December 19, 2011

Mary the Mother of our Savior Jesus

I wanted to write about a remarkable woman today.  We praise her every Christmas for the gift she gave us.  She gave us the Son of God.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to sacrifice a great deal to bring Him to us.

Mary was a young faithful Jewish girl living in a town named Nazareth, just like so many other girls in her faith.  She had to work hard with her family to have enough to eat each day.  She kept the commandments and obeyed her parents.  And she prayed to Heavenly Father.  Still, it must have shocked her to see an angel and have him speak to her.  

More shocking still would be what he said to her.  After telling her she was highly favored of God, he told her she would have a baby and name him Jesus.  He added that Jesus would called the Son of God, and that he would be given a throne and reign over a kingdom that would have no end.

This revelation would have unsettled Mary.  First, that she would become a mother when she had not yet been married.  And yet she would be the mother to a king! 

Her worries were legitimate.  She was subject to being treated badly, even being stoned to death because of becoming a mother before marriage.  And yet, this baby was the son of God!  Surely God would protect and bless her!  That thought must have given her the faith to go on.  Her response to the angel was quick, although these many thoughts must have swirled in her mind.  She said simply, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word."  In the language of the day, she essentially said, "If this is what Heavenly Father wants me to do, I will do it, as I am his willing servant."

Mary lived, but had to live with a bad reputation now.  People probably treated her badly.  You know the rest of the story:  the king announced a tax and that required Joseph to travel to Bethlehem to register with the census and pay his tax.  He took Mary with him.  It was a long journey and she was uncomfortable with her pregnancy.  After days of travel, the time of delivery had come as they came into Bethlehem.  Joseph found a simple stable for her after trying hard to find a room for her anywhere.  All of the inns were full.  

Mary delivered the baby Jesus in the worst of circumstances a new mother could face.  First, she was without her mother, who would have helped her do the work required to deliver a baby.  Second, she was not in a hospital, or even a sanitary home to deliver the baby.  She was in a building that housed animals.  It must have been smelly and filthy by today's standards.  No face masks, no plastic gloves, and no sanitary wipes were around to make the environment sterile.  Mary didn't even have a clean bed to lay in.  Third, she was exhausted from a long journey.  Some say she rode on a donkey, but the bible isn't clear.  She may have walked the whole way!  Even if she rode a donkey, that in itself is exhausting work, perched on an animal as it ambles forward.  If you've ever ridden on a horse for more than a few minutes, you will know how much work it is.  

Jesus came quietly that night in Bethlehem.  Mary must have wondered all the more as they laid him in the feeding trough lined with a shawl, as they didn't want to lay him down on the dirty floor.  By today's standards, they were living like homeless people!  Is this really how it was supposed to all work out?

Yes, it was.  While this was all happening in Bethlehem, in the foothills nearby were shepherds watching their flocks of sheep.  They may have noticed the new star that had appeared in the sky and wondered what it meant.  An angel that told them about the meaning of the star.  A special baby had been born that very night.  He told them that it was a joyful night, as a Savior and King had been born.  He told them where to look and how to recognize Jesus.  As the angel shared this news, the shepherds heard angels in heaven sing hymns of praise.  They hurried to find Jesus just as the angel had described, lying in a manger in Bethlehem.

Mary showed remarkable faith as she did what Heavenly Father asked her to do, and she relied on Heavenly Father to help her fulfill her calling.  She lost her good reputation, her home in Nazareth, and her own dreams to do so.  She went on to care for Jesus, to teach him and to raise him.  The sacrifices she made to 'mother' the Son of God were small in comparison to the honor and privilege it was for her to know Jesus Christ as her son, as only a mother would know Him.

I hope you enjoy this Christmas as a time to celebrate Christ's birth as the tidings of great joy that it really is.  Let's try not to think of our own worries or troubles but to think of God's gift of His son to us.  Know that Heavenly Father is watching over you just as he watched over Mary during Jesus' birth.

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