Updated: Feb 15, 2022
12/26/2021 - Beachside Ward
Merry Christmas Brothers and Sisters—
Growing up, and still today, my family loves to give people nicknames. Bronco, Lou, and Neck were are few names I got as a kid that still live with me today. Some of you in this congregation may even be lucky enough to have a Clinton Holloway coined nickname! But what’s in a name? Like the names I was giving growing up there are stories behind why my family called me them. This is true of most names or nicknames we are given in life. Knowing the story makes the name, and people, more endearing to those who know them. When you hear the name, “Bronco”, you might think that’s a weird name. But when I hear it, I think of who gave it to me, and everything it means and it makes me smile. This happens with the names of Jesus. When you first hear them, they might not mean much to you. You might even think, “weird name.” But as you get to know what each name means, it becomes a name that makes you smile.
When Jesus was on the earth his close friends and followers would call him by different names each probably having a specific meaning or significance to that person...John the Baptist referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Andrew after running to find his brother Simon said, “we have found the Messias.” Philip found Nathanael and told him he had met the one prophesied about in the scriptures, Jesus of Nazareth. And Nathanael’s response after meeting Jesus was, “Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” On January 1st, 2000 the First Presidency and 12 apostles issued The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles to the world, in which they share their testimony of the reality of the Savior, of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. While reading through the proclamation about the Savior I found at least 17 different titles or names used to help us understand who He is. “He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth.” He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten in the Flesh, the Redeemer of the world. Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying in D&C 110: 3-4 “I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.”
This is the name of Christ I have been asked to speak about to you today. The name Advocate comes from a Latin word that means someone who is a voice for you or someone who pleads for another. Who can be an advocate for you? A Sibling, a friend, neighbor, coworker or boss, a lawyer, or a parent, but who better to be our Advocate than the Savior. In D&C 29:5 it reads “Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I am in your midst, and am your Advocate” He is someone who unconditionally pleads for you, and someone you can trust with everything. All because He knows and loves you. The word can also be translated as an intercessor, helper, or comforter. To Advocate means to fight for or defend a case. Before Christ entered into the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord prayed to the Father in a prayer that has been called the Great Intercessory Prayer. The word intercessor is another synonym for advocate. It is a title that describes someone who is willing to intervene or intercede on someone else’s behalf. Someone willing to step into a situation to help. The prayer is in John chapter 17 in part it reads, “I pray for them…for they are mine….I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from evil…Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth”. That prayer, that pleading is what is meant to be an advocate—to plead for someone else, and that someone else here is you and me, and that Advocate is Jesus.
In a book I was reading (that doesn’t happen often) to prepare for this talk the Author says, “I don’t know what the final judgment day will look like, but sometimes I imagine it as a courtroom. I see myself standing there alone, worried about the overloaded evidence table and the line of witnesses to speak out against me. Then I imagine the judge asking, “Is there anyone here willing to claim this boy? Is there anyone here willing to speak for him? Who is willing to defend and advocate the case of a clearly guilty criminal? The evidence against him is stacked” Then I imagine hearing a response like this one: “Listen to him who is the Advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him- Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified: Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life D&C 45:3-5. An Advocate in a court of law is someone who chooses to defend you. Sometimes Lawyers will pass up cases they know they can't win or where the accused is clearly guilty, but our Savior chose to stand by and defend us knowing full well what we have done. He came and lived out a perfect life for us, He defeated sin and death and the grasp that Satan has on us. And he did this even knowing everything that He knows.
In that same book the author tells a story about 2 brothers who were stationed together on the USS Arizona during the pearl harbor attack. When the ship was bombed John, the older brother of the two, was dragged out, injured and dazed, and put onto a rescue boat of wounded soldiers that took off back to the shore for safety. As the lifeboat pulled away from the sinking battleship, John realized what was going on and immediately started looking around the life raft for his younger brother. When he didn’t see him, he yelled, “I can't go; my brother’s back in there!” No amount of danger or fire or warnings could stop him. He was going to find his lost brother. He went running in. In that moment he was his brother's advocate; he had a pure love for him that he risked his own life trying to save his brother.
In the beginning before we came to this life our Heavenly Parents were preparing to send Their beloved children into a world where they knew we would be lost and sinking some days and would need someone to come looking for us. There were 2 plans presented and our Heavenly Father asked for a volunteer. A rescuer, an Advocate. One who would run to the fire to rescue. “Whom Shall I Send?”, the Father asked. Jesus replied, “Here am I send Me.” He stood for us before the world was created and will still be standing there by us in the end also. In 1 Samuel 17 we read of a great battle between the Philistines and Israelites. During ancient times there was a rule that each army could choose a champion to fight for and on behalf of the rest of the army, in a battle that would determine who wins or loses. The Philistines naturally chose Goliath, a warrior that had been training since he was a boy, to be their champion. After 40 days and still no decision made on the Israelites side, they were in desperate need of anyone willing and able to fight for them. But who really wants to volunteer to be slaughtered by a giant? Then came David, a shepherd boy that was too young to fight. He was there to deliver supplies to his brothers that were fighting, but in seeing the need to fight for such a great cause he went to the king and said, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight.” I will go, he said. He would go in their place. An intercessor warrior. And that is exactly what he did. Sometimes in life we may find ourselves on our own battlefield up against a trained giant thinking the battle is already lost. We may be scared, we may not be strong enough, or even brave enough, but it is in those moments that we must remember the man from Bethlehem that was sent by his father into the frontlines of all of our battles. From the very beginning He has been choosing to fight for and in behalf of us—to stand in our place—when he responded to the Father, “Here am I, send me.” He came and He fought and He won. Our sin has no power to live once He comes into the battle. He thought there was a cause worth fighting for. That cause was us. In Hebrews 12:2 is reads, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” The joy that was set before him brothers and sisters, that is you, that is me, that is how he endured the cross-through the joy that you are to Him. We are worth it!
We do not have to wait until the final judgment to access the blessings of Jesus as our advocate. Notice the word IS in D&C 45: 3. Do you understand the difference between saying “Jesus Christ WILL be our advocate” and “Jesus Christ IS our advocate?” The Savior not only pleads our cause at the Final Judgement but stands as our Advocate every day as we pray to Heavenly Father, repent, and seek to have the Spirit with us. Of this knowledge Elder Christofferson said, “I am particularly gratified, and it is of great significance to me, that I may at any moment and in any circumstance approach through prayer the throne of grace, that my Heavenly Father will hear my petition, that my Advocate, him who did no sin, whose blood was shed, will plead my cause. I rely heavily on that access to God, which he gives to all his children, for he is indeed no respecter of persons, and he that asks shall receive.” In Alma 12: 7 it reads: And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Infirmities are the stuff of life. The sicknesses, the sorrows, the sadnesses. He knows exactly according to the flesh what we experience and feel. To have the knowledge that there is One that knows everything about us should give us comfort. We are not alone and we do not have to try to do it by ourselves.