mercy

Our family travelled to Orleans to celebrate Christmas a couple of weekends ago.  Sunday the 16th, at Chapel Hill Ward I appreciated a marvelous talk by Brother George Piper, Stake High Councillor. He kindly assented for it to be posted and shared with you.

In here are sweet morsels of truth. I’ve bolded my favorites along with highlighting each of the gifts listed. If you would like to ponder and enjoy the whole of George’s talk, please click here.

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“There is a simple theory. When you’re on the receiving end, you will discover three things in the great gift giver: he felt what you felt and was touched; he gave freely; and he counted sacrifice a bargain.

(Now you can see it won’t be easy to use this theory to make big strides in your gift giving this Christmas. It will take some practice, more than one holiday, to learn how to feel and be touched by what’s inside others. And giving freely and counting sacrifice as joy will take a while.

But you could start this Christmas being a good receiver. You might notice and you might appreciate. You have the power to make others great gift givers by what you notice. You could make any gift better by what you choose to see, and you could, by failing to notice, make any gift a failure.)

Gift giving takes a giver and a receiver. I hope we use our little theory, not to criticize the gifts and giving that come our way this year, but to see how often our hearts are understood and gifts given joyfully, even with sacrifice.” Henry B. Eyring (BYU Devotional,  Dec 9, 1980)

Here is my list of 15 Christmas Gifts we might overlook or neglect to fully appreciate. And by so doing we might fail to rejoice in Him who is the giver of these Gifts, even Jesus Christ.

Please remember that this list is by no means exhaustive or all-inclusive. I hope you’ll begin your own list this very day of the gifts you are truly grateful for that have come to you through your Heavenly Father and His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ and/or through His atonement.

I hope you’ll consider President Eyring’s three qualities of a great gift giver and how they apply to each gift.

1.      He felt what you felt and was touched

2.      He gave freely

3.      He counted sacrifice a bargain

“And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.

For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” Doctrine and Covenants 88:32-33

Unconditional or Universal Gifts

The first six gifts are unconditional or universal gifts that are free to all whether they believe in Jesus Christ and live His teachings or not.

1)      The gift of the resurrection: to rise from the dead with a perfected, immortal body. All physical, emotional and developmental disabilities will be healed or removed in the resurrection; we will be restored to perfect eternal health.

“The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.” Alma 11:43

2)      Closely connected to the resurrection is the gift of preservation of human intelligence and identity.

“Death is not the permanent annihilation of the human personality and individuality!  President Brigham Young wisely declared that the preservation of human intelligence and individuality through the atonement and resurrection ‘is the greatest gift that ever was bestowed on mankind’”. – Virginia Pearce, Through His Eyes

Until I read that quote I wasn’t fully aware of this tremendous gift.

3)      The gift of being judged by Jesus. All will be resurrected and at least temporarily be able to stand in the presence of Jesus to be judged by Him.

“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” John 5:22

4)      The gift of individual accountability. All men will be punished for their own sins but not for the sins of another. Clearly this gift flows out of the atonement.

(One of the) “unconditional blessing(s) of the atonement is expressed in our second article of faith: ‘we believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.’

Although each of us is certainly influenced by the fall of Adam (that is we all experience pain, suffering, sickness, and death), the infinite mercy of Christ prevents us from being punished for Adam’s transgression or the sins of anyone else.  We may suffer because of the sins of another, but that suffering does not occur as a punishment imposed by God.  For God to punish one person for the sins of another would not be just.  – Kent R Brooks, Sperry Symposium Classics, The New Testament, page 165

5)      The gift of a perfect example in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ during His time here on our earth.

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps” 1 Peter 2:21

6)      The gift of Christ being able and eager to ‘succor’ us in our hour of need.

“Elder Jeffrey R Holland noted “the word succor literally means “to run to”...Even as he calls us to come to him and follow him, he is unfailingly running to help us.”  Such is the love of the Good Shepherd.

As John so beautifully recorded:angels-singing-1

“The sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out…And…he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (John 10:3-4).

Jesus understands perfectly every feeling, every temptation, every pain, every weakness, every sickness, every infirmity, and every difficulty known to man. He knows us. He loves us. He desires to help us.  And “that teacher come from God” (John 3:2) can enable us to do all things, if we will but let him.” Kent R Brooks article, ibid, page 172

“And He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith He will take upon Him the pains and the sicknesses of His people. And He will take upon Him death, that He may loose the bands of death which bind His people; and He will take upon Him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that He may know according to the flesh how to succor His people according to their infirmities.” Alma 7:11-12 

Freely Available Gifts with Requirements

The last nine gifts are freely available to all but require us to ask, seek, live for, and do something to fully receive them.

7)      The Gift of Faith in Jesus Christ and the opportunity to be able to pray in the name of Jesus Christ and receive according to our faith. Jesus is our mediator and our advocate with Our Heavenly Father. God Our Heavenly Father honours what Jesus asks for.  Jesus asks our Heavenly Father in our behalf, for whatever we have asked God for, that is righteous, with faith in Jesus’ name.

“And after that He came men also were saved by faith in His name; and by faith, they become the sons of God. And as surely as Christ liveth He spake these words unto our fathers, saying: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you.” Moroni 7:26 (BOM) 

8)      The gift of repentance and the ability to “re-turn” to God. 

“O ye house of Israel whom I have spared, how oft will gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart.” 3 Ne. 10:6 (B0M)

9)      The gift of baptism and the opportunity for spiritual rebirth with Christ as our father.

“Behold, I am He who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.” Ether 3:14 (BOM)

Connected with this choice gift is the gift of forgiveness of our sins.

“Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” Doctrine & Covenants 58:42

Also note the relief that can come to us when we forgive others with the Saviour’s help who have injured us.  (See Doctrine & Covenants 64:9-11)

10)   The gift of the new commandments that the Saviour gave us during his ministry that superseded the schoolmasterly Mosaic Law, and the connected opportunity He offers us to obey them and be blessed.  We are blessed by obedience in two ways:

i.  We are freed from the future consequences of sin

ii. We become eligible for the specific blessings promised by the Father and connected to each commandment.

11)  The gift of mercy is clearly extended to us through the Saviour’s atonement to those with a broken heart and a contrite spirit who have entered into a covenant relationship with him and the Father.

“President J. Reuben Clark Jr. said “I believe that our Heavenly Father wants to save every one of his children….I believe that in His justice and mercy He will give us the maximum reward for our acts, give us all that He can give, and in the reverse, I believe that He will impose upon us the minimum penalty which it is possible for Him to impose.”  Kent R. Brooks, article, page 167

“A sense of falling short or falling down is not only natural but essential to the mortal experience… The Saviour’s victory can compensate not only for our sins but also for our inadequacies; not only for our deliberate mistakes but also for our sins committed in ignorance, our errors of judgement, and our unavoidable imperfections.

ShepherdsHe gives us strength enough to rescue us [and] warmth enough to tell us that home is not far away… 

Sometimes we talk about how important it is to be on the Lord’s side.  Perhaps we should talk more about how important it is that the Lord is on our side.” (Bruce C Hafen quote on page 173 of Kent R Brooks article)

12)   The gift of temple covenants, temple work, and the redemption of our deceased ancestors.

“From Adam to the time of Jesus, ordinances were performed in temples for the living only. After Jesus opened the way for the gospel to be preached in the world of spirits, ceremonial work for the dead, as well as for the living, has been done in temples on the earth by faithful members of the Church. Building and properly using a temple is one of the marks of the true Church in any dispensation, and is especially so in the present day.” – “Temple” in LDS Bible Dictionary

13)   The gift of the pure love of Christ – to experience it or be a recipient of it. 

“ I believe that I am a child of God—that I am His spirit daughter, precious in His sight, known completely, and loved beyond human comprehension.” Virginia Pearce, “Through His Eyes

 “But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in Him, and serve Him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, He will, according to His own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.”  Mosiah 7:33 

14)   The gift of eternal life and the promise of perfection.  This is exaltation or life in the presence of God.

“And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.”  Doctrine & Covenants 14:7 

 “If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.

“Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life and godhood.

“Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, longsuffering, and self-mastery.”Spencer W Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, Deseret Book Co., 1973, pp. 97–98.)

15)   The gift of the Holy Ghost, the promised companionship of the third member of the Godhead and the invitation to seek revelation as we travel through mortality 

Jesus promised He would not leave us comfortless and He didn’t.

“The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life” Sister Julie B. Beck

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you.”  John 14:26

I pray that at this beautiful Christmas season you will reflect quietly on the wondrous gifts we have each been given and how our Heavenly Father and also our Saviour Jesus Christ would want us to acknowledge these gifts and utilize them in our daily lives.

I conclude with gratitude for the Christmas gifts Jesus Christ and Our Heavenly Father have freely given us and my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and its restoration in these the latter-days. Also I leave a challenge with each of you to remember the tremendous blessings we have been given at Christmas and always.

No wonder the angels could not be restrained from singing their anthems of praise at the birth of Jesus.  No wonder shepherds left their flocks (sheep destined for temple alters) to come adore the new born babe in Bethlehem. No wonder wise wise menmen travelled great distances to lay their humble gifts at the feet of a baby king who gave them gifts transcending every need or eternal soul felt desire.

Always remember, “He felt what you felt and was touched; He gave freely; and He counted sacrifice a bargain.”  Jesus was, and is, the perfect gift Giver.  

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

What gifts are you truly grateful for that have come to you through your Heavenly Father and His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ and/or through His atonement?