The annual First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional was held Sunday featuring President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

From favorite childhood memories at Christmas to the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem, speakers focused on the gift the holy baby was to the world.

Speakers for the evening included Nelson; Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy; and Sister Rebecca L. Craven, second counselor in the Young Women General Presidency.

They spoke from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Conference Center Theater on Temple Square. Just a handful of people were in the theater to comply with COVID-19 safety measures. 

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the meeting.

President Nelson encouraged everyone to focus on Jesus Christ during this difficult COVID-19 Christmas season.

“During this unprecedented year, when virtually every person in the world has suffered the effects of a global pandemic, there is nothing more important we can do this Christmas than to rivet our focus on the savior and on the gift of what his life really means to each of us,” Nelson said.

“Our loving Heavenly Father ‘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). The son of God then promised us that ‘whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die’ (John 11:26). What unspeakable, incomparable gifts from the father and the son,” Nelson added.

Craven said that while she listens to the story of the birth of Christ, she is attracted to the account of Mary wrapping her baby in swaddling clothes.

Craven noted that swaddling means to wrap tightly or securely. “The story is tender to me,” she said.

She asked if those listening knew of people that needed to feel security in a tight blanket of kind words or gestures.

Craven said angels on earth are sent to give heavenly hugs. They give gentle words, acts of love.

“Who do you know that needs a heavenly hug,” Craven asked.

In his brief comments, Nielson noted that it had been a hard year. He recounted a story of his father at Christmas in World War II.

His father said they had a small Christmas-like meal, but nothing like being home, and the Christmas presents sent to the soldiers had not made it for the holiday.

In pondering the war, his life and what he had and didn’t have, Nielson said his father found peace and joy of the gift of the savior in his life.

Nielson added that Christ’s invitation this season is to come unto him, that he may make our burdens light.

“As the weary world rejoices, I pray you will accept the gift,” Nielson said.

Holland spoke tenderly of the life of Christ and his birth in Bethlehem.

“No baby ever born has had so much written about him before he was born,” Holland said.

Holland said that baby, the Christ child, would bring the gift of redemption to the world, but for that first night he was just a baby in the arms of a mother who adored him.

Shepherds, the poorest of people, came to him. Three wise kings, the highest and wealthiest of people, came to him, and heavenly hosts praised the baby, Holland said.

“This night of wandering awe. The hopes and fears of all the years were met in Bethlehem that night,” Holland said.

He said his Christmas gift was the dream of Bethlehem. 

Prior to his concluding remarks, Nelson thanked listeners for participating in the #GiveThanks initiative he challenged church members to do at Thanksgiving.

“Thank you for flooding the media with #GiveThanks, millions responded,” Nelson said. He encouraged members to continue praying every day. 

Nelson said Jesus Christ was born to bless the lives of everyone who lived on the Earth, past, present and future.

With the concerns of these uncertain times, Nelson invited people at this season to rivet their focus on the savior and what his life really means.

Nelson concluded with a blessing on all watching or listening to the devotional.

“May you and your families be blessed with peace, with an increased ability to hear the voice of the Lord, and receive revelation with an enhanced capacity to feel how much our father and his son love you, care for you, and are ready to guide all who seek after them,” President Nelson said.

The musical selections and carols were provided by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and were recorded previously at past Christmas devotionals.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

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