Of all the names Jesus Christ took upon himself, the title of “Son” is to me one of the most powerful.
Unlike many of the marvelous names to which Christ answers, the title of “Son” is instantly relatable. I will never be royalty or herd sheep, but I have sons. I was a daughter. We are all sons and daughters who strive to understand the relationship that exists from parent and child.
We know that in order to maintain a relationship between child and parent, there must be an understanding that children yield to the loving and righteous will of their parents. It is, at least in those tender growing up years, the role of the parent to counsel and teach. It is the duty of the child to obey.
Did you bristle at that last sentence? I did, even while writing it. We don’t like obedience, especially in the United States, a country of fierce independence. We balk at the idea of being told what to do. We’ve even grown uneasy with the idea of the “strict” parent, making way for an entire generation of children raised with permissive parenting. It is little wonder this same generation battles a faith crisis. If we cannot obey our earthly parents, it is all the more difficult to obey a heavenly parent whom we can neither hear nor see.
Christ, of course, knew the first law of heaven was obedience. He understood perfectly his earthly mission, which was to do the will of the Father. While he was certainly obedient to his earthly parents, he had to occasionally remind them of his divine purpose. “Wist ye not that I be about my Father’s business?” he asked his mother, after she found him in Jerusalem’s temple (see Luke 2:49).
In ancient times, it was the role of the son, especially the eldest, to carry on the trade or craftsmanship of his father. In doing so, the understanding was that the firstborn would inherit his father’s wealth. Again, Christ understood that his role went beyond carving wood. His purpose, his business, was much grander.
It was easy for Christ’s apostles to get caught up in the daily details. Where would they sleep? How would they fill their bellies another day? In John 4, the disciples are admonishing Christ to eat the meat they have set before him. He says to them, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.”
Perhaps Christ’s most powerful utterance is when he prepares to perform the Atonement in the Garden of Gethsemane. He acknowledges, even through his pain, the willingness to obey his Father. “And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:41-42).
I wonder what would happen if each of us went through our day with that same, singular purpose, understanding that our will, swallowed up in the will of God, is more meaningful and powerful than the myriad times we strike out on our own.
What choices would we make if we looked through the lens of obedience instead of rebellion? How would we treat others? How would we spend our time?
We live in the era of distraction and diffusion. The blinking screens and stores stocked with beautiful things are just one more barrier that keeps us from remembering and living our true purpose.
Don’t get me wrong. I love this marvelous Christmas season. I think the gift-giving, the stockings, the plates of Christmas treats and the glorious concerts are all brush-strokes on a beautiful holiday picture. It is all meaningful, and it is all Christmas. Sure there is commercialism, but we can’t really control that piece. What we can control is the gifts we give. We can control where we put ourselves and where we put our hearts. Elder Neal A. Maxwell, in his seminal talk “Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father,” says this:
“ the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we 'give' are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!”
Christ understood his mission. We honor him, during Christmas and every day of the year, by understanding, and living, ours.