Thursday, December 20, 2018

President Heber J. Grant on the date of Christmas celebration

President Heber J. Grant (1856-1945) was ordained an apostle in 1882 when he was 25 years old.  He served as president of the Church from 1918 until his death in 1945 at age 88.  His tenure as president lasted over 26 years; only Brigham Young had a longer term (over 29 years).
"The birth of Christ our Lord was more than an incident, it was an epoch in the history of the world to which prophets had looked forward, of which poets had sung, and in which angels joined their voices with mortals in praise to God. It was the day decreed and foreordained by our Father who is in heaven when He would manifest Himself to His children, who are here upon earth, in the person of His Only Begotten Son.
"Whether or not the 25th day of December is the proper date of the birth of Christ, our Lord, matters little. We join with other Christian people in celebrating it as such and if we observe it in the true spirit of the Master, renewing the covenant which we have made that we are willing to take upon us His name, and keep the commandments which He has given, our offering will be accepted.
"He came that man might see and know God as He is, for He bore witness that whoever had seen Him had seen the Father, for He was the express image of His person.
"He came to teach us the character of God, and by example and precept pointed out the path which, if we walk in it, will lead us back into His presence. He came to break the bands of death with which man was bound, and made possible the resurrection by which the grave is robbed of its victory and death of its sting."
- Heber J. Grant, First Presidency Christmas Greeting, Deseret Evening News, Dec. 25, 1925; quoted by President Grant during the April 1926 General Conference as being appropriate for Easter Sunday; see Conference Report, April 1926, p. 13

It's pretty well accepted that December 25 is likely not the actual date of the birth of the Savior. However, it's become the traditional date of commemoration, and President Grant points out that it is the events and spirit of the celebration that matter far more than the accuracy of the date being honored. His coming to earth has such profound significance to mankind, and we are blessed to recognize and remember that meaning:

President Grant suggests that an important part of the Christmas celebration would be to "[renew] the covenant which we have made that we are willing to take upon us His name, and keep the commandments." One of the purposes of His coming to earth was to "teach us the character of God" by precept and example, and as we follow that example, it "will lead us back into His presence."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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