Thursday, December 16, 2010

What Gift Will You Give the Savior This Christmas?

One of my favorite fictional Christmas stories is that of the Fourth Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke. It’s the story of a wealthy Persian Doctor who studied the prophesies of the Saviors birth and planned, with his three colleagues to journey to find the Savior. He acquired three valuable jewels that he would give to the Savior—a ruby, a sapphire and a pearl.

With his provisions, camels and gifts, Artaban began his trek to the meeting place where he and his colleagues had designated. But on the way, he found an injured man who needed assistance. Even though he knew it would throw him off schedule for meeting the others, he tended to the man and then paid with his provisions to have the man looked after. Knowing that he would need additional supplies, Artaban returned to the city, sold one of the jewels he planned to give to the Savior. It pained him to do it, but he knew he would need the provisions to trek across the desert.

When he arrived at the meeting place Artaban found that his friends had already continued on their journey so he followed, hoping to catch up. When he arrived in Bethlehem, Artaban inquired about a newborn baby and three strangers. He learned that three wealthy men from the east had been there and worshipped a baby in a manger, but they had departed. Artaban asked where he could find the baby but he was told the parents had taken the baby and fled to Egypt.

With his two remaining jewels in hand, Artaban prepared to follow the Savior to Egypt. His only desire was to greet the Savior and offer his gifts as a token of his love, but before he could leave, Soldiers came into the village with orders to kill all newborn babies. As the soldiers approached a doorway, Artaban heard a crying baby inside and stopped the soldier from entering. He offered the soldier one of his remaining jewels if he would just move on and leave the family alone.

Though happy he was able to save the life of the baby, Artaban was sad that he had given up a gift that was meant for his Savior. He prayed for forgiveness.

Artaban spent the rest of his life searching for the Savior, determined to present him with the last remaining jewel as a gift and token of his love. Artaban grew old. As he returned to Jerusalem one last time, searching, he was told that a man who worked many mighty miracles would be executed on a hill outside the city. Artaban knew this was the Christ and was hopeful he would soon see the Savior. Artaban felt the last remaining jewel in his hand and thought how he could use it as a ransom to save the life of his Redeemer.

As Artaban made his way along the streets of Jerusalem on his way to Golgotha, a young girl grabbed on to him and begged for mercy. Her father had died and she was to be sold into slavery to pay his debts. Artaban looked at his last remaining jewel. He wanted to save the girl, but how could he sacrifice the gift that was meant for Christ? With sadness, Artaban gave the girl his last jewel so that she would be free.

Artaban wept at his failure. The sky blackened. The earth began to moan and buildings shook. A piece of tile from a roof fell to the street and struck Artaban. He lay in the street dying. Looking toward heaven he heard the voice of the Lord.

Artaban shook his head in confusion. “Not so Lord. When did I see thee naked and clothe thee? When did I visit you in prison?”

Then he heard the response. “When you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Hopefully in our lives we are seeking after the Savior with the same intensity and determination as Artaban. Sometimes things will not go the way we planned and obstacles will be placed in our path. But every step of the way, we have the opportunity to bless the lives of others. Through service, friendship, or a simple act of kindness to someone in need, we express our love to the Savior as we express our love to our brothers and sisters. We especially need to do these things when it feels most difficult.

The kindness and compassion we show to others is our gift to the Savior. I hope we can all remember this and try to be a little kinder, a little more forgiving and a little more loving.
Merry Christmas!


  1. I plan to give greater patience, compassion and service to those I struggle with most.

  2. Bishop Steve,
    I loved this. It reminded me of the Prophet Joseph's favorite hymn A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief. It also reminded me of something in my Patriarical Blessing..."I further bless you that you will have opportunities of service from this time henceforth and forever, that you may have the desire and the information to render service in the home, in community life and in the church, and in other organizations which are necessary to be carried on among the children of men. And I further bless you that if you will be mindful of your responsibilities as one of the chosen handmaidens of the Lord and you do render service, that your heart will rejoice, and you will recieve blessings beyond your expectations at this time. And those whom you serve will love you and honor you because of your service and because you have taken the time to help them along the way as they go forward through mortality." I have always loved to serve and my mother was the finest example of service that I will ever know. So my gift to the Savior is service done with hopefully with the pure love of Christ.
    Mary in Naples

  3. Thanks for the retelling, it's beautiful!