As Christ taught in the temple, he asked the Pharisees, “What think ye of Christ?”(Matthew 22:42). Although this question is fitting for all seasons and times of the year, it is one that is emphasized more in this CHRISTmas season. Five years ago I was able to spend a semester in the Holy Land and think perhaps more intensely of Christ and what I thought of Him as I studied in the same place he was born, taught, healed and performed miracles. As students at the BYU-Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, we were not allowed to share our testimony or proselyte in any way as part of the terms of BYU maintaining the center in the Jerusalem. While I was there, my testimony of Christ was strengthened in many ways, and as the Christmas approached that semester in a few vivid ways that I will cherish throughout my life.
In late November, we visited Galilee for two weeks. We enjoyed a red, white and blue themed Thanksgiving with sparklers in the turkeys and then spend some time in classes and visiting around the beautiful area of Galilee. Probably the most meaningful visit I had in Galilee was when we visited Capernaum, when Jesus often taught. In John chapter 6, Christ feeds the five thousand, and they seek to take him by force to make him king. He travels to Capernaum, and there in the synagogue offers an incredible sermon on the Bread of Life. He teaches of the sacrament and testifies of Himself as the Bread of Life. Many of His followers that had been miraculously fed murmur and say “this is an hard saying,” and cannot accept it and many “went back, and walked no more with him.” I can picture Christ being disheartened because these people He loves choose not to follow Him when they have seen miracles. Perhaps feeling this rejection and with His pure love, He asks the twelve, “will ye also go away?” in John 6:67. Simon Peter answers Him and his response is what had maybe the greatest effect on me that semester. “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” As I read and focused on Peter’s response that day in the synagogue in Capernaum, I had the great desire to NEVER EVER ‘go away’ from the Savior. I want to stand STRONG, STEADFAST and IMMOVABLE in my testimony of the Messiah and His Atonement. Indeed, I know that ‘all that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.’
Jerusalem is a fascinating place. As a Holy City to Islam, Judaism and Christianity, there are what seems to be millions of people and hundreds of churches, cultures and languages spoken. Those who know me can attest I LOVE meeting other people and getting to know them and aspects of their culture. It was hard for me to not share my testimony or aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ with people that realistically may not have the chance to hear or know principles and doctrine that have brought me such peace and direction in life. Even though I could not share in word, I felt an overwhelming love for these people as children of God and my brothers and sisters. One time that we were able to bear our testimony in a sense was during our Christmas concert that we presented as students for the community. As we sang traditional Christmas songs and hymns, we were able to bear our testimony of Christ and as we meaningfully sang and thought of the meaning of the words this experience was one of the most powerful for many of the students, including myself.
Give. With this one word, Christ describes to me the essence of the gospel and of the Christmas season. He is the reason for the season and gave all that we might live, and live abundantly. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over shall men give into your bosom.”(Luke 6:38) As we give to others this season or throughout the year, whether physically, spiritually, or in any way, we will be blessed beyond measure. The giving of oneself is at the center of becoming more like Christ. I love the quote by Neal A. Maxwell about giving or submitting our will to God’s. He says “the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing that we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!” As we give the Lord our will it will undoubtedly lead to service as we strive to be instruments in His hands for the benefit of others; “for how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?”(Mosiah 5:13) At this time of year and always, we should give of ourselves and give ourselves to Christ.
I think the world of Christ. He is the Creator of the world! He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the Bread of Life, the Living Water, and First and the Last, the great I AM. He is the Messiah, the Savior, the Light of the World, and I love Him! My gratitude and testimony of His divine and infinite atonement have grown from my life’s experiences to those I experienced in the Holy Land, and like Peter, I BELIEVE AND AM SURE that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
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