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Everyone needs a reminder

By NOEL ALLEN

Pastor, Presbyterian Church

Just like the seasons of the year, some of the seasons of life are more brutal than others.

The teen years and old age are probably the worst. Then there’s the flu season. The virus has pounded all four: spring, summer, fall and winter.

It’s not new. In 701 BC Jerusalem was under siege. Sennacherib threated ruin if the Israelites did not surrender. They were isolated. Beleaguered. (Sound familiar?)

The Prophet Isaiah made it clear that there was an underlying problem (Chapter 1). He used terms like “sinful nation,” “brood of evildoers,” “children given to corruption.” He said their attempts to please him were worthless. But not hopeless.

There was good news for the Lord had spoken, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

The Lord describes their sins (and ours) as scarlet because red dyes were the most permanent. A red stain was the most stubborn to remove. We can’t do it on our own. Sin is a problem we can’t solve no matter how hard we try.

And that is the reason for the season!

Every generation, every person needs that reminder. Joseph the carpenter needed it. An angel of the Lord told him that Mary would give birth to a son named Jesus because he would save us from our sins. Joseph took the message to heart, and it changed his life.

Jesus had quite a time reasoning with Peter but seeing Jesus die and rise from the dead, Peter finally understood. He later wrote: This is true because Christ suffered for our sins once. He was an innocent person, but he suffered for guilty people so that he could bring you to God. His body was put to death, but he was brought to life through his Spirit (Peter 3:18).

Jesus reasoned with Paul on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus. Later the apostle reasoned with his friends in Corinth: God had Christ, who was sinless, take our sin so that we might receive God’s approval through him (2Corinthians 5:21).

God hasn’t changed. He still wants to reason with us. No matter what season of life you are in, the time is right. Open your Bible. Read Isaiah 1. Read the Christmas story in Matthew or Luke.

This is the season to settle things with God — before the Christmas rush.

Accepting the true gift

By JIM MITCHELL

Pastor, Grace Fellowship Church

Christmas is a highly anticipated holiday with most families getting together to observe various traditions. It is generally a time of great joy, laughter and celebration. Children dream of Santa Claus, get their picture taken with Santa and wake up early Christmas morning to see what gifts Santa brought them. Adults put up lots of decorations, spend lots of money on gifts and eat a lot more than they should.

However, it can also be a very hectic and busy time, filled with stress and anxiety. The pressure of buying just the right gift, the concern about potential family conflict or the fact that you are facing another holiday alone, take all the fun out of the season. Some might even ask, “What is the point?” Sadly, like anything else, when the true meaning of something is lost or overlooked all the replacements fail to deliver the same meaningful significance. The oft overlooked reason for the season, behind all the materialism, commercialism and self-indulgence is very simple, it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

We find this wonderful story in the beginning of both the gospel of Matthew and the gospel of Luke in the New Testament of the Bible. Jesus was unlike any other baby born in history in many ways. His birth fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies including one in Isaiah 7:14, which predicted that He would be born of a virgin. This meant that his birth was supernatural because he was God and his name Emmanuel, translated “God is with us,” reflected this fact. God had literally come to earth and become a man. Why would he do that? In Matthew 1:21, an angel told Mary the mother of Jesus that she was to name her son Jesus, which literally means, “God is salvation.” The angel went on to tell her that the reason for this name was that “he will save his people from their sins.”

We celebrate the birth of Jesus because it was the beginning of his mission to rescue mankind from sin and death. The apostle Paul described Jesus’ birth in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, that by his poverty you might become rich.” Jesus, as the second person of the Godhead, left the riches of heaven to become a man and then humbled himself to be a servant to men dying on a cross to pay the penalty for their sins, Philippians 2:5-8. God did this because he loved us. John tells us in 3:16, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Christmas becomes a very significant day when we understand that it is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world. This year you will be bombarded by many distractions and you will try your best to make Christmas special but until you remember Jesus and accept the gift He provided for you, you won’t be happy. His gift of forgiveness to you is free, not something you earn. You can try as hard as you want but only Jesus can fix your broken life and give you hope. Celebrate Jesus this year by putting your faith in Him alone for your future. Merry Christmas!

Christ is the Light

By RON H. SMELLIE

President, Preston Idaho North Stake

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The other night there was a “Light the World” activity at the Preston Cemetery where the youth from the North Stake and their leaders placed lights on many of the graves at the cemetery. It was so beautiful to see the cemetery “light up”. There were messages shared about the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ and how He is the light we need to look towards in this sometimes darkened world.

He is the reason for the season. He is our hope and our light in this world. Because of Him, we will see our loved ones again. This time of year is the most wonderful time of the year. We seem to see the best in others, reach out in service more to those around us, and cherish those we love. It is because of Him that we can “find peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23).

I testify that Jesus Christ lives and that He is our Savior, our Redeemer and our Friend. He is the reason for the season and I am eternally grateful for Him. May this Christmas season be one that we will always remember as we reach out and look to serve others like Jesus Christ taught us.

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