I Wish You a Mary Christmas!

rp_Mary-and-Christ-article-photo-Dec-15-300x300.jpgHow many times have I read, or heard, or seen portrayed the account of the nativity, including Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child, as recorded in the New Testament? I couldn’t even begin to count the number. And neither probably could you. It’s a tradition at this time of year to tell the story in our home and I’m guessing in yours too. We like to act it out.

Of course, the coveted role is that of Mary. Each of our daughters, and now granddaughters, hope to pull her name out of the bowl. All eyes are on her as she slowly walks into ‘Bethlehem’. Joseph is always so attentive. Everyone wants to help her when the innkeeper turns them away. She so gently and politely shares her newborn with the many shepherds and their flocks, that come to adore him, as directed by the angel, and welcomes so kindly the wiseman that arrive with gifts of great worth. Reverence and honor for that righteous young woman who gave herself to the Lord and her part in His plan, is felt by all there. And rightfully so.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said of Mary,

“Our Lord’s mother, Mary, like Christ, was chosen and foreordained in pre-existence for the part she was destined to play in the great plan of salvation. Hers was the commission to provide a temporal body for the Lord Omnipotent, to nurture and cherish him in infancy and youth, and to aid him in preparing for the great mission which he alone could perform. Certainly she was one of the noblest and greatest of all the spirit offspring of the Father.” [1]

Though we don’t have much information on her, we can glean a good deal about her character traits from a careful reading of the first and second chapters of Luke. Discovering how she handled the announcement of her divine calling gives each of us women, a good example to follow in our own lives when seemingly difficult situations present themselves and questions arise.

Mary’s journey begins.

We’ll begin in Luke 1. Here we find Mary, descended from the royal line of King David, a righteous and fair young woman, espoused. Her life is going on as is customary and she is more than likely anxiously looking forward to, and preparing for, her upcoming marriage to Joseph. Then an angel appears to her making an announcement that changes everything for her.

“And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.” [2]

annunciation-mary-bible-video-1398414-mobileHer first recorded response? She is troubled. Perhaps even confused and unsettled by his words. And who wouldn’t be? Though she makes no recorded response, the angel Gabriel sees Mary’s concern and hopes to comfort her with, “Fear not.” She could have run. She could have hid. But Mary exhibits great faith and courage by staying put, allowing the messenger to continue.

Let’s examine ourselves here. When we receive counsel or direction, either personal or from the Brethren to the body of the Church, and to the world for that matter, we may find ourselves troubled, confused or doubtful about what is being said. It may make us uncomfortable. It may seem to interfere with what we have planned or have become accustomed to. Our first reaction may be to turn away from the messenger, rejecting not only the message but the one delivering it. But just like Mary, we too should stay put when questions arise, policy changes, trials come. Trusted family members, good friends, and local Church leaders will encourage us to “stay in the boat”, as Elder Russell M. Ballard taught.

Are questions a lack of faith?

annunciation-mary-bible-video-angel-1398415-mobileAs Mary listens Gabriel continues:

“And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
“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.” [3]

I can only imagine, and even then not that well, what Mary could have been thinking at this point. How did she process that? What scenarios went through her mind? How much time went by before the questions came? Though only one is found in the scriptures for us to read, surely there were many. Though perhaps not vocalized, who can doubt that her head and heart must have been full of them at that point.

“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” [4]

She had questions about the decree from heaven. The announcement could not be comprehended within the limitations of the mortal mind. She was a virgin and not yet married. It did not seem logical, or even possible. The messenger gave an answer to her question. And, perhaps knowing that even this added information may not satisfy or be able to be absorbed, he ended with the assurance,

“For with God nothing shall be impossible.” [5]

Looking back at ourselves again, how do we respond when we have questions and the answers given are not what we want to hear, to our satisfaction, or understood? Ours may be questions asked in silent personal prayers, as couples pleading in unison for a heartfelt desire. They may concern personal or family situations…finances, relationships, health issues, spiritual struggles. They may also concern announcements to the Church membership at the Ward or Stake level. Or to the entire Church body. Relief from questioning may not come to us quickly; and even in this life time. But Gabriel’s words to Mary, “For with God nothing is impossible” can, if we allow them, give the confidence needed to square our shoulders while bending in humility and move forward on the path, sometimes purely in faith.

