"This was the first Christmas. There were no tinseled Christmas trees, no family gatherings, no children at play. But there were carols, the greatest ever sung. The angels of heaven joined in a great chorus rejoicing at the birth of God's Son. Now the redemption of the world could take place. Salvation could come to all mankind. Death would be overcome, for this little child, when he became a man, would bring about the Resurrection. All mankind could then live again.
"Christmas gifts? There were none at that time. The Wise Men came later with their offerings.
"But God now gave His gift to the world—that of His Only Begotten Son. And this divine Son by His very birth on earth gave Himself as the greatest Gift of all time.
"He would provide the plan for our salvation. He would give His life that we might rise from the grave and have a happy life in the eternities, forever. Who could give more?
"What a gift this was! Think what it means to us! We can learn patience, devotion, and faithfulness such as Mary had. And like her Son we can follow the true gospel principles, being in the world but not of the world.
"Mary offered her gift also—the gift of nurturing and rearing the Son of God from infancy to manhood. What hours and days and months of care, what years of devoted service!
"Through this first Christmas, and the birth of Jesus the Messiah, we can adopt in our own lives the traits that made Jesus great.
"We can be kind and thoughtful. We can be honest and fair to others. Mercy can be an important part of character. And then there is purity....
"Through Him we can enjoy the dearest of our associates forever. We can have eternal families. We may be sealed to our parents and be a part of their loving circle eternally. Isn't that a priceless gift? It, too, comes from that first Christmas."
- Mark E. Petersen, "The Gifts of Christmas," New Era, Dec. 1983, p. 4
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It's interesting to consider the difference between "the first Christmas" and our contemporary celebrations. Elder Petersen describes some of the contrasts, the many things that have been added in our commemorations. But he also points out the sublime, sacred import of those original events and all they mean to us.
I think one of the keys from this message is that we should attempt to "adopt in our own lives the traits that made Jesus great." The Christmas season is a wonderful time to ponder that effort.