It's almost Christmas, and I've been thinking over the past year, wondering if I am closer to Christ today than I was last December. At the beginning of 2011, I was a Gospel Doctrine teacher in our ward and decided to read "The Kingdom and the Crown" trilogy by Gerald Lund, while I was teaching from the Gospels. I knew it would help me teach, and be an extension of what I was reading from the Bible. I considered challenging myself to read "Jesus the Christ" again, but didn't think I could mentally focus on that and our 2 little girls. Looking back, I can see that was an inspired decision...I'll have to wait for a year without a newborn to really delve into Talmage.
The trilogy is historical fiction, a genre I've always loved because I get such a feel for the time and place of the events recorded. Gerald Lund did abundant research for this book, and I loved knowing that the "historical" part was true. I could always turn to the back of the chapter and read the endnotes to find out all the information I needed and wanted to know.
What I loved most about the book is how real the time era seemed. When I had read the New Testament before, the social hierarchy of ancient Israel seemed rather foggy. I could never tell the exact difference between Pharisses and Sadducees, publicans and scribes. I understood the parables, but I didn't understand the social context of many of the teachings. The books by Lund opened up the era to me, and I started to understand how the Roman Rule affected people living at the time of Christ, and how they responded to Christ. It was amazing - I looked forward to reading whenever I had a chance. I tried to match up what I was reading from the Gospels with these books, and it made my study of the scriptures so rich and full. There were a million realizations and awakenings this year, but here are just a few.
I came to know the disciples as just that--disciples. They were learning just as I am learning, and yet so quick to follow the Savior. I grew to love and admire the apostle Simon Peter. I am grateful that the experiences he went through are recorded for me - for I too have "little faith" at times. I hope my faith will grow as strong as Simon Peter's did. I grew to love Matthew the publican, and his ability to answer Christ's call to serve. I grew to loves James and John, and their devotion to the Savior. Most importantly, I grew to love the Savior more this year. I have thought often of the Christmas Story throughout the year, and what it truly means to be the Son of God. I have thought often why many people didn't accept him as the Messiah, and what it means for me to accept the Messiah. I am learning more deeply how to live the gospel day-to-day, and during the day. I loved reading about his life this year - he took time to teach and be with people, strengthen them and heal them. And though I am 2,000 years removed from when he lived on this earth, I hope that I will not be removed from knowing him as my Savior.
And so, this December, I am closer to the Savior than I was last December. And I hope that I will find another way to know the Savior more deeply before next Christmas.