Stories, music, dance performances invite all to celebrate at BYU Christmas devotional

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BYU’s campus Christmas devotional featured a variety of stories, songs and dance which aimed to remind all of the true joy following the Savior brings.

BYU Advancement Vice President Keith Vorkink opened the devotional by describing the joy of the Savior’s coming into the world. He explained the Savior’s objective in leading, guiding and setting an example for how to treat one’s fellow man.

He echoed President Russell M. Nelson, saying this is the time to revere the Savior for His ultimate sacrifice to save all children of God.

“At this time of year, we celebrate that great gift as we think about the birth of the Christ Child at Bethlehem,” Vorkink said. “The Savior understands the things we experience because as part of the plan of happiness, he came to live in the world as we do. Because of this, he can succor us in all the difficulties of mortality and bring joy into our lives regardless of our circumstances.”

Vorkink invited everyone to accept the Lord’s invitation to love one another as He loved all.

As President C. Shane Reese and his wife, Sister Wendy Reese, were abroad at the time of the devotional, they shared a video message about the joy that comes with the Christmas season.

President and Sister Reese shared messages from the First Presidency and Matthew 2 about the joy that comes from focusing on God’s plan of salvation, regardless of circumstance.

President Reese encouraged all to embrace their role as disciples of Jesus Christ and to share the light of the Gospel through service to others.

Julie Rose, host of the Top of Mind Podcast on BYU Radio, and JB Haws, executive director of the Maxwell Institute, read the story of Lord Alfred Tennyson. The story followed college friends Alfred and Arthur who both attended Cambridge in the 1820s. Rose described how the two would write poems together and had planned on publishing a book of poetry.

After Arthur died, Alfred wrote a poem to deal with his grief — his famous “In Memoriam.”

Ballroom dancers perform to an instrumental version of the hymn “What Child is This?” The dance was one of several performances included in the BYU Campus Christmas Devotional. (Brooklynn Jarvis Kelson)

In the poem, Alfred describes the sadness he felt during the Christmas season after losing his friend as well as the rising joy and hope he felt while singing songs in celebration of the coming of Christ.

Laura Bridgewater, dean of the College of Life Sciences, and Katya Jordan, associate chair of German and Russian, told the story of William Chatterton Dix, who wrote the famous hymn “What Child is This.”

They said that while confined to his bed, Dix wrote enough hymns to fill an entire book. Writing music in celebration of the Lord was how he felt most comforted.

“It was the story of the coming of the Wise Men — kings seeking to worship the one they knew would light the world — that left William Chatterton Dix in a hush, writing, with reverence, the hymn of his that we know best,” Bridgewater said.

Jordan read out sections of the hymn before ballroom dancers came to the floor and danced to the hymn.

BYUSA president Fritz-Carl Morlant and Grant Jensen, dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, took to the podium and told the story of the death of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin’s wife, Elisa Wirthlin. They referenced Elder Wirthlin’s talk “Sunday Will Come” from the October 2006 General Conference. The talk spoke of the power of Easter hope that fills all disciples of Christ. Elder Wirthlin invited all to live in the light of Christ.

Associate Athletic Director Brian Santiago and Associate Dean of the Marriott School of Business Bonnie Anderson talked about times when one may have followed the teachings of the Lord and reached out to serve another. They talked about the light of comfort, strength and purpose that comes when doing service. They shared one such story of a former BYU student, Suzanne.

Vice President Keith Vorkink discussed the importance of goodwill and service during the Christmas season. Vorkink was one of several speakers to emphasize the importance of service during the 2023 BYU Christmas Devotional. (Brooklynn Jarvis Kelson)

Suzanne had felt lonely during the winter time in her first semester away from home, they said. She felt a prompting to help a woman raking her leaves. After Suzanne and the woman finished raking the leaves, they sat down with a cup of hot chocolate and had a conversation.

The woman, having lived alone for several years, gave Suzanne advice on how to live happily during her first year of college, they said.

“In that kind service, Suzanne found the balm she needed. Suzanne learned that her Heavenly Father knew her as she was, just as He knows you and me, and every person,” Anderson said. “As we reach out to one another like Jesus did — in this season or in any season — the light finds us and fills us.

Following this story, a small ensemble of three singers, a guitar and piano performed the song “Some Children See Him.”

Vorkink wrapped up the devotional with a few words reminding all of the blessings and love brought by the Savior.

“Students, faculty and staff, we love you and we wish you a Merry Christmas,” Vorkink said. “May this holiday season be that holiday season where our whole campus community, in His name and for His sake, reaches out to all those around us who may need our help when goodwill towards men is central to our thoughts.”

The choir closed the devotional by singing “O Come All Ye Faithful,” with the audience joining in for the third verse.

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