For many of us, we may recall Christmas Eve gathered with our family and reading over the words in the Biblical account of the Savior’s birth as recorded in the second chapter of Luke. This was my childhood. I love the story of the babe in Bethlehem wrapped in swaddling clothes; however, I feel that this story is lacking in the overall context of the Christmas story. I have often wanted more. I am not sure when it was, but I changed my Christmas Eve reading of Christmas stories from Luke 2 to 1 Nephi 11 in the Book of Mormon.
I feel that 1 Nephi 11 gives a greater context of not only the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ but also the reasons as to why He came to earth and the mission that He had to fulfill. This keeps my mind more rooted in the why of Christmas, not just the Who of it all. Christmas is so much more than merely a miraculous birth; it is the mortal entry of the King of kings to unlock the gate of eternity for us all.
Over 2500 years ago, there was a young man that was on his journey from Jerusalem through the wilderness. By consequence of a vision of his father, he desired to understand the deeper meaning of what his father saw. This young man was the, soon to be, prophet Nephi. He had acted on faith to follow his father Lehi’s counsel to leave the city of Jerusalem to be led in the wilderness to a promised land. While journeying in the wilderness, Lehi had a vision of a tree with a path leading through a mist of darkness and accompanied by a straight rod of iron. Each of these elements symbolized something, but Nephi was drawn mostly to the meaning of the tree.
Nephi longed to understand the meaning of the tree which his father had seen, so he went to God in humble prayer. It was through the course of his deep meditation and prayer that he was taken to the heights of a mountain to be alone and in the presence of God. Upon that mountain top, an angel of the Lord showed Nephi a glorious vision of the Son of God.
Nephi was witness to Mary being taken and then returning great with child and was told that this was the mother of the Son of God. He then beheld a baby in her arms and was told that this was Christ.
“And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!”(1 Nephi 11: 19-21)
Through this, Nephi recognized that the meaning of the tree that his father had seen was indeed the love of God. Seeing Christ come into the world as the Only Begotten of the Father, he was able to comprehend the grace that was divinely appointed in the Messiah.
He then saw the ministry, baptism, healing, scourging, and crucifixion of Jesus. Nephi saw what we all need to understand: Christmas is much more than a baby in a lowly stable.
The stable is an important part. The shepherds and wise men all play their roles. Ultimately, it means nothing if the work of Jesus was not completed in Gethsemane, Golgotha, and coming forth from the Garden Tomb. His entire life was a preparation and lesson. It was to culminate in the completion of an infinite and eternal sacrifice.
God loves each of us and desires us to regain His presence. This is only possible through the divine grace of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus the Messiah, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Christ, the Babe in Bethlehem, our Advocate and Mediator. He paid the price so that we do not have to. He lifts us and will ultimately exalt us if we choose to accept Him and obey Him. Let us celebrate this beauty this Christmas!