For God so Loved the World

Area Leadership Message

Elder Michael Cziesla
Elder Michael Cziesla Area Seventy

One of my personal traditions during the weeks before Christmas is listening to Georg Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” while driving to work. This oratorio consists of three parts and tells the story of Christian Salvation, starting with the revelations about Jesus Christ found in the Old Testament, His life as a fulfillment of these prophecies, His birth, His death on the cross and then His Second Coming. One central passage in the Messiah consists of some verses from Isaiah 9 put to music. Some important principles stand out, especially:

  1. All of us walk in darkness at times —in Christ we find the light

“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” (Isaiah 9:2.)

All of us experience times of darkness and challenges, and the past year was characterized by very special difficulties. Many experienced what it is like to feel loneliness and to be afraid of the future. The birth of Christ gives us hope. In Christ we find light even when everything around us seems to be dark. He is the light of the world and can be a light for each one us if we but only follow His light (see Elder Quentin L. Cook, “The Lord Is My Light”, General Conference, April 2015).

  1. We find true joy in the message of Jesus Christ

“Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” (Isaiah 9:3.)

Sometimes my colleagues and members of the Church, also, ask me why I am a happy person. In my life, I experience challenges, also, and not everything turns out the way I would like or expect. However, through Christ, we can have an eternal perspective and seemingly big challenges can look very different from that perspective. His gospel—His glad tidings of joy— shows us that darkness is always followed by light and His grace is sufficient for all of us (see 2 Corinthians 12:9.) That brings me joy!

  1. In Christ we can find strength; He gives answers to the essential questions of our lives

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6.)

Christ is a wonderful counselor, indeed. Let us make use of this gift when we feel insecure, let us really try to “Hear Him” (see President Russell M. Nelson’s talk “Hear Him”, General Conference, April 2020). He is our Savior and Redeemer not only for eternity, he can help us in our daily lives, as well. Alma described that He “shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and … he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people … that his bowels may be filled with mercy, … that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11,12.) We can always rely on Christ!

  1. Christ is the Prince of Peace; He should be the center for us at Christmas

“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” (Isaiah 9:7.)

Christ is the Prince of Peace. When we actively search for His peace in our homes during the Christmas season our Christmas will not only be wonderful, it will grow to be a source of spiritual strength.

Elder Uchtdorf described this principle very vividly: “Sometimes it seems that our efforts to have a perfect Christmas season are like a game of Jenga—you know, the one played with small wooden blocks that are precariously stacked up to a tower. As we try to increase the height of the tower, we pull out one wooden block before we can place it on top of the delicate structure.

Each of those little wooden blocks is a symbol of the perfect Christmas events we so desperately want to have. We have in our minds a picture of how everything should be—the perfect tree, the perfect lights, the perfect gifts, and the perfect family events. We might even want to re-create some magical moment we remember from Christmases past, and nothing short of perfection will do.

Sooner or later, something unpleasant occurs—the wooden blocks tumble, the drapes catch fire, the turkey burns, the sweater is the wrong size, the toys are missing batteries, the children quarrel, the pressure rises—and the picture-perfect Christmas we had imagined, the magic we had intended to create, shatters around us. As a result, the Christmas season is often a time of stress, anxiety, frustration, and perhaps even disappointment.

But then, if we are only willing to open our hearts and minds to the spirit of Christmas, we will recognize wonderful things happening around us that will direct or redirect our attention to the sublime. It is usually something small—we read a verse of scripture; we hear a sacred carol and really listen, perhaps for the first time, to its words; or we witness a sincere expression of love. In one way or another, the Spirit touches our hearts, and we see that Christmas, in its essence, is much more sturdy and enduring than the many minor things of life we too often use to adorn it.” (Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Of Curtains, Contentment, and Christmas”, Christmas Devotional 2011.)

All these special experiences that we associate with Christmas are an expression of the love God has for us which I can feel again and again, especially during the Christmas season:

“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.” (John 3:16.)

Let us remember this year, in this Christmas season, what matters most: It is this love God has for each one of us!