Christmas is a glorious time of year. It is the only time of the year when some people think at all about Christ. It is the only time of the year that we hear in public places music with a religious message. However, we have to be careful because the Christmas Season also has many things like parties, shopping, etc. that can distract us from the true meaning of Christmas.
The Holy Scriptures are full of prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. Many blend prophecies of his birth with his 2nd coming. For example consider the following from Isaiah, part of which we are familiar with from Handel's Messiah (Isaiah 9:6):
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of [his] government and peace [there shall be] no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Why are there so many prophecies in the scriptures about the 2nd coming? It think there are two main reasons: 1) It helps motivate us to live the life we know we should so we won't be destroyed at His coming and 2) it is reassuring to know that in the end righteousness will triumph over evil.
In the Washington Temple as you go past the recommend desk and across the breezeway into the main part of the temple there is a huge mural that fills the whole wall. It portrays Christ's second coming and the destruction that will occur at His coming. On the left side are all the people who aren't prepared to meet him and on the right are those who are rejoicing at His coming. The artist painted himself on both sides of the picture. I think each of our lives are the same way. We are mostly on the right side, but there are a few things in our life that are on the wrong side of the picture. We need to keep working on those little habits and vices so that by the time Christ comes again, we are firmly on the right side of the picture.
Although the prophets have been teaching us the life we should live from the time of Adam, it seems that throughout history few people have chosen to follow the prophets' advice. A life of sin seems to becoming more and more the norm of society. Even the good people of the world seem to be caught up in self gratification and the material things of the world and completely ignoring the spiritual side of life. We live in a world were it is the norm for the rich and powerful to take advantage of the humble and the poor. Society's definition of success is even given in terms of monetary wealth. When we say that someone is successful in life, it usually means that they have plenty of money. Some times it seems that we are on the losing side. In prophecies of the second coming we look forward to a time when thing will be different. When living the "Good life" doesn't mean having lots of money. We can compare life to a football game. We have Satan with his team against Christ and his team. Although we know that we are on the winning team it is discouraging to look at the world and see Satan winning so many of the battles. Everyone wants to be on the winning team. Remember just as in football, it isn't who's team that is ahead during the game that counts, but what happens in the end. It is reassuring to know that in the end, it is Christ and his team that will win.
Perhaps one of the clearest descriptions of what the millennium will be like is from the book Doctrines of Salvation by Joseph Fielding Smith Jr. Vol. 3, p.58:
It shall be in that day that the lion shall lie down with the lamb and eat straw as the ox, and all fear, hatred, and enmity shall depart from the earth because all things having hate in their hearts shall pass away; and there shall come a change, a change over men, a change over the beasts of the field, and upon all things living upon the face of the earth.
According to this word I have read there shall be harmony, and love, and peace, and righteousness because Satan is bound that he cannot tempt any man, and that will be the condition that shall be upon the earth for 1,000 years. Not only that, but men shall live free from sin and free from the ravages of disease and death until they reach the age of 100 years. Infants shall not die, they shall live until they have filled the measure of their mortal creation. ...
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith also tells us about the start of the millennium (Doctrines of Salvation. Vol. 1, p. 86):
Some members of the Church have an erroneous idea that when the millennium comes all of the people are going to be swept off the earth except righteous members of the Church. That is not so. There will be millions of people, Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, Mohammedans, people of all classes, and of all beliefs, still permitted to remain upon the face of the earth, but they will be those who have lived clean lives, those who have been free from wickedness and corruption. All who belong, by virtue of their good lives, to the terrestrial order, as well as those who have kept the celestial laws, will remain upon the face of the earth during the millennium.
Eventually, however, the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters do the sea. But there will be need for the preaching of the gospel, after the millennium is brought in, until all men are either converted or pass away. ...
The Book of Mormon also gives us insight into the millennium. The appearance of Christ to the Nephites is very similar to the start of the millennium.
As members of the Church we are expected to do our family history research. There is much that we can do now. However, there are many people who lived and died in places and times where all records were either lost or were never created. The temple work for these people will need to be performed during the millennium when people from both sides of the veil can work together.
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith also tells us:
However, there shall be mortality upon the face of the earth during the thousand years, because of the great work that is to be accomplished of salvation for the dead. During that thousand years of peace the great work of the Lord shall be in the temples, and into those temples the people shall go to labor for those who have passed beyond and who are waiting to have these ordinances which pertain to their salvation performed for them by those who still dwell in mortality upon the earth. And so there shall be mortal men, but they shall live from the time of birth until they are 100 years old and shall then be changed suddenly.
It is nice to know that things will work out in the end, that good will triumph over evil, but what about now? Do we just sit ideally by waiting for the millennium to come, or worse yet, glorying in the revenge that will come when the wicked finally get what they deserve? No, we need to be doing good now. We may not be able to triumph over the evils in our society as a whole, but we can win the victory in individual lives. We can start with ourselves then broaden it to our family and those around us. How do we gain this victory? We need to learn to know God. In John 17:3 it says:
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
There are two different aspects of knowledge; 1) intellectual knowledge and 2) knowledge that we gain by doing. As examples of this, most of our school learning (book learning) is the intellectual type while things like learning to ride a bike or learning to swimming are learning by doing. We need to use both types of learning to get to know God. We need to study the scriptures and we need to know God by doing the works that He does. Of course we can't be perfect like He was in this life, but we can always strive to make our lives more like His.
The intellectual learning is probably the easier of the two. In my profession I work with science and computers. In these fields building on the work that others have done is particularly effective. Programing a computer to a do a particular task takes a great deal of effort, but once that task has been programed, others can take advantage of it and not need to recreate it. By contrast on the spiritual side of life, most virtues must be recreated from scratch in each individual's life. Each of us must individually overcome selfishness and pride, build patience, faith and our testimony on our own. Of course we can lean on the testimonies of parents and Church leaders, but in the end each of us must gain our own victory. In the scriptures we learn the faith promoting stories of other, but to really know, we must learn by doing.
We can use this Christmas season as a chance to improve our lives. We can become more caring, more generous, and more loving. Remembering back to the mural in the Washington temple, we can make sure that we place ourselves on the right side of the picture when He comes again. We do this by using this Christmas season to serve others.