Sister Hamilton and I recently visited one of the island nations in the Indian Ocean. It was Christmas and the city we were in had no Church members, so we decided to visit the local Catholic church and attend Christmas Eve mass. We arrived a few minutes early and took our seats with the rest of the congregation. There were Christmas decorations throughout the chapel and the congregation was singing Christmas carols. It was a hot and humid evening and the members were dressed appropriately in summer attire. Some were in shorts and sandals. As we sang together, we could not help but smile as we began the familiar carol which starts with, “Dashing through the snow, on a one-horse open sleigh…” How interesting, we thought, that the Spirit of Christmas could be the same in the Northern and the Southern hemispheres!
The Spirit of Christmas is, in fact the same in every part of the world. At Christmas time hearts are a little softer, words are a little kinder, and families are remembered. Our missionaries even report that people are more receptive and open to the Gospel message during the Christmas season. The Christmas Spirit, which draws us to Christ, is in reality the Spirit of Christ, or what the scriptures refer to as the Light of Christ.
What is the Light of Christ?
From the Guide to the Scriptures, we read that “the Light of Christ has been described as a divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things. In the scriptures, the Light of Christ is sometimes called the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, or the Light of Life.”
We should be careful not to confuse the Light of Christ with the Holy Ghost. The Light of Christ is not a person, but is an influence that comes from God and prepares a person to receive the Holy Ghost. It is an influence for good in the lives of all people.
In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni declares that the Light of Christ is given to every person and helps us to choose between right and wrong.
“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil.” (Moro. 7:16-19)
We also know from modern revelation that people who hearken to the Light of Christ are ultimately led to the gospel of Jesus Christ:
“And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit. And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.” (D&C 84:46–47)
President Boyd K. Packer taught that “the Light of Christ is as universal as sunlight itself. Wherever there is human life, there is the Spirit of Christ. Every living soul is possessed of it.”
In 1847, in the village of Roquemaure, France, the church organ had been recently renovated. To celebrate the event, the parish priest asked a local wine merchant and poet, Placide Cappeau (1808-1877), to write a Christmas poem. Cappeau was not a religious man, but he was impressed to put pen to paper and came up with one of the most beloved of Christmas carols – in French, “Cantique de Noel” and in English, “O Holy Night”. How an unreligious man such as Cappeau could write such glorious and divine lyrics is a testimony to the Light of Christ which is given to all men and which inspired him to write the lyrics. Consider just a few verses from this beautiful Christmas hymn:
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Cappeau was truly inspired by God through that light which emanates from God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, even the Light of Christ.
The Living Christ
The ultimate source of light is the Savior Jesus Christ, for he declared, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). “Jesus Christ is the greatest being to be born on this earth. [He provided] “a perfect example of how [we] should live” (Guide to the Scriptures). Our beloved prophet President Thomas S. Monson has taught that “When we keep the Spirit of Christmas, we keep the Spirit of Christ, for the Christmas spirit is the Christ Spirit.”
At this season of Christmas, as our thoughts are turned to the Savior and to the Light which he provides, may we find the true Spirit of Christmas by understanding and following the Spirit of Christ. For it is His Spirit which “gives light to every [person] that cometh into the world” (D&C 84:46).