Merry Christmas! It has been a very enjoyable second (and last) Christmas season on the mission, and I hope that all of you had happy holidays too.
We’ve been able to celebrate Christmas a few different times this week. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we were in Sevilla for the Christmas zone conference/talent show. That was a really enjoyable time. Then, last night, we went with all of the Hermanas in Puerto to the Fry’s house, one of the American families here associated with the naval base. We read the nativity story, we sang, we ate desserts, and we played jumbo jenga. Today, we’re spending the day in Puerto, and there’s another American family that invited us all over for dinner tonight. This was a very good place to be during the holidays, haha.
Our missionary work this week went really well too. Mike came back from the United States, so we’ve started back up with him again. Also, in our weekly Noche de Hogar with Ángel, Yessenia, and Maru, we talked about the importance of baptism, and established the Fecha of February 3 for all three of them! This is amazing because the last time we invited Maru to be baptized a month or two ago, she just kind of laughed it off, but this time, she was serious about it and seemed more dedicated to do her part in order to feel ready for that day. What was also amazing was that morning, I had the idea to invite one of the members, Virginia, to the Noche de Hogar, but before I got around to calling her, I got distracted by something and forgot about it. Well, right as the Noche de hogar was beginning, who should knock on the door but Virginia? She had decided to “randomly” stop by Aurora’s house while walking her dog, and ended up staying for the entire lesson and played a key part in it. That was a nice confirmation that the Lord is definitely in charge of His work.
Something sad happened this week in Chipiona. After being able to teach Carmen, Mari Carmen, and Jessica about the restoration this week, we were excited to see them again. However, when we showed up to their house in Chipiona, we found a note on the door that said that Mari Carmen’s husband found out that we had been stopping by to teach them, and he didn’t like that at all. So, they politely asked us to stop coming. It’s an understandable situation, but still sad. What help make up for it was meeting a Spanish-American family that runs an American bakery there and also this one other future that we got. So even though there are bumps in the road, the Lord’s work always progresses.
Yesterday in Sacrament meeting, I was assigned to give one of the talks. Here is the gist of what I shared:
Part of the nativity story is when Christ’s birth was announced by an angel to the shepherds. Luke 2:8-20 relates the following account:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”
All week, I was thinking about why these shepherds were chosen to be the first to hear about the birth of Jesus. I have come to a few conclusions for why this could be so. They relate to the traits these shepherds had that we should emulate and to how Christ is, in fact, “The Good Shepherd.”
I believe that one reason why this angel appeared to those shepherds was because they were humble enough to value the news that was being given to them. This is shown through their immediate response to go into Bethlehem to search out Christ. Their response wasn’t postponed; they didn’t say, “How neat. We’ll have to go check that out sometime.” Rather, “they came with haste, and found…the babe…” Their humility and faith in the Savior was shown through their immediate response. Surely this is a trait to be emulated.
Additionally, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” I think that one reason why they were glorifying the Lord is because they recognized their dependence on Him. This is attribute that comes through humility. We read about this in Alma 26:12, which says: “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.” Thus, what we can learn from these shepherds is to remember to glorify and praise God for His strength, which permits us to do all things.
Furthermore, the shepherds “made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” They wanted everyone to know about the Savior who had come to save the world. Similarly, Preach My Gospel teaches that, “As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase. You will feel, as Lehi did, the ‘great … importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth’ (2 Nephi 2:8).” We can see this principle clearly manifested in the examples of these shepherds.
However, the main reason why these shepherds are good examples to emulate is because they were emulating the best example of all: that of The Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. In John 10:14-15, He Himself declared, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” The role of The Good Shepherd is further explained in 1 Nephi 22:25:“And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture.”
President Uchtdorf shared the following about The Good Shepherd:
“To me, the parable of the lost sheep is one of the most hopeful passages in all of scripture.
Our Savior, the Good Shepherd, knows and loves us. He knows and loves you.
He knows when you are lost, and He knows where you are. He knows your grief. Your silent pleadings. Your fears. Your tears.
It matters not how you became lost–whether because of your own poor choices or because of circumstances beyond your control.
What matters is that you are His child. And He loves you. He loves His children.
Because He loves you, He will find you. He will place you upon His shoulders, rejoicing. And when He brings you home, He will say to one and all, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.”
That is the Good Shepherd. That is who’s birth we are celebrating today. God gave the world the greatest gift through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ gave the world His greatest gift through his humble submission to the Father’s will. The greatest gift we can give to Them is our hearts. And that’s what Christmas is all about.
Élder Stark 🇪🇸
1: 100 missionaries singing in Carrefour
2: Elder Jarvis
4: Christmas cinnamon rolls
5: Christmas fire (Hermana Pinkney, Hermana Bočková, Hermana Matsu, Hermana Walker, Elder Stark, Elder Clark)
6: Christmas jenga
7: Christmas tree
8: Until next time