occasions. Vintage, rare, antique, and of course, I’m sealed to my wife, which I’m happy to be. It always reminds me of a parable I heard years ago.
You may remember that. I can’t remember how long ago, but within the last ten years, I think every year the youth have a theme, a scriptural theme for the year in 2022. Its trust in the Lord with all thine heart. An Old Testament verse. But back then it was a Doctrine of Covenants year OE that embark in the service of your God.
And I looked up embark and I discovered something. I don’t know. This kind of thing is fun for me. It only appears one time in the entire Standard Works doctrine and Covenant, section four, verse two. OE that embark in the service of your God.
Now, when I looked it up, it talked about boarding a ship or an aircraft or an airplane for a journey. And I got a sense of that word. It’s kind of the idea that to embark means to get fully on board. If you sort of embark on a train and it leaves, that could cause great physical discomfort. You get on an air, you sort of get on an airplane and it leaves.
Yeah, that’s bad. You got to fully embark both feet in. And I remembered somebody talking about a train and because we have search engines, I found it. So this talk was given by Elder Glenn Pace in 1992. October conference.
There’s the Ensign reference and it was called Spiritual Revival and it’s only a few paragraphs and I wanted to use this in something I was going to record. And Desiree book told me. Well, you have to call Elder Pace. You can’t just use that whole thing without permission. And I said, Well, I’m sure he’s in your rolodex, I don’t know his number.
And they gave it to me and I called Elder Pace and he was so delightful, he said, oh, I’d be delighted if you use that. So here it is. I memorized it. He said, It is as if we are passengers on the train of the church, which has been moving forward gradually and methodically. Sometimes we’ve looked out the window and thought, that looks kind of fun out there.
So we have left the train, in other words, disembarked and gone out and played in the woods for a while. Sooner or later we discover it isn’t as much fun as Satan makes it appear or we get critically injured. So with a determined sprint, we make our way back to the tracks, catch up to the train, wipe our brow from the perspiration and thank the Lord for repentance. While on the train, Elder Pace continued, we can see the world and sometimes this is the hard part. Some of our own members outside laughing and having a good time.
They taunt us and coax us to get off. Some run ahead of the train and too often take a wrong turn. Some throw logs and rocks on the tracks to try to derail it. Some run alongside the train, alongside the train. And while they may never go play in the woods, they just can’t seem to get on the train.
And then he said, I would suggest the luxury of getting on and off the train as we please is fading. The speed of the train is increasing. Has anyone noticed that? We call it hasten my work. The speed of the train is increasing.
The woods are getting much too dark and dangerous and the fog is closing in. Well, I just thought that’s brilliant. Don’t disembark, get on the train. Because this train with all of its imperfections and creeks and stops and smoke and cinders and all that, it’s going to reach its destination. So get on the train.
And then, you know, and I know there was another book came out called Polar Express and Chris Van Allsburg That Does, these beautiful children’s books, beautifully illustrated. Somebody decided we got to make a movie out of that. So they did. And I was watching Polar Express with my kids, and as a teacher, it’s an occupational hazard. I look for powerful moments that I might use somewhere in something I’m teaching.
Well, you remember this boy. He can’t decide if he believes. Listen with your spiritual ears. Kind of merge these two stories together, this parable about the train and Polar Express. And he hears a big noise outside.
He puts on his slippers, he goes outside and there’s this big train sitting there and he hears, all aboard. He can’t see where it came from. There’s some mist and fog and snow, but he hears, all aboard. And he just stands there. All aboard.
Another word for embark. He hears it again, all aboard. And he just stands there. And then this face comes walking out of the fog and he looks just like Tom Hanks. In fact, half the cast of the movie look like Tom Hanks.
Yeah, there he is. And even Santa Claus look like Tom Hanks. And I thought I saw Santa Claus at the mall. He doesn’t look like Tom Hanks, but in the movie, the conductor looks like Tom Hanks, of course. And he bends over and says, the best line in the whole movie.
I think he said, It sounds to me like this is your crucial year. If I were you, I would think about climbing on board. And I thought, that’s the best line in the whole movie. I love that I got to use that in a talk someday. So I just did.
But there’s that idea of embarking, of getting on board, and it is crucial, especially as the speed of the train is increasing and the woods are getting dark and dangerous moving around in our living room underneath the tree. We also have in the table in front of the tree, a nativity scene. It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. My wife found this.
She said, our nativity scene has to rival the beauty or exceed the beauty of the Christmas tree because this is what it’s all about. The Messiah in the manger, right? And you may be looking at that and thinking, Where did you get that? Was that from Germany or Denmark or Austria or something? No, it was from Costco.
But anyway, that’s our nativity scene. And every one of those characters can teach us things. As we zoom in a little bit, let’s talk about some joseph knew what was coming. He had been visited by the angels of Lord in a dream. Mary knew what was coming.
She had been visited by an angel as well. Of course, Jesus knew he was coming. What can they teach us? I love what Elder Holland said about Joseph. He said, Joseph’s magnificent but virtually unknown.
Foster father. Not a lot about him that we know was a humble carpenter by trade, who taught us, among other things, that quiet, plain, unpretentious people have moved this majestic work forward from the very beginning and still do so today. Listen to this part if you are serving almost anonymously, don’t know what calling you have, what you do, maybe you’re a very behind the scenes type of person. Please know that so too did one of the best men who has ever lived on this earth. Wow.
