Merry Christmas! For many of us, this is one of our most favorite days of the year. Many have received packages from home and loved ones. You are looking forward to Skyping with your loved ones. Up to this point in your life, you may have looked forward to Christmas with eager anticipation, thinking more of what you would receive than what you might give. This year will likely be one of your most memorable Christmases for the rest of your life. Not because you are surrounded by family, friends, Christmas decorations and all of the traditional activities to which you are accustomed. Rather, because you are away from all of these things. This Christmas will be remembered more for what you gave, or for what you are giving, than for what you received.
As you labor full-time in service to the Lord Jesus Christ, it will be your privilege to come to know and understand Him with greater clarity than ever before. He has promised, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you”(D&C 88: 63). You will find peace, comfort, strength and forgiveness of sins as you understand and apply His atoning sacrifice in your own life (Alma 7: 11-13). You will find indescribable joy as you help others partake of His gifts to all mankind (see 1 Ne. 8: 12). You will even find blessings for those days that seem filled with rejection and opposition (3 Nephi 12: 11-12).
This is truly a unique experience in each of our lives. Seek to follow the example of the Master as you give the gift of yourself – your time, your talents and your testimony – to all those who will listen. He does not ask us to give what we do not have. Rather He asks all of what we do have. I am reminded of the words of the apostle Peter as he healed a lame man at the gate of the Temple who had asked alms of him, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee” (Acts 3:6). The lame man had only asked Peter for money, not knowing of greater blessings he possessed. Many of those whom you meet might look upon you only as an interesting friend, or someone who can teach them to speak English, not knowing of the real gifts that you bear.
And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—
That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;
That through him all might be saved (D&C 76: 40-42).
May we gladly proclaim to all within the sound of our voices the glorious message of the restored gospel this Christmas season. It is the greatest gift that any of us could ever give. I so testify in His holy name, even Christ, the Lord.
PS. This Tuesday there is a very important meeting in Taipei that will include local Church leaders and Taiwan government officials. They are attempting to resolve the concerns that have led to our foreign missionaries not being able to obtain visas. Please join Sister Blickenstaff and me in petitioning the Lord that these problems may be resolved. We should pray that hearts will be softened and that appropriate solutions can be found so that our missionaries can be allowed to come and serve with us. If you were not able to participate in our mission fast yesterday, I invite you to fast on Tuesday, if possible. This is an important issue that could have significant impact on missionary work in Taiwan for many years.