Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
A nativity sits in the middle of reflecting pool as downtown visitors walk through the Church Plaza when Christmas lights were turned on downtown and at Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 25.

Editor's note: "The Spoken Word" is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast. This will be given Dec. 24, 2017.

Christmas traditions vary throughout the world. Some people light candles. Some hang wreaths. Some set out delicious meals and tasty treats on beautifully decorated tables. Every culture adds its beautiful, rich flavor to the Christmas season. But there's one thing that seems to be common in nearly all Christmas celebrations — families gathering at the hearth and home. Yes, there’s something about Christmas that brings families together.

And when those families gather, very many of them read a story together on Christmas Eve. It's the story of a young mother who long ago laid her newborn baby in a manger. It’s a story about shepherds in a far-off field who heard a chorus of angels heralding the birth of the babe in Bethlehem. It's a story about wise men who had faith enough to follow a new star across great distances, trusting that it would lead them to the young child.

In hushed tones and with tender hearts, families share their feelings about that special night so long ago. They imagine what it would have felt like to visit the manger with those shepherds or see the wise men arrive with their gifts. They marvel at the "good tidings of great joy." They rejoice at the promise of "peace, good will toward men." And like the shepherds, they offer glory and praise "for all the things that they (have) heard and seen" (see Luke 2:10, 14, 20).

It seems fitting that this story, repeated every year, is about a family. Whether our loved ones are near or far at Christmas, they feel close when we remember that night of nights — when heaven came to earth, time seemed to stand still, and nothing would ever be quite the same again. No wonder we deck the halls and put up lights. No wonder we celebrate, rejoice, and give gifts to remind us of the greatest gift ever given. No wonder we find ways to gather with those we love to remember that first Christmas night — the night when a family gathered to celebrate love, hope and peace on earth.

Tuning in …

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160 AM/102.7 FM, ksl.com, KSL X-stream, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, BYU-TV International, CBS Radio Network, Dish Network, DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio (Channel 143), mormontabernaclechoir.org and youtube.com/mormontabchoir. The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. MST on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org/schedules.