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Light the World

The Christmas season is called the “Season of Light.” We hang Christmas bulbs, set out candles, and light fireplaces. Neighborhoods are aglow with the cumulative light of thousands of tiny bulbs twinkling on dark winter nights. For many, these lights are a reminder that this season is meant to be different—and better—than other times of the year. For me, these lights have come to mean something even more important and tender than beautiful holiday reminders.


Light is Love

Let me begin my Christmas story nearly one hundred years after the birth of Jesus Christ. The Savior’s tiny church had begun to grow due to the efforts of apostle missionaries and others, who took Jesus’s gospel—the Good News that He had come to redeem His people—to the Jews and the Gentiles. Many had believed in that sacred, joyous message despite persecution by unbelievers.

Despite their efforts to preach “Jesus Christ, and him crucified,”[1] questions and disputations about this person named Jesus had arisen. Some questioned whether He had really come “in the flesh,”[2] not believing He was fully human. Others questioned if He was truly the Son of God and fully divine.

John the Beloved—one of the original apostles—was troubled by these misunderstandings and false teachings. He knew the Savior, who was his friend and Master. John had walked with Him, talked with Him, and eaten with Him. He knew Jesus’s person and had experienced His perfect personality.

Wanting to set the record straight, John wrote a series of letters to the saints of that time. They are contained in the New Testament books of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John. He wanted to correct misunderstandings concerning the Savior. He wanted to testify of Christ—of His person and of His characteristics.

In 1st John, Chapter 1, John testifies that he and others had “heard,” “seen with our eyes,” and that “our hands have handled” the person known as Jesus of Nazareth, “bear[ing] witness so the listener could also “have fellowship with us.”[3] He then wrote something significant: “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” [4]

Later in this same letter, John teaches, “Let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”[5]

What significant statements! God is light. God is also love. Based on these teachings, I would suggest that in the gospel of Jesus Christ, “light” and “love” are always interchangeable.

With this concept in mind, the Christmas season is not just a “Season of Light;” it is also a “Season of Love!” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints currently has a worldwide marketing campaign entitled “Light the World.” We could also call it the “Love the World” campaign! In fact, its website reads, “Let your light shine this Christmas season as you love the people around you, share joy, and follow the example of Jesus Christ.”[6]

What a glorious and uplifting concept! When we see Christmas lights, we can be reminded of Jesus’s love for us and His invitation for us to love others: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”[7] Yes, in this season of love, we can make a special effort to extend and expand that love to all.


How do we love?

What does love look like? Might I suggest that when we give love, it looks like connection. When you love your spouse, child, friend, or neighbor, you connect with him or her. You try to understand them. You authentically show interest in them. You're curious about their interests, dreams, and fears. You spend quality time with them and give them your undivided attention.

Is this not what Jesus did to love everyone? He sat with them. He talked with them. He healed them. He cried with them. He did those things with His friends, and He did them with the “least of these”[8] —people who had been rejected by society. He ministered to the lepers, the sinners, the publicans, the women, and any others who were rejected and cast out. He loved them because He connected with them.

When we receive love, we feel belonging. Those to whom Jesus ministered and loved felt a warm and close association with Him. He loved them perfectly. In return, they felt perfectly comfortable and accepted in His presence. They no longer felt rejected.

To give love is to connect; to receive love is to belong. Connection and belonging—the two sides of love—are evidence that love given is love received. No wonder our precious primary children sing the tender words,


Jesus said love ev’ryone;

Treat them kindly too.

When your heart is filled with love,

Others will love you.[9]


Jesus also loved His Father perfectly. Said He, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”[10] His perfect submission and connection to His Father were evidence of that love.


God Loved Us, And We Love Him

We learn from the apostle John the extent of God’s love towards us, His children. He taught in a now-famous scripture, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”[11]

What love! What connection! We were so important to Him that He allowed His precious and perfect Son to be sacrificed so we would have the chance to come back into His presence. He wants us to belong with Him, but that can only happen if we are cleansed of sin through the atonement of Jesus Christ. If we receive this tremendous atoning blessing, we will belong in His presence. If we choose another path, we will not feel comfortable with Him. We will not belong.[12]

Of Himself, Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world.”[13] He could have also said, “I am the Love of the world.” He is the embodiment of the Father’s perfect love toward us. Through His mortal ministry and His voluntary, vicarious sacrifice, He gave us the greatest example of how to love. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”[14] He had the greatest love of all because He made the greatest sacrifice of all.

During His final supper with His apostles, the Savior taught us the way to reciprocate God’s love. Said He, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” We connect with God when we submit to His will and obey His voice, repenting when we fail. If we disobey, we do not show our love for Him, and He cannot connect with us. “If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness.”[16]

Without loving God, we are in darkness. We have no light. However, through our obedience and repentance, we show the extent of our love towards God. “We love him, because he first loved us.”[17]

We also connect with God through covenants. Covenants are more than just a two-way promise. They are the beginning of a new relationship, a way of connecting ourselves to Him in very personal ways. He is bound to us, and we are bound to Him when we choose to make and keep covenants.

Finally, we connect with God through His Holy Spirit. He is called “the Comforter.”[18] Comfort is connection. And connection is love. All the roles of the Holy Ghost connect God to us—He comforts us, reveals things to us, brings all things to our remembrance, and testifies to us of truth.[19]

We Love Others as He Loved Us

Having established how we connect with God, we now turn ourselves to the second great commandment—loving or connecting with our neighbor.[20] Said Jesus at His final supper with the Twelve, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”[21]

With this later scripture in mind, we can now understand Jesus’s earlier teaching, “Ye are the light of the world. … Let your light so shine before men.”[22] What He was really saying was, “Ye are the love of the world. Let your love so shine before men.”

We love others and let our light shine by connecting with them in the same way that the Savior connected with people during His earthly ministry. We “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death.”[23]

These actions are very tangible connection points with others. They allow us to love like Him. Ultimately, they allow us to become like Him.


Our Christmas Connection

Let me share a personal story of connection and love with you. It came in a most unexpected way. Early in our marriage, we graduated from BYU and moved to Midland, Michigan where I started my first real job.

These were financially tight times for us. We saved all the money we could to get into our first home—a 30-year-old fixer-upper that we purchased from a single mom. After the move and getting into our home, we had little money left.

Julie was pregnant with our first child. We only had one car, which I had to take to work because my office was inside a chemical plant, and Julie couldn’t drop me off at work. We had a bed and a couch from our time at BYU, but we couldn’t afford a kitchen table or chairs. So, we were using plastic patio chairs and their matching plastic table instead.

Needless to say, Christmas was looking a little bleak that year. We pleaded with our Heavenly Father for help, but none seemed to come.

Just before Christmas, we were invited to a special dinner for my workgroup. It was at a fancy restaurant. I remember that the dinner alone was a blessing for us as we could have never afforded such a sumptuous meal on our own. We arrived, sat at our assigned seats, and enjoyed the great food and company.

At the end of the dinner, my boss had us raise our glasses in a toast. My colleagues, with their champagne, and we, with our water, raised our cups to celebrate a productive year of work. Then, a Christmas miracle happened.

My boss told us to look under the placemats on our table. When I looked, I saw multiple hundred-dollar bills. He told us that he wanted to thank each of us for doing such a good job by giving out special Christmas bonuses. Instead of just a deposit in our bank account that could be delayed until after the holiday, he wanted to surprise us with cash.

This event touched our hearts. Christmas of 1996 had been saved by the kind, generous gesture of this wonderful man. We felt a connection to him. We felt loved—both by him and by an attentive Heavenly Father to whom we had been petitioning for help.


Love the World

Christmas is a season of love. It is when we remember the love of the Father for us by sending His Son. It is when we turn and share that same love with others. The words of my favorite Christmas hymn come to mind:


Silent night! Holy night!

Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from thy holy face,

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth;

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.


May we turn and love others in the same way Christ loved us during this season of light. May the Christmas lights we see remind us to “light the world” with our love—our connection—to others. And may they feel love, acceptance, and belonging as we connect to them.



Notes:

[1] 1 Corinthians 2:2.

[2] See 1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 1:7.

[3] 1 John 1:1-3, text added.

[4] 1 John 1:5, emphasis added.

[5] 1 John 4:7-8, emphasis added.

[6] https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/comeuntochrist/light-the-world, emphasis added. Accessed December 9, 2023.

[7] John 15:12.

[8] Matthew 25:45.

[9] “Jesus Said Love Everyone,” Children’s Songbook (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1989), 61.

[10] John 5:30.

[11] John 3:16.

[12] If we do not repent, we will want to hide from God’s presence at the last day (see Alma 12:14). We will not feel belonging with Him!

[13] John 8:12.

[14] John 15:13.

[15] John 14:15.

[16] D&C 95: 12.

[17] 1 John 4:19.

[18] John 15:26.

[19] See John 14:26.

[20] Matthew 22:36-40.

[21] John 13:34-35.

[22] Matthew 14, 16.

[23] Mosiah 18:9, text added.

[24] “Silent Night,” LDS Hymns, (Salt Lake City: (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), 204.

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