“The Desires of My Heart,” Painting by Walter Rane, see his website here. He has some touching work on images from the scriptures
Nephi, an ancient American prophet who lived in the Americas six centuries before the birth of the Savior relied upon recorded prophecies of Isaiah to persuade his family and his people to believe in Jesus Christ (see the first two books in THE BOOK OF MORMON: ANOTHER TESTAMENT OF JESUS CHRIST; particularly, 1 Nephi 19:23). Isaiah spoke and wrote proficiently of the coming of Jesus Christ and His second advent. Isaiah saw the pre-mortal Savior sitting upon a throne in an extremely intimate vision. In this sacred encounter with the Savior, Isaiah was called to prophesy and declare redemption through Christ (see Isaiah 6). This he did faithfully.
As Isaiah was to Nephi, so Joseph Smith is to us.
Joseph Smith spoke and testified of the reality of Jesus Christ’s first coming, but more importantly, His station as a resurrected glorified being described beautifully in New Testament accounts. Joseph didn’t only emphasize the importance of the Savior’s birth but the “acts of the resurrected Christ working through the Holy Spirit in the lives and ministries of His ordained apostles” (read Acts 1:1-2; see also, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, CES New Testament Conference, August 8, 2000).
The message of Christmas is that Christ is still working in the lives of His Father’s children, especially those who would have him be their God. He works institutionally through modern day prophets and personally to each individual.
Joseph Smith put forth in a sermon one day that 1 Corinthians 12:3, which reads “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” should be rendered “No man can know that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (a very important insight). Many are willing to say Jesus Christ is Lord, but far fewer seek to know Him by cultivating experiences with Him. A substantial correction when you consider the Lord’s words in Mark 1:24 and one of his disciples in James 2:19. The devils also say he is the Christ.
The Savior emphasized “knowing” when he offered His intercessory prayer to the Father. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent. (John 17:3). “Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach Him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer,” Joseph Smith stated. “When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us” (see King Follett discourse).
How does one come to know Jesus Christ? How does one come to know Father? What are the blessings granted when one does? Something to sincerely think about this Christmas season.
It is true that Joseph Smith’s first declared visitation (1820) of the Father and the Son was a solo experience. He alone, at the age of fourteen, beheld “two personages, whose brightness and glory [defied] all description… and they did in reality speak to [him] (Joseph Smith-History 1:17 25). Subsequent experiences with the Savior included multiple witnesses. Recall the experience he had with Sidney Rigdon in 1832. They both left on record in the Church’s revelations:
We saw him, even on the right hand of god, and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—that by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:23-24).
Four years later He and Oliver Cowdery recorded a simultaneous experience in the Kirtland Temple (Ohio):
The veil was taken from our minds and the eyes of our understanding were opened. We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber. His eyes were as flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters” (D&C 110:1-3).
A penetrating description that goes far beyond “a babe in a manager.” It seems obvious, (to me at least), that the world has reduced the Christmas message to a misunderstanding of the eternal significance of the “babe in a manger.” The Savior grew in “wisdom and stature, and in favour with God” (Luke 2:52). Do we contemplate His fine example of being about His Father’s business by the age of twelve and that his teenage and adult life was one of complete obedience. A life that pleased the Father (see Luke 2:49 and John 8:29). Are we appreciative that He is a glorified, resurrected being, and able to grant mercy and grace to those who sincerely seek after him day by day?
As we live month to month and holiday to holiday we must not forget that the Lord’s calendar is from everlasting to everlasting. Which is why we must guard against self-absorption and evil practices day by day. We must seriously consider our conduct before, during, and after our business and family Christmas gatherings.
Joseph Smith’s optimism and witness remind us: “The commandments of our Lord, we hope are constantly revolving in your heart, teaching you….His meekness and perfect walk before all…Remember…that He has called you unto holiness; and need we say, to be like Him in purity? How wise, how holy; how chaste, and how perfect, then, you ought to conduct yourselves in His sight; and remember, too, that His eyes are continually upon you.”
Perhaps something to think about as we casts our eyes upon illustrations and depictions of His birth.