Making Christ the focal point of Christmas and following his example of service to others were the themes presented Sunday night in messages from President Ezra Taft Benson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his second counselor, President Thomas S. Monson.
Their remarks highlighted the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, where thousands of church members gathered to hear the annual message.President Benson's remarks were delivered by President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency.
President Benson cited the prophecies of Christ's birth as seen by the prophets of the Book of Mormon and said he adds his witness that, "The Son of God, even Jesus Christ, lives."
"As these inspired prophets rejoiced in the birth and mission of the Savior, so also should we, at this sacred season," President Benson said.
"He is indeed our Savior and Redeemer, the only begotten of the Father. And because he lives, so shall we live eternally. May the babe of Bethlehem be the object of our worship and the focus of our lives during this blessed Christmas season and always."
President Monson told the congregation to heed the words of the Savior, "Follow Me." He said this can be accomplished through "service to our fellow beings, for when we serve others, we are only in the service of our God.
"And as we follow in His steps today, we too will have the opportunity to bless the lives of others," President Monson said. "Our opportunities to give of ourselves are indeed limitless, but they are also perishable. There are parts to play, there are kind words to say, there are gifts to be given, there are deeds to be done, there are souls to be saved.
"Go gladden the lonely, the dreary. Go comfort the weeping, the weary. Go scatter kind deeds on your way and make the world brighter today," he said.
"There is yet time this year to extend a helping hand, a loving heart and a willing spirit for the benefit of our Heavenly Father's children," President Monson continued. By following this counsel, those who serve, " . . . shall learn in their own experience who He is. May we seek him, may we follow him, may we find him, not only this Christmas but always."
Also included in the hour-long program were Christmas carols presented by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a sing-a-long involving those attending the special service.
The devotional was broadcast live via satellite to hundreds of church meeting houses throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.