Obedience brings blessings.

I would love to see how things happened next. How long did Mary try to wade through all of this in her mind? Did she go back and forth within herself? Did she weigh faith against reality? Whatever her personal desires and dreams had been, regardless of the cultural scorn she may be subjected to, and even in spite of a total understanding her response was one of the grandest examples of faith to me in all the scriptures….

mary-joseph-journey-to-bethlehem-958692-mobile“And Mary said, Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word…” [6]

I have never had an angel deliver a heavenly decree to me. But I have had prayers answered in ways that were not what I wanted; and sometimes even broke my heart. I have had the Lord speak to me through Ward and Stake leaders extending callings or giving counsel that I felt unprepared for or would have preferred not to receive. A phone call from a General Authority invited my husband and I to serve a full-time mission though he was not yet retired. Policies and administration have changed at times within the Church that I have not understood. I know that in your lives you have experienced these things and others too. Through all those experiences I have chosen to give myself to the Lord’s will. Just in case you begin to imagine me a saint I’ll be brutally honest and say that sometimes it was with some internal eye rolls or kicking and screaming. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true.

Obedience brings blessings. And one of those blessings for me has been that as I’ve accepted, complied, or obeyed, and not murmured, especially publicly, I have, over time, found peace about those things that were difficult for me; even enlightenment and testimony. I hope your experiences have been the same. We can see further in Luke 1 that this was the case for Mary. Later, when she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, she expresses a depth of testimony and understanding concerning Heavenly Father and her role in His plan that could only be present after the spiritual tutoring and strengthening that comes following obedience.

nativity-mary-mother-of-jesus-baby-jesus-1301892-mobile

Silent night, holy night

Granddaughter, Paris, preparing to enter the Packard family naivity as Mary.

 

Perhaps this year, and in years to come, when you’re happily wishing those around you a Merry Christmas you will think to yourself not only of our Savior, Jesus Christ, but also of his sweet, questioning, and then obedient, faithful and testimony-filled mother, Mary. Though we do not worship her, we should, at this time of the year and always, respect, appreciate, and gain strength from her excellent and quiet example. And choose to follow it.

From my family to yours, we wish you a very Mary and Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

[1] Mormon Doctrine, ‘Mary’, pg. 471
[2] Luke 1:29
[3] Luke 1:31-33
[4] Luke 1:34
[5] Luke 1:37
[6] Luke 1:38

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About Bethany Packard

Bethany Packard is absolutely in love with her wonderful husband, Chad. They live in the Dallas, TX area where they raised six amazing children and owned a business, though now retired. Nineteen terrific grandchildren fill their hearts with joy. At age 49, the Packards were called to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a Senior Couple (though they certainly didn't see themselves as "Senior") and assigned to the Russia Moscow Mission. Leaving their family and business - before they were retired - took faith, but it also created the opportunity for God to perform many miracles in their lives. Two other mission opportunities have come their way; a Church Service Mission as Internship Coordinators for BYU-Idaho in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and in November of 2019 she and her husband returned to fulltime missionary service, this time assigned to the Peru Lima North Mission. They were evacuated when the pandemic began and are now awaiting a return to Lima or a reassignment stateside. She loves music, interior design, cooking, sports, fall, macaroni & cheese, and says learning Spanish is much easier than learning Russian.

One thought on “I Wish You a Mary Christmas!

  1. Chelsey Ortega

    What a beautiful tribute to Mary, thank you Bethany. Your words brought tears to my eyes. I have been struggling since the Women’s session of conference, feeling like I have been asked to sacrifice too much in my current situation. But the words, “For with God nothing shall be impossible” really help. As I have cried to my mom, my neighbor, and my relief society president, I have felt the love and support that women were meant to give each other. And Mary’s story can offer strength and comfort of its own. Once again, beautifully written. Thank you!

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