Category Archives: Holidays

Lessons from the Nativity

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Have I shared how much I love Christmas? I hate and despise winter with every bit of me but I love Christmas with equal intensity. It’s a magical time where I get to buy gifts for those I love (giving gifts is one of my love languages), spend time with family, follow traditions and rituals I love and turn my mind to Christ. Love is a big element of Christmastime.

This year as I’ve been preparing for Christmas, I have been impressed repeatedly by the story of the Nativity and what it has to teach us. I want to share a few of those with you.

Lesson from Mary

Mary shows us the ultimate humility of anyone except for perhaps Christ and more courage than anyone other than Eve when she says to Gabriel “Behold the handmaid of the Lord;…” Later, Mary travels with Joesph to Bethlehem. There, her baby is born in a stable, amongst animals, probably without the birth attendants of her choice (which likely her mother and sisters and the midwife who had cared for her in the beginning of her pregnancy). After childbirth, Mary received guests (the shepherds and probably others) to greet her newborn son. This was usually a time when women were somewhat isolated as they were “impure” (which is a really amazing study topic if you have some time and not associated with sinfulness like we may think), and here she was receiving guests! Now I’m not suggesting she was up on her feet, fixing meals or refreshments, but the grace Mary must have had to receive these strangers teaches me to be more generous with others in my life. Her humility to be the Mother of Christ, to bear the trials which came with that calling and welcome the worshipers who were sent at one of the most sensitive and vulnerable times of her life reminds me to be humble as my Heavenly Parents and Savior shape me into who They want me to be.

Mary also teaches me to be thoughtful, meditative and reflective. In possibly one of the most beautiful scriptures about spiritual experiences, we learn “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” By pondering, I create space for God to teach me more about experiences I’m given to help me grow.

Lessons from the midwives

I have to read between the lines a little here, but as a birth worker, I’m well familiar with the fact that Mary was probably attended to by midwives and gave birth in a stable or a home. Her sisters- and mother-in-law were probably there as well. It’s possible that they weren’t planning on attending to Mary who lived in Nazareth (about 70-80 miles away). It’s likely that Mary had been in Bethlehem a few weeks before her baby was born but the midwife there probably hadn’t had a lot of time getting to know Mary. This untold story teaches me to be willing to helping those in need, no matter what circumstance we find our lives cross paths or how much or little I was planning on being of aid. It also teaches me to be open to opportunities to serve whenever they come.

They also teach me that just as men witnessed the Christ child, so did women. That’s a powerful message of equality in a world which largely ignores or misunderstands the contributions of women to the work of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Lessons from the shepherds and the wise men

Christ was actually likely born in the spring. This was “lambing season” when mother ewes were giving birth. This was (is) a very intense time of the year for shepherds. However, at the angels’ direction, the shepherds “came with haste” to find Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. I don’t know if they left their sheep all at once, or if they took turns, but they all left their livelihoods and something that was very important to them at a very critical time.

Similarly, the wise men left their livelihoods and lives and traveled a far distance to meet Jesus. Their journey was not short and was likely expensive. These stories teach me that following Christ is something worth giving up everything that’s seemingly important. This is a lesson repeated throughout the nativity (with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men and Anna) but also throughout the scriptures as Christ calls apostles and disciples to follow Him.

The shepherds were also ordinary people. They weren’t Jewish religious leaders or important rulers. They were humble men without much to garner them an invitation to the most important event in all of history. Similarly, the wise men were foreigners, possibly even gentiles from Babylon, who would’ve been looked down upon by the Jews no matter their status in their own kingdom (where they were probably admired and respected). This teaches me that Christ doesn’t just want to speak to the leaders of the church or those who are deemed appropriate or worthy by “the world” (and that includes the body of the Church). Christ reveals himself to the mighty and the small, the poor and the wealthy, those who lead a church and those who never do “more” than show up to worship. Anyone who will hear the call to come to Him are welcome.

Lessons from Christ

Christ came to earth in the humblest of circumstances. He became an infant, tiny and helpless, descending physically to the lowest a human can be, utterly dependent on another for care. He became as we are in order to do the Father’s will. Like the shepherds and the wise men He gave up everything to come serve us. As He grew, He learned grace by grace, not all at once, just as we do. He became like us so that we can become like Him. He was willing to submit to all things, including the complete loss of autonomy and self-sufficiency, to follow God’s plan. The message couldn’t be clearer to me: following Christ means being willing to recognize our infant state and our complete and utter dependence on someone else (Him) for our salvation.

 

The nativity holds so many other lessons for me, too many to tell here. It’s a beautiful story with so much complexity and depth, with untold stories and silent lessons waiting to be discovered.

At this time of darkness, we celebrate the greatest Light of the world. He is the way, the truth and the light, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, the Prince of Peace, the Redeemer of Israel and the Savior of my soul. Christ came to earth a baby, as we all did, and became what we all hope one day to be. He shows the way and He enables our salvation as we come to Him and be perfected by his blood.

Merry Christmas. May the light of Christ shine on you at this season and always.

Image credit: the Mormon Channel and Simon Dewey.

Image credit: the Mormon Channel and Simon Dewey.

Observing Lent

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One of the elements of my faith that I love the most is that all truth is considered part of the LDS gospel. It’s a concept I wrote about almost a year ago. Reviewing that post was a timely reminder for me as I begin my Lenten Season.

Ash Wednesday was yesterday and I again missed Mass due to work to my sadness. One year I am going to get to go.

I started observing Lent in an effort to increase the value of my Easter worship. Unlike Christmas, I feel like Easter has a habit of sneaking up on me. There is no long lead up and very little religious observance prior to Easter. There’s just the commercialism that appears a few weeks before and then suddenly: Easter Day. And then it is over.

Easter is the crowing event of all of human history. It is the fulfillment of the promises of Christmas and, for Mormons, of a premortal existence. It is the singular event from which we can draw hope for Eternal Lives and Salvation through Christ. Without Easter, the whole world would be utterly wasted.

And yet, in the Mormon world, in some Christian religions and in the secular world, Easter is a mere blip, one day and then gone. This is part of why I have fallen in love with Lent.

Lent extends Easter observance to over 40 days prior to Easter day. Catholics and some other reform sects of Christianity (Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans and Presbyterians in particular) fast for 40 days (the Sundays that fall during this period are excluded).

While some fast from meals (As I understand it, Catholic rules limit meals to only one full meal a day although snacks are allowed), many fast from something else, giving up a bad habit, something they enjoy or something that they feel keeps them from being closer to God. Others still don’t “give up” something but instead use this time to create a good habit. Many do some combination of the three.

Some consider this fasting period to be in similitude of Jesus Christ’s 40 day fast in the wilderness.

In considering what I want to fast from during Lent, I try to pick something that will be a challenge, but not impossible, that takes my current situation into account (for example, while I was pregnant I gave up something easier to sacrifice because I was already having a very difficult time being pregnant) and that will draw my mind to the Savior repeatedly – something that I will think about regularly-ish. It is so easy in my busy, go-always world to forget my covenants to “always remember Him.” Lent helps me do that better.

It’s become an important part of my Easter observation and has enriched and blessed my life. I try very hard to only add good things to my life. Lent is one of them.

I’d love to hear your Lent stories. What have you given up in the past? What are you fasting from this year? How has it enriched your life? Questions? Clarifications? Comment