Near the beginning of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi describes a dream to his family. The focal point of this dream is “a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy” (1 Nephi 8:10). Every character in the dream is defined by his or her response to the tree. Lehi tastes the fruit and immediately wants to share it with his family. Other characters ignore the tree, struggle to find the tree, or mock the people who are eating the fruit.
The tree represents the love of God, as Lehi’s son Nephi learns in a subsequent vision. How does he learn this truth? By connecting it with the birth of Jesus Christ.
In Nephi’s vision, the Spirit of the Lord shows him the same tree his father saw. When Nephi expresses his desire to understand what the tree represents, the scene immediately changes. In the city of Nazareth, he sees a beautiful virgin. An angel explains to him that this virgin is the mother of the Son of God.
The scene changes, and Nephi sees the same virgin, with a child in her arms. The angel identifies this child as “the Son of the Eternal Father” and then asks Nephi, “Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?” (1 Nephi 11:21)
I love this moment. The angel doesn’t try to connect all the dots for his student. He provides some relevant information with a brief explanation and then allows his student to figure out how the information relates to his original question. Nephi’s response indicates that he understands:
Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things (1 Nephi 11:22).
The angel reaffirms Nephi’s answer: “Yea, and the most joyous to the soul” (1 Nephi 11:23).
Like Nephi, we can better understand and appreciate the love of God as we remember the birth of His Son. Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson gave the following challenge in a Christmas Devotional address:
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ this season, let us also celebrate all that His birth symbolizes, especially the love. When we see shepherds, may we remember to be humble. When we see wise men, may we remember to be generous. When we see the star, may we remember the Light of Christ, which gives life and light to all things. When we see a tiny baby, may we remember to love unconditionally, with tenderness and compassion. May we open the doors of our hearts and reach out to those around us who are lonely, forgotten, or poor in spirit. As we contemplate the example and infinite sacrifice of the Savior, may we also consider how we can be more Christlike in our associations with family and friends, not just during this season but throughout the year (“Christmas Is Christlike Love,” 2014 Christmas Devotional).
Today, I will remember that the birth of Jesus Christ can help me feel the love God has for me and for all of His children.