A great many things have happened to our family during the past year: Summer learned to crawl, walk, talk, and push Daddy around like putty in her tiny hands; we took our first family vacation to Disneyland and Charity learned that Tinkerbell is the scientific force behind all fireworks; we traveled to Newport Beach for my wife's beloved grandpa's funeral; we helped organize a surprise anniversary celebration and reception for my parents; Andrew started Kindergarten; Scott was baptized; Rachel and Dawn learned to ski with--and notwithstanding--the instructions of their father (lesson one: how to fall down); we sunk several grand into our first adventure with orthodontics; we survived the weekly activity schedule of six children, including Cub Scouts, Activity Days, ballroom dance, the school play, soccer, piano lessons, chores, homework, poopy diapers, and play time together; we said goodbye to and lost my beloved grandma; and we helped my parents stage their home, pack it up, move, unpack, and "try out" their new swimming pool no less than a dozen times. Just to name a few.
Yet with all this hustle and bustle, with all this activity and running back and forth, with the greetings and partings, with the ups and downs, "there is one thing which is of more importance than they all" (Alma 7:7).
Our family was challenged this year by our church leaders to study the life, teachings, and atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. We made it a goal to read the first five books of the New Testament--Matthew through Acts. It took us over 10 months of daily effort, but we finally finished. As we read together each morning, a beautiful story unfolded before us, again and again with each new writer: a baby whose birth was announced by heavenly messengers; wonderful parents who protected and loved the child through heaven-sent help, against all odds; an obedient child who taught His parents and others in the temple; the stirring testimony of John and the beginning of public ministry; the equally compelling private ministry among those who believed; the miracles that were witnessed by many but understood by only the faithful; the gentle teaching, the lifting, the comforting, the helping, the healing; a Man who loved perfectly and came to be loved by the faithful few who would ignore the doubts, jeers, mocking, and scoffing of the crowd; the careful preparation of beloved disciples to carry on the work after His departure; the bravery and agony of infinite atonement, followed by the welcome release of death; the miracle of resurrection and new life and hope offered to all; the majesty of heavenly ascension and the promise of return; the charge to take the message to the world, and the assurance of His presence and guidance in the acts of those willing to take up the charge.
All these were laid before us in splendid, powerful prose. The testimonies of those eye-witnesses still rings true with relevance in our lives today. It is because of that baby--because of Him--that we have peace in this world and hope for a better world. His plan for us imbues day-to-day life with meaning, providing context for the schedules and comfort in the hard times. Because of Him, we recognize the precious value of a human soul and work hard to allow our children opportunities to learn and grow. Because of Him, we hope to remain a family forever, influencing the way we deal with the Big Stuff like death, as well as how treat each other in even the smallest of daily interactions. Because of His example, we serve. Because of His grace, we endure, we pray, and we hope for deliverance from sickness, from pain, from disappointment, and even from death. Because of Him, the trials in life are not insurmountable walls to block us, nor bottomless pits to ensnare us, but stepping stones to help propel us to a better, higher place.
Truly, "He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death." (Mosiah 16:9)
In this season of thanksgiving and celebration, we testify of Him--that He lives and loves us and will come again. He is the Giver of all good gifts. We owe Him gratitude for our faith, our families, the peace we find today, and our hope for the future. The babe born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago remains relevant and resplendent in our lives today: He is the Comforter and Counselor, the King of kings and Lord of Lords, the Savior and Redeemer of us all.