Thank you for saying that. If you have one of those callings or one of those positions that you think nobody knows what I do, nobody cares. Well, so did one of the best men who’s ever lived on this earth. We look at Mary. Elder Gerald N.
Lund wrote about Mary and said that her contribution to the Church and the work of Jesus Christ may be more lasting than most people realize. She contributed to the training of her son Jesus. Her knowledge of the Scriptures was thorough. How do we know that? Well, after Gabriel visited her and she gave her consent and said, behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it according to thy will.
She said, My soul doth magnify the Lord. And they call this the magnificot. See that reference? Luke 146 through 45. Go read that and read the things that Mary said.
And you may notice you may not have known this I didn’t that many of the things she said were echoing numerous passages in the Old Testament. And Mary was probably a teenager, probably one of the young on the younger side of being a teenager. But this young woman knew her scriptures. Elder Bruce Moroni said, we cannot but think that Heavenly Father chose his greatest female spirit to be the mother of his son. So we can learn that from Mary.
But what about the shepherds? I love talking about the shepherds because they didn’t know what was coming. They learned it in real time. When we read, we know that Mary brought forth her first born son, caught him clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And in the next verse it says there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
This verse makes sense without the word abiding. There were shepherds in the field, but they were abiding. I hadn’t really noticed that word before, but I looked it up. To abide means to continue without fading, to remain, to survive, to last, to persist, to stay, to hold on. About 90 90 to 1997, the first counselor in the General Lisa Society presidency was a wonderful, dynamic, brilliant sister named Chiko Okazaki.
And Chiko Okazaki made this observation about these shepherds in her book called Stars, all about Christmas. Chiefo Okazaki Sister Okazaki said this about those shepherds I hope we can all feel the strength of abiding. It’s a great word of abiding in our fields, even when they seem cold and dark. Remember, the shepherds abiding in their fields, keeping watch over their flocks. And we can all ask, what are the fields and flocks that I have?
And how has the Lord asked me to abide in them? Sister O Kazaki continued, in fact, let me say it again. I hope we can all feel the strength of abiding in our fields, even when they seem cold and dark. Let’s be where we are supposed to be so that angels can find us. Let’s abide so that angels can find us.
Now, at the end of the Book of Luke, when the disciples, a couple of them, are on the road to Emmaus, they’re walking along, the resurrected Jesus comes alongside, and he’s been resurrected, but he’s incognito. They don’t know Him in this case. And he says, what are these? Communications? You have one with another, which are sad.
And they say, have you a stranger in Jerusalem? Haven’t you heard about this Jesus of a Nazareth? And we had hoped he would be the one that would deliver Israel. And Jesus says, Ought not Christ to have suffered these things? And they have a wonderful conversation in Luke 24.
And then these disciples say, Abide with us, for it is toward evening. Will you stay with us? We wrote to Him about that. Abide with me, to his even tide. And Jesus does, he breaks bread with Him, and then he just kind of vanished.
I think that’s the exact words, Luke two uses he vanished and they said the coolest thing. They said, did not our hearts burn within us as he talked with us, by the way? That’s why we like it in our family, because it ends with the words, by the way. But they wanted Him to abide with them. Today we can’t go to the manger like the shepherds did, but we can go to the sacrament table.
And at the sacrament table, we promise to abide with Christ. We promise that we’re willing to take upon us the name of Christ, to always remember Him, to keep his commandments, which he has given us, and then listen to the Savior’s promise that they may always have his spirit. The priest says his Spirit to be with us. He promises to abide with us, to always abide with us, we never have to be alone. That’s a beautiful promise that he gives us.
Remember how it says that take upon them the name of thy Son, that they may always have his spirit to be with them, so the Spirit of Christ can be with us. Notice this statement of President Monsoon. To catch the real meaning of the Spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable and it becomes the Spirit of Christ. Spirit of Christmas is the spirit of Christ. Elder Neil A.
Maxwell said, the larger Christmas story is clearly not over. It is not solely about some other time, some other place, some other people. It is still unfolding, and we are in it. There’s hard times, and a lot of us have them. Yeah, Christmas is clearly not over.
We love reliving it. And maybe it’s because of our hard times that we love that promise that Christmas brings. There are still Herods out there trying to destroy our children, and now they have social media. But thankfully, there are still wise men and wise women who know how to follow the light. And there are still people who abide where they’re supposed to be in their fields, over their flocks.
And you can call it what you want. Stay on the covenant path. Embark. Get on the train. Be where you’re supposed to be.
But that’s the invitation to abide with the Savior. President Nelson a couple of months ago said, my dear brothers and sisters, so many wonderful things are ahead. We can remember this when things are hard, in coming days, we will see. Listen to these strong words, the greatest manifestations of the Savior’s power that the world has ever seen. Those italics.
Those words in italics are in italics. If you go to Church of Jesus Christ.org and find a talk, that is President Nelson’s emphasis the greatest manifestations of the Savior’s power the world has ever seen. Between now and the time he returns, with power and great glory, he will bestow countless privileges, blessings, and miracles upon the faithful. So the spirit of Christmas is the spirit of Christ. He wants to abide with us.
He invites us to come to the sacrament table. And even though things are hard and family relationships can be hard, physical trials can be hard, the world situations can be hard, the promise of glad tidings, of great joy continues because of the Savior. And I hope we can keep that in our hearts this Christmas. And I say that in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.