|All three purple and the one pink candle lit|
While the prophesies of Isaiah describe an era of world peace that Christ will establish in the Millennium with his Second Advent, the joyful message of both Christmas and Easter is that we can have peace in this life now, regardless of the earthly circumstances in which we may find ourselves. War, terrorism, crime, and social injustice and violence may destroy outward peace, and the loss of loved ones, grief, disappointments, faded faith, and a host of worries can crumble our inner peace. But through Jesus Christ, we can be reconciled to God, having peace of conscience and the quiet, strengthening support of his spirit in times of trouble and heartache. Then, once we are at peace with God, we can work, heart by heart, at being at peace with those around us.
In the New Testament, Paul describes "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7), and in the Doctrine and Covenants we are promised that we can have "peace in this world" as well as "eternal life in the world to come" (D&C 59:23). Accordingly, on the last Sunday of Advent, which is the last Sunday before Christmas itself, we celebrate the peace that the birth of Jesus promised and the Atonement of Christ accomplished.
The Promised Advent
- "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth . . ." (Isaiah 11:1–4, emphasis added)
- "And behold, I say unto you, this is not all. For O how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that is the founder of peace, yea, even the Lord, who has redeemed his people; yea, him who has granted salvation unto his people; For were it not for the redemption which he hath made for his people, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, I say unto you, were it not for this, all mankind must have perished. But behold, the bands of death shall be broken, and the Son reigneth, and hath power over the dead; therefore, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead." (Mosiah 15:18–20, emphasis added)
On the Eve of His Coming: The Annunciation to Joseph
|The Church of St. Joseph in Nazareth|
One can only imagine the emotional turmoil that Joseph felt as he struggled with the knowledge that his fiancee was pregnant. The angel's message no doubt brought peace to this good man, who had already shown that he was eager to do the right thing by Mary and the child.
When as . . . Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us."
With Elaine and Samuel in front of the Holy Family
Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son . . . (Matthew 1:18–25)Click here to watch a video of me giving a tour and describing both the annunciation sites in Nazareth.
Joseph and Jesus, Our Children and Us (from God So Loved the World, 34)
See also Peggy Fletcher Stack, "Joseph's Example an Inspiration for Stepfathers Everywhere," Salt Lake Tribune 12/21/13.
Guido Reni, "Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus" (Wikimedia Commons)The story of how Joseph the Carpenter accepted, protected, raised, and no doubt loved a precious child who was not his own is one that stirs the heart. In many traditions, his goodness and faithful discharge of his special mission has earned him the title Saint Joseph, and he is honored together with Mary and the Baby Jesus as part of a Holy Family. After the Infancy Narratives of Matthew and Luke and the brief story of the boy Jesus in the temple, Joseph is never heard of again. Passing references to Jesus’ supposed father (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; John 6:42) together with his absence otherwise later in the Gospels seem to suggest that he was no longer alive when the adult Jesus began his public ministry. We are left instead with the impression of a very good man, the loving husband of a special woman and the guardian of a precious child.
Those who have adopted or fostered the children of others may identify particularly with Joseph. But those of us who have biological children of our own or even those who have not yet been blessed with any children can still learn a dear lesson from the example of Joseph. In a real sense, none of our children are our own. Priceless spirit children of heavenly Parents, all children on this earth are only here on loan from a loving God who trusts all of us—parents, grandparents, family, friends, and even strangers—to protect, care for, teach, and love them.Occasionally on Christmas Eve I give each member of my family a card depicting Mary with Jesus or Joseph with Jesus. We each take some time to write on the back of it some gift that we will give the Savior that coming year. Without fail, looking at an artistic depiction of Joseph fills me with a great sense of duty and gratitude. Looking at the image of Mary underscores for me that Elaine is not just my wife; she is herself a daughter of God. Thinking of how I hope some man will one day treat my own daughter, Rachel, I realize how my Father in Heaven wants me to treat Elaine. In other words, God is not just my Heavenly Father; he is, in a sense, also my father-in-law! And as I look at my own precious children, I feel, like Joseph, that I have been entrusted with a great treasure. Recognizing that Joseph was a strong, responsible, and loving man who sought and received revelation to care for his family, I am inspired to emulate those qualities. In those moments, the gift I hope to give my Lord that year is to be more like Joseph the Carpenter.
The Peace that Christ Brings
- "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)
- "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1–2, emphasis added)
- "Be careful for nothing (alt., "do not worry or be anxious about anything"); but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6–7, emphasis added)
- " . . . the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ . . ." (Mosiah 4:3, emphasis added)
- "Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me." (D&C 19:23, emphasis added)
Looking Forward to Christ's Second Advent
- "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious." (Isaiah 11:6–10, emphases added)
- "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Revelation 21:2-4, emphasis added)
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that thy Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Music for Advent
A fitting carol for the last Sunday of Advent is “It Came upon the Midnight Clear,” the last verse of which speaks of the time “when the new heaven and earth shall own the Prince of Peace their king.”
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, good will to men
From heav'n's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.
Still thru the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heav'nly music floats
O'er all the weary world.
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hov'ring wing,
And ever o'er its babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.
For lo! the days are hast'ning on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heav'n and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.
As part of our recognizing and honoring Joseph, I love the song, "Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine." In Good Tidings of Great Joy, 36, I wrote: “One of the most popular Christmas songs in Germany, this tune has been sung to two different texts, Resonet in laudibus, the earliest copy of which dates to between 1355 and 1360, and Joseph, Lieber Joseph Mein, which may be as old as 1400. Frequently sung after the Reformation in Lutheran communion services on Christmas Eve, it was also sung at weddings because the loving relationship between Joseph and Mary seemed to typify the ideal Christian marriage. In harmony with Matthew’s focus on the figure of Joseph the Carpenter, the role the lyrics paint for Joseph is a fitting tribute to the man chosen to be the protector of the Son of God.”
Of the Father’s love begotten
ere the worlds began to be,
he is Alpha and Omega —
he the source, the ending he,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see
evermore and evermore.
O that birth forever blessed,
when a virgin, blest with grace,
by the Holy Ghost conceiving,
bore the Savior of our race;
and the babe, the world’s Redeemer,
first revealed his sacred face,
evermore and evermore.
This is he whom seers in old time
chanted of with one accord,
whom the voices of the prophets
promised in their faithful word;
now he shines, the long-expected;
let creation praise its Lord
evermore and evermore.
Let the heights of heaven adore him;
angel hosts, his praises sing:
powers, dominions, bow before him
and extol our God and King;
let no tongue on earth be silent,
every voice in concert ring
evermore and evermore.
Christ, to you, with God the Father
and the Spirit, there shall be
hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
and the shout of jubilee:
honor, glory, and dominion
and eternal victory
evermore and evermore.