These thoughts from Elder Anderson touched me as I read the December Ensign today.
I pray at this Christmas season that you might have some sense of the Lord’s regard for your offering, some sense of how you stand in His eyes, some sense of the beloved status you occupy as His son or His daughter. And I pray that knowledge of that status may give you a great deal of comfort, reassurance, and confidence that you are approved in His eyes….
With all of that to come, I think it’s appropriate this time of year to just think about that baby in the manger. Don’t be too overwhelmed or occupied with what is to come; just think about that little baby. Take a quiet, peaceful moment to ponder the beginning of His life—the culmination of heavenly prophecy but the earthly beginning for Him.
Take time to relax, be at peace, and see this little child in your mind. Do not be too concerned or overwhelmed with what is coming in His life or in yours. Instead, take a peaceful moment to contemplate perhaps the most serene moment in the history of the world—when all of heaven rejoiced with the message “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).
Aside from Jesus Christ, Mary has attracted veneration and worship as the mother of the Son of God. I wanted to share my own thoughts about her.
Mary came from a righteous family. It says in Luke 1:6 “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” This describes Elizabeth and Zacharias, but being related, I imagine it describes Mary’s parents and grandparents as well. What’s more, this family remained humble followers of Christ in a time of general apostasy. They were by lineage the leaders of the people, but were displaced from ruling, or at least not recognized by the current government and church leadership. Mary’s family may have been quite poor.
Mary was a faithful person, not doubt. Contrast Zacharias’s “Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.” With Mary’s “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” She had a quiet personality that kept these things and pondered them. She had questions to ponder: why am I chosen, am I worthy? How will I have a baby without being married? How do I prepare to be a mother to the Messiah?
Nephi calls Mary “most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.” If she was beautiful in the worldly sense, then it is that much more impressive that she was also humble. If she was beautiful in the spiritual sense, perhaps that is why she received the calling to be the mother of the Son of God. Perhaps she was beautiful in all of the meanings of the word, though Jesus did not inherit Mary’s physical beauty. “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him.”
Mary and Joseph both saw an angel on separate occasions. Here are some of the beautiful words spoken by the angel. “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21) “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33)
Mary spent time with Elisabeth, pondering and piecing together the information about the promised Messiah. I am sure they studied Isaiah and other prophets to learn more about what was about to happen. “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9) “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” (Jer. 23:5) The prophesies scattered throughout scripture had answers, but some were purposefully vague, and Mary still had to exercise faith in her projected course.
Mary had real challenges to face as a virgin expecting a child. The social stigma made her vulnerable, and she depended on Joseph to protect and defend her. Mary’s was a unique mortal situation was likely incomprehensible to most of the people who knew her. I find it interesting that the plan involved our Savior being born to a virgin. “For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women.” While the rest of the human family is conceived in sin, Jesus Christ came from a completely pure person. “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15) Jesus was born of a virgin, had no sin, and overcame death.
Mary’s struggles continued. She endured a long journey to Bethlehem at the end of her pregnancy. The roads were crowded and dusty. As her journey progressed, her position became dire. She was in labor. There was no room for her to deliver her baby in privacy. Finally, a place was found, no matter how humble. After labor came joy at his birth and safe arrival.
The choirs of angel came then, to the shepherds. “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The shepherds then made their way to the stable, sharing the good news from the angels with Mary and Joseph.
Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds were the first humble worshipers of Christ. “And the same word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (JST John 1:14). Except for the shepherd’s visit, the night would have been solitary for the new family. They did not see angels or hear choirs. The humble witness of common folk was the greeting Jesus received at birth. Our Christmas traditions of lights, bells, and decorations never adorned the first Christmas.
Mary’s journey did not end with Jesus’s birth. They traveled to the temple and home to Nazareth. Soon she and Joseph had to flee into Egypt. There Jesus spent his early years, far from any family other than his parents. Mary loved him and taught him as a young child. As he grew older, she had to allow him to pursue his own course. He became her teacher. Mary had to allow him freedom to complete his personal mission. She saw him suffer pain. She saw him realize his full potential. She understood him better than most of the people who knew him, and she stood by him even in death.
This year at Christmas, I rejoice in the gift of Jesus Christ, our Savior. I am grateful for Mary’s quiet example. She helped fulfill God’s plan for the salvation of all mankind.
To kick off the Christmas season, Mormon.org celebrates with inspiring messages about Christ. Remembering the true meaning brings the Christmas Spirit.
I liked this summary of our world’s need for a Savior. It states simply and clearly things I have been discovering over a lifetime. We need Jesus Christ as desperately now as at any other time. His message of hope still rings out over the centuries, offering salvation to a lost world.
I enjoyed watching Jenny Oaks Baker’s rendition of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Check out the site for more inspiring music to share.
This Christmas, worship Jesus Christ. His hope and love makes the holiday season the most important season of the year.
This year, I’ve thought of gifts to give to Jesus.
A Heart of Gold
As I continue my life journey and try each day to live according to the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, my heart becomes more pure. The trials of life soften me and teach me mercy. The Holy Spirit helps me feel Gods love, which increases my desire to love everyone around me. As I experience how living the commandments of God results in blessing and joy, I lose my desire to sin. Slowly, over more than a lifetime, my heart is becoming golden. You know, like those people you meet who are so sweet and wonderful that you can’t help loving them.
Prayers like Frankincense
God loves me. He loves all of his children. He gives me His word to help guide my life. Sometimes I don’t thank Him often enough. For Christmas, I will pray a little more often. Little prayers sent heavenward throughout the day. Perhaps talking to God as my Father, who wants to know how I feel. Sharing my joys along with my frustrations. Asking for guidance. Asking how I can help do His work. Praying to be more like the person He can help me become.
My life’s Myrrh
If I consider the example of Jesus Christ, he gave his life–all of it–to save us. There is no way to repay His gift. The whole purpose of Jesus’ mission results from the impossibility of our situation. If I follow His example, the most I can do is give my life to Him. It’s not a payback, but “our wills constitute all we really have to give God anyway.” He said, “Come, follow me.” In trying to do so, my life is completely different. Lived differently. That is my gift to God.
At this time of year, we’re all trying to feel that special ZING that means Christmas is here. More than anything, we have to stop and think and feel before the Christmas spirit comes into our hearts.
The greatest manifestation of God’s love for His children is the mortal ministry, atoning sacrifice, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. –Elder David A Bednar
This Christmas, in order to feel the Christmas Spirit
serve others. Spend more time thinking about what to give to others than what to ask for. At the beginning of December, share treats with neighbors. Take some to someone who doesn’t usually get a visit.
share your testimony of Jesus Christ. Ponder the nativity story, read inspiring Christmas stories, and sing Christmas songs. Do this with your children. Included them in baking treats, visiting others, and attending church. We watched the Grinch movie–it has a great message about experiencing a change of heart. That message is Christmas-y because the only way men are able to change and become better is through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
sing those special songs that talk about Jesus. The ones you don’t hear on the radio as often. When you feel the Holy Spirit, you feel the Christmas Spirit. I felt it when singing with the choir. I felt it when singing in the congregation. I felt it when singing at home, and when reading about love and service in Christmas stories. I felt it when reading my scriptures. I felt it when other people have served me or shared their testimonies of Christ.
I wonder that our Father in Heaven would send his most Beloved Son into the world in poor, almost miserable circumstances. I feel like it was a message of love from Father and Son that we are never forgotten, no matter how humble our own lives are.