Dearest Family and Friends,
Today is Christmas Eve (or Noche Buena, as they say here)! I am both excited to celebrate the holiday and also sad that the season is ending, since we won´t be able to use Christmas carols (villancicos) as a way to find people to teach anymore.... And because sharing our testimonies of the birth of the Savior has been such a wonderful opportunity this month. I love Christmas so much because the Savior is almost never more real to me than at Christmastime. Whenever I sing carols or read the Christmas story in the Bible, I can´t help but remember that these things REALLY HAPPENED. What a glorious miracle and marvelous gift!
My favorite account of the birth of the Savior is in 3 Nephi 1. Samuel the Lamanite had prophesied 5 years earlier of the signs and the imminent coming of the birth of the Savior, and the believers were faithfully waiting for these signs to appear. But the unbelievers had had enough, and they set apart a day in which, if the signs had not yet come, all the believers would be put to death. The prophet, Nephi, knows that the Savior will come as Samuel has prophesied, but he worries for the sake of his people, and he prays mightily unto the Lord for help. And the Lord answers his prayer, saying (in verse 13),
"Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets."
The Lord, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, knew that these people would be in danger of their lives for their faith in Jesus Christ, and He had planned all along for His coming to be at precisely the right moment. I can´t help but marvel at the Lord´s love and care for all of His children when I read this scripture. Not only did the Lord send His Son on that day in order to save the lives of the people of Nephi, but He sent Him so that ALL of us might be saved if we will accept Him and keep His commandments. I cannot adequately express my awe and gratitude for this marvelous gift. It is the real reason for Christmas, and it is why I am here in Chile, serving a mission. I am here seeking to share the gift of eternal life with all who will accept the restored gospel of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and who love Him enough to live according to its precepts. What a wonderful opportunity I have to be spending my Christmas sharing the best gift any of us will ever be given with all those who will receive it!
One of my favorite Christmas hymns ends with this verse:
How silently, how silently
The wond´rous gift is giv´n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The wonders of His heav´n.
No ear may hear His coming;
But in the world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him, still
The dear Christ enters in.
I love you all and pray that your Christmas is a wonderful one. I hope that you will remember our Savior on this special day, and show your gratitude and love for Him by "receiving Him" and living the gospel!
Your commitment this week is to re-read one of your favorite accounts of the Savior from the scriptures. Share it with your family or a friend, and tell them why it means so much to you, and how the message of the Savior has changed your life.
Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas!
P.S. This is our "official" Christmas picture. We are wearing our rain gear because it has strangely been raining like crazy this week! So it´s a little bit like winter here, even though it still isn´t really Christmas without any snow!
The other pictures are of me, Hermana Bowns, Hermana England, and Hermana González with our Christmas tree, our Christmas tree, and me and Hermana Bowns at Christmas conference. More pictures coming soon!