Sunday, December 9, 2012

Worth Remembering

I used this talk for my Relief Society lesson last week, and I was very grateful that I came across it.  Its speaks of so many of the things I often think about at Christmas, but expresses them more eloquently than I could ever hope to myself.

I don't think I ever really thought about Mary in a serious, meaningful way until I had my first baby.  It was several weeks shy of my 20th birthday, I was thousands of miles from most of the places and people that were familiar to me, and I was in an old, run down and poor country hospital that many mainland women turned their noses up at when it came time to have their babies.  But compared to Mary's experience, I was in the lap of luxury:  not only were my husband and mother at my side, but so was a highly trained, wonderful OB-Gyn who had delivered hundreds of babies, and plenty of capable nurses.  For all its quirks and deficiencies, Kahuku Hospital did have most modern technologies expected of American hospitals, and clean, sterile sheets and a comfy birthing bed (yes, I jest--there is no such thing as a comfortable birthing bed--but it was a bed, nonetheless).  It started to finally click for me what it must've been like to be 14 or 15, having your first baby away from home and family, with no assistance, in a dirty and drafty barn on a chilly spring night, after having ridden or walked about a 100 miles in the preceding days.  How terribly uncomfortable and frightening.

And as I have not just had babies, but raised children, it has dawned on me how daunting the task assigned to Mary and Joseph was. That difficult, uncomfortable night in Bethlehem was but a shadow of the sacrifices that they would ultimately make. Every parent has moments when she doubts herself--every parent sometimes thinks, I should've done this better, I should've done more of that.  I can only imagine how inadequate Mary and Joseph must've felt at times, knowing what and who they had to prepare their son to be.  It is astonishing how readily and humbly they accepted one of the most daunting assignments in history.

We remind ourselves often (as we should) that our Father gave his first born son.  As parents, I think we come to understand and appreciate that sacrifice a bit more as we better appreciate how much our children mean to us and how we loathe seeing them suffer.  I also think, however, that sometimes it still feels a bit removed--he is, after all, God, and so far beyond us in so many ways.  I think we would do well to remind ourselves that Mary, an inarguably exceptional but still very mortal woman, probably understood better than any other soul the words of Isaiah's prophecy as she held her newborn baby: "Unto a us a child is born, unto us a son is given. . ."  He was very much hers, and yet she knew that he was ours, and she and Joseph together reared the living Son of God, fed and clothed and taught him, to help him become what they knew he must be.  The Father gave his first born son, for which we ought to express gratitude and reverently rejoice, but it is worth remembering that, nearly as willingly, Mary gave her firstborn son, as well.  At the beginning of Jesus' life, there was Mary, in pain, exposed, tired in every joint, bone and right into her soul.  At the end of his life, the Savior hung on the cross, in excruciating pain, exposed, more thoroughly exhausted than any other soul before or since, and there, always as close as she could be, at the foot of his cross, was his beloved mother, undoubtedly in anguish at the sight of her son's agony, having to part with the child that she had sacrificed so much for.  Again, she probably knew better than any other living soul that his death and resurrection would bring us all new life.

So as you celebrate the Savior, take a moment to remember those two nearly anonymous souls who were two of the chiefest figures in helping to give us the most precious gift in all eternity.  Think of what was asked of them, of all that they did to serve the one who ultimately served us all best, and consider if there isn't perhaps a bit more you could do to serve others in your life.  Even if that only means being a bit more patient, kind and compassionate.  Its as true now as it have ever been that the best gifts that we give are the ones we cannot wrap.

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