It may be too early to call it, but I think 2016 may already be my favorite Christmas ever. I have always loved Christmas but this year something has transformed my Christmas and I want to share it with you. A couple of weeks ago at work we published a piece by one of our contributors, Brooke Romney, called “My grown-up advent: Putting Christ back into Christmas.” Similar to the candy advents where you get to open a piece a day, this advent invites you to open to a new scripture each day and then ask questions relating to the scripture. On Dec. 1, feeling that I had become pretty apathetic with my scripture study, I decided to give it a try. I roped my sister into reading along with me and each day we have sent our responses to the questions back and forth.
Over the past six days we have read scriptures about Mary, Joseph, Zacharias and Elisabeth and in the process the characters of the Christmas story have become very real to me.
First, I was introduced to a girl named Mary who we really don’t know anything about until the angel shows up and tells her that she is “highly favored.” I imagine this was because Mary was not only pure but she was good and kind. Heavenly Father knew that she would be a good mother and that nothing in her life would prevent the Savior from fulfilling his earthly mission. I couldn’t help but imagine that Mary must have felt overwhelmed by the responsibility and probably immediately began reevaluating her life and yet, I began to hope, as I read, that Heavenly Father might someday have the same kind of trust in me that he had in Mary.
On day four, I read about Joseph. I googled what the scriptures mean when they say, Joseph was “not willing to make her a publick example” and “intended to put her away privily.” I found a pastor’s sermon that explained this particular scripture and found out that apparently in their time there was no such thing as a secret end of an engagement but Joseph intended to keep the reason for the end of their engagement secret. This meant that Joseph intended to take the heat because people would soon find out that Mary was pregnant and instead of her being accused of cheating on Joseph or even being physically punished, Joseph would instead look like the bad guy. This would not only reflect poorly on Joseph because he got Mary pregnant out of wedlock but also because he left her. This article pointed out that this could have jeopardized Joseph’s entire future because no one would want their daughter to marry someone with that history. But Joseph was ready to do that. He was kind, merciful and loyal. And as I read, it made total sense to me that this would be the man that Heavenly Father would want to act as the earthly father for his perfect son. I found myself longing to be more like Joseph: more selfless, more forgiving and slower to anger.
Most recently, I read about Zacharias and Elisabeth and at first, I didn’t feel like we had a lot in common. But then I realized that they were waiting for something and felt that they were running out of time and sometimes I feel the same way. Still, they remained righteous and we see that the Lord blessed them. When they thought they had run out of time, Heavenly Father showed them that the only time that really matters is his time. He gave them exactly what they wanted: a son. Sure, they got it a little later than expected but it makes total sense to us now reading their story that if they were supposed to raise the cousin of Christ, the timing had to be just right. And I realized that maybe in retrospect I’ll be able to understand this waiting period of my life too.
Tonight, I was at a Christmas party and one of my previous church leaders (probably one of my favorite people on the face of the planet) shared a message. He talked about how we feel this need to really make a difference in the world and we think that the way to do this is by being a CEO or having positions of influence. But then he told us about last year’s December issue of National Geographic which said “Mary, The Most Powerful Woman in the World.”
He then explained that we don’t need to be CEOs or celebrities to make a difference in the world. We just have to be good. And I guess that is what I have found over the last week: I just want to be good. I want to trust God and his plan for me. I want to be ready when he needs me.
I’m grateful for these people who welcomed the Savior into the world…people who were just good.
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