My family sets up nearly twenty nativities each Christmas. It’s our favorite way to decorate. Nativity scenes act as powerful symbols of the holy birth, showing different individuals and groups of people who worshipped the Christ child. We also love reminiscing about the places where we gathered the nativities or people who gave them to us. My heart is drawn back to faraway places like Israel. Botswana. Ethiopia. Mexico. The Philippines. Or to closer places. My mother’s sewing room. Even Costco.
Watch for Jesus
This year we couldn’t find the baby Jesus for one of the sets. Our efforts to locate the missing piece were minimal, since life was full and we had other nativities in place. We decided to let the missing babe act as a symbol, the last piece we would add. Except we forgot.
And as we packed up all the crèche, my husband said: “Jesus never showed up.”
Oh wow. Jesus never showed up? My heart caught. Had we forgotten Him? Neglected Him as the center of our gathering? Certainly His Holy Spirit attended us this season.
Yet. How carefully are we watching and waiting? Preparing and working for His return? See, I’ve been pondering the repeated invitation of President Russell M. Nelson to prepare for the Savior’s return through gathering Israel on both sides of the veil. And I’ve been thinking about how easily I am distracted on any given day by the monotony of life. Remember when President Nelson said that “there is nothing happening on this earth right now that is more important than [the gathering]”? Nothing?
Find Ways to Gather Israel
Yes. Nothing is more important. Because everything we do can be focused on gathering. Think about the way you spend any given day. Make a list. Then consider how your typical tasks can be done in the spirit of gathering.
My days are typically full from the moment I wake until I go to bed at night. Teaching. Cleaning. Preparing. Cooking. Driving children places. Loving. Leading. Yet I believe that the ordinary things we do can be done in remembrance of Him, doing His holy work.
Gathering children to family prayer and scripture study. Gathering with eager students to study His gospel. Gathering children to shuttle them to activities that will build their gifts and talents. Gathering laundry or ironing shirts to be clean and ready for work and service. Gathering groceries to nourish our families. Get the idea?
Do it for Him. Remember Him. Connect with Him. Draw Him into the mundane and find ways to perform the ordinary things in sacred, holy ways.
Commit to Gathering
As we examine our daily routines, pay attention to distractions that can be managed or removed. How can we repent and reprioritize the gathering? Consider this council from President Nelson:
The Holy Ghost will be your personal tutor as you seek to understand what the Lord would have you know and do. . . .
As you shift your focus away from worldly distractions, some things that seem important to you now will recede in priority. You will need to say no to some things, even though they may seem harmless. As you embark upon and continue this lifelong process of consecrating your life to the Lord, the changes in your perspective, feelings, and spiritual strength will amaze you!
As we approach a new year, I hope we will each recommit to making the gathering of Israel our greatest priority. If I chose an annual word, it might be gather for 2022.
And in my focus on gathering, I may go searching for the missing baby Jesus in that nativity. And when I find Him, I may just leave Him out all year long to remind me to look. To watch. To search. To help. To minister. To help all to be safely gathered in. On both sides of the veil.
Happy New Year!