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Richard Davis: The lessons of Christmas today

The Nativity scene at the Grotto in Portland OR.
The Nativity scene at the Grotto in Portland OR.
Adobe stock photo

Christmas is a special time when people think of giving gifts to others, slowing down to celebrate the season, and even helping those in need. For devout Christians, Christmas has another meaning as well. It is the celebration of the birth of Christ. However, I also cannot think of Christmas without pondering the mission of Jesus Christ, which includes not only his birth but also his teachings, healings, comforting, Atonement, death and Resurrection.

The New Testament Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — recount the life of Christ. They relate his birth in humble circumstances — his first dwelling place was a campground and his crib was a manger. His father, Joseph, was no royal or noble; he was a carpenter. He grew up in ordinary surroundings, not in a castle or palace.

His ministry was brief. But during that time he healed many who were brought to him or yelled out to him from the sidelines to help them, as well as those who were quieter, but also in need. He stopped to hear their pleas, observe their plights and bless their lives.

He was not busy with appointments with important people in big offices. Wherever he was going, he exemplified the notion that the most important things in our lives are often those events that occur while we are on the way to something that is not as essential as we think. He stopped to teach a woman at a well, to heal a man at a spring, and to raise a son from the dead. The Pharisees could only concentrate on whether the day was the Sabbath. Jesus focused on the child of God in need.

Unlike people today, he was not interested in image. His appearance did not separate him in a crowd. In fact, Isaiah prophesied “… there is no beauty that we should desire him.” He did not look like an important person wearing that day’s equivalent of a tailored suit, silk tie and Gucci shoes. He wore a simple robe that, by the end of his life, appeared to be his only possession.

He was homeless. He admitted that he could not even provide his disciples with shelter: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Indeed, it seems that he spent most of his life out of doors, often spending the night on a hilltop praying. No wonder he empathized with the poor, forgotten and downtrodden.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, was tried and suffered at the hands of the Roman and Jewish leaders and soldiers, hung on the cross, and died there, he atoned for the sins of the world. Through our Heavenly Father’s grace, that gift of Christ’s atoning sacrifice is available to all — without cost. However, the path of discipleship of Christ is not easy. It requires faith, repentance, sacrifice, obedience to God’s will (in things large and small), and the promise of persecution.

Devout Christians remember Christ throughout the year. However, this is still a particularly relevant time of year to consider the mortal life of Jesus Christ. The four gospels offer the best narratives of Christ’s mortal ministry. Those who believe in Christ should reread them at this time of year. Those who are not Christians also may find lessons useful to their lives.

Rereading these accounts may put in perspective current events and our relations with others. Our anxiety over the future and our hostility towards others who look, believe, think or vote differently may be viewed in the context of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice that encompassed all children of God. Christ loved others; so should we. Disciples of Christ, who seek to follow his example, should view others as Christ did. That may be one of the most important lessons of Christmas.