Sunday, December 9, 2012

CHRISTMAS IS... (2012 RS musical Christmas program)

Last year in Relief Society around Christmas time, we had a musical program. They asked me if I would speak in between musical numbers and announce each song. We did the same again this year and again they asked if I would speak and announce. Sister Jones organized the music and I put together the program for in between songs. It went really well, so I thought that I'd post it all here. I took most of the material from the Christmas Devotionals from 2009-2012. I also linked the songs to similar songs on YouTube.
(Christmas Devotionals archive 2009-2001, 2012)


On the blackboard I had written- CHRISTMAS IS...
Under it I began with: A Story of Love

The story of Christmas is a story of love.
We heard the story first before the world was created. Heavenly Father told us of His plan of happiness for all of us, His beloved children.
Out of love He would let us come down from His royal courts to live in a world where we would be free to choose to come home again to Him. He said that because of temptations and because it would be so hard for us always to choose the right, that we would need a Savior. We would all need power beyond our own to be rescued from death and from sin.
Jehovah, out of His great love for the Father and for us, volunteered to come down from His exalted place as the perfect Firstborn in the spirit world to face the trials we would face and to save us if we loved Him enough to keep the commandments He would give us. At the heart of those commandments, we were to love the Father and His son and all of God’s other children. Hearing that story so filled our hearts with love for the Father and His Son that we shouted for joy and worshipped them.
Many have told since of the glorious time in that story when the Christ child is born to rescue and lead us home. Of the inspired accounts, the ones we treasure most help us feel again the tender love and care of the Father, and of His Beloved Son, for all of us, and especially for the least of us.
That is one of the reasons we love Luke’s story of the birth of Jesus. Each time we hear it we can feel again the love of our Father for us and for all His children. Each detail of the story makes real for us the message of love.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, wraps her firstborn child tenderly and lays Him in a manger. God sends angels in glorious light to announce to humble shepherds that the long-promised Messiah is born. And Luke tells us that choirs of angels were sent to celebrate this greatest of gifts from a loving Heavenly Father to His children. The words of Luke seem almost to bring to our minds and hearts the memory of the sound of angelic music:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
The story of Christmas given to us by Luke creates feelings of peace and goodwill, just as the angel choir promised. Every inspired account of the birth of Jesus has that power.
The great prophet Isaiah wrote of the Christ child hundreds of years before He was born in a stable. He knew that Christ would be born to save us and to become the King of kings:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Mercedez Fernandez sang a-cappella Silent Night


Next I wrote: About the Christ

 In these precious moments we realize what we feel and know in our heart—that Christmas is really about the Christ.
 … We, like the Wise Men of old, should seek the Christ and lay before Him the most precious of gifts: a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We should offer Him our love. We should give Him our willingness to take upon ourselves His name and walk in the path of discipleship. We should promise to remember Him always, to emulate His example, and to go about doing good.
… And what are the Savior’s gifts to those who are willing to bring these gifts to Him? This may be the most one-sided gift exchange in the history of the universe. The Savior’s gifts to us are breathtaking. 
Let us begin with immortality. Because the Savior overcame death, all men and women—both the just and the unjust—will live forever.
Then, forgiveness—even though our sins and imperfections be as scarlet, they can become white as snow because of Him.
And finally, eternal life—the greatest gift of all. Because of the Atonement of Christ, not only are we guaranteed an infinite quantity of life, but He offers the possibility of an unimaginable quality of life as well.
 Some of His divine gifts are reserved for that glorious future day when we return to His presence.
But He extends many gifts and His grace to us every day. He promises to be with us, to come to us when we need comfort, to lift us when we stumble, to carry us if needed, to mourn and rejoice with us. Every day He offers to take us by the hand and help transform ordinary life into extraordinary spiritual experiences.

Holly Platt sang Mary’s Lullaby
(accomp Tomie Brown)


Then I wrote: Giving

Christmas is giving.

At Christmastime we talk a lot about giving. And we all know that “it is more blessed to give than to receive,” but I wonder if sometimes we disregard or even disparage the importance of being a good receiver.

… Every gift that is offered to us—especially a gift that comes from the heart—is an opportunity to build or strengthen a bond of love. When we are good and grateful receivers, we open a door to deepen our relationship with the giver of the gift. But when we fail to appreciate or even reject a gift, we not only hurt those who extend themselves to us, but in some way we harm ourselves as well.

The Savior taught that unless we “become as little children, [we] shall not enter … the kingdom of heaven.”

As we watch the excitement and wonder of children at this time of the year, perhaps we can remind ourselves to rediscover and reclaim a precious and glorious attribute of children—the ability to receive graciously and with gratitude.

… I hope that this Christmas and every day of the year we will consider, in particular, the many gifts we have been given by our loving Heavenly Father. I hope we will receive these gifts with the wonder, thankfulness, and excitement of a child.

… Whether we have experienced 9 Christmases or 90, still we are all children—we are all children of our Heavenly Father.

Therefore, we have it within us to experience this Christmas season with the wonder and the awe of a child. We have it within us to say, “My heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God”—the Giver of all good gifts.

With you, and with all those who desire to follow the gentle Christ, I lift my voice in praise of our mighty God for the precious gift of His Son.

This Christmas season and always, I pray that we will see the marvelous gift of the birth of the Son of God through the blessed eyes of a child.

Madi Brown played The First Noel


Then I wrote: Light

Christmas is light.

One of the most beautiful symbols of the birth of Jesus Christ into this world is light. The appearance of the long-promised Messiah brought light to a darkened world.

… It was light and angels that gave guidance to those blessed to be a part of those transcendent events. The Wise Men were directed by a star to Jesus to worship Him.

President Thomas S. Monson implored: As the Christmas Season envelops us with all its glory, may we, as did the Wise Men, seek a bright, particular star to guide us to our Christmas opportunity in service to our fellowman. May we all make the journey to Bethlehem in spirit, taking with us a tender, caring heart as our gift to the Savior.

Tiff and Justin Jones sang Shine for Me Again Star of Bethlehem
(accomp Tomie Brown)


Next I added: Love

Christmas is love.

Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done, nor is it found in the purchasing of gifts. We find real joy when we make the Savior the focus of the season. We can keep Him in our thoughts and in our lives as we go about the work He would have us perform here on earth. At this time, particularly, let us follow His example as we love and serve our fellowman.

True love is a reflection of the Savior’s love. In December of each year we call it the Christmas spirit. You can hear it. You can see it. You can feel it.

President David O. McKay said: “True happiness comes only by making others happy. … The [spirit of] Christmas … makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service. It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ. It is the time to love the Lord, our God, with all out heart – and our neighbors as ourselves. It is well to remember that he who gives money gives much; he who gives time gives more; but he who gives of himself gives all.

… It is the time we realize most deeply that the more love is expended, the more there is of it for others.

Mili Teske signed to the song Mary Did You Know


Next I wrote: For All Mankind

Christmas is for all mankind.

Every year when I was a kid, my dad used to recite a Christmas poem. I haven't thought of it for years, but the other day when I was putting this program together, that poem came to mind. I called him to ask him what it was called. He said that he had just recited it again to my mom that day...

This popular, beloved poem by Helen Steiner Rice appeared years ago in the book, Christmas Blessings. The story of The Christmas Guest was a folktale attributed to Father Martin. It was written originally by Ruben Salliens and retold by Leo Tolstoy. Helen's Grandmother Beiri often related the story to Helen as a young child. Helen adapted the story and expressed it in poetic form. She titled it "The Story of The Christmas Guest."

The Story of The Christmas Guest
Helen Steiner Rice
It happened one day at the year's white end, 

Two neighbors called on an old-time friend

And they found his shop so meager and mean,

Made gay with a thousand boughs of green,
And Conrad was sitting with face a-shine

When he suddenly stopped as he stitched a twine
And said, "Old friends, at dawn today,

When the cock was crowing the night away,
The Lord appeared in a dream to me

And said, 'I am coming your guest to be'.
So I've been busy with feet astir,

Strewing my shop with branches of fir,
The table is spread and the kettle is shined

And over the rafters the holly is twined,
And now I will wait for my Lord to appear

And listen closely so I will hear
His step as He nears my humble place,

And I open the door and look in His face. . ."
So his friends went home and left Conrad alone,

For this was the happiest day he had known,

For, long since, his family had passed away

And Conrad has spent a sad Christmas Day.
But he knew with the Lord as his Christmas guest

This Christmas would be the dearest and best,
And he listened with only joy in his heart.

And with every sound he would rise with a start
And look for the Lord to be standing there

In answer to his earnest prayer
So he ran to the window after hearing a sound,

But all that he saw on the snow-covered ground

Was a shabby beggar whose shoes were torn

And all of his clothes were ragged and worn.
So Conrad was touched and went to the door

And he said, "Your feet must be frozen and sore,
And I have some shoes in my shop for you

And a coat that will keep you warmer, too."
So with grateful heart the man went away,

But as Conrad noticed the time of day
He wondered what made the dear Lord so late

And how much longer he'd have to wait,
When he heard a knock and ran to the door,

But it was only a stranger once more,

A bent, old crone with a shawl of black,

A bundle of faggots piled on her back.
She asked for only a place to rest,

But that was reserved for Conrad's Great Guest.
But her voice seemed to plead, "Don't send me away

Let me rest awhile on Christmas day."
So Conrad brewed her a steaming cup

And told her to sit at the table and sip.
But after she left he was filled with dismay

For he saw that the hours were passing away
And the Lord had not come as He said He would,

And Conrad felt sure he had misunderstood.
When out of the stillness he heard a cry,

"Please help me and tell me where am I."

So again he opened his friendly door

And stood disappointed as twice before,
It was only a child who had wandered away

And was lost from her family on Christmas Day. .
Again Conrad's heart was heavy and sad,

But he knew he should make this little child glad,
So he called her in and wiped her tears

And quieted her childish fears.
Then he led her back to her home once more

But as he entered his own darkened door,
He knew that the Lord was not coming today

For the hours of Christmas had passed away.

So he went to his room and knelt down to pray

And he said, "Dear Lord, why did you delay,
What kept You from coming to call on me,

For I wanted so much Your face to see. . ."
When soft in the silence a voice he heard,

"Lift up your head for I kept My word--
Three times My shadow crossed your floor--

Three times I came to your lonely door--
For I was the beggar with bruised, cold feet,

I was the woman you gave to eat,

And I was the child on the homeless street."
Of all the gifts, love is the best.

I was honored to be your Christmas guest.
Kylie Slawson played piano I Know That My RedeemerLives


Last I added to the board: That We May All Live With Him Again

Christmas is that we may all live with Him again.

I ended the program with the scriptures found in John 3:16-17

“For God so loved the word, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

When I reread everything that I had written on the board it said:

Christmas is...
...a story of love,
...about the Christ
...light [and] all mankind,
...that we may live with Him again.

(To be completely honest, that part was serendipitous. But it was perfect and beautiful and inspired, although unbeknownst to me before hand.)

The story Christmas really is a story of love, about the Christ giving light and love to all mankind, that we may live with Him again. I wish you all a very, very, merry Christmas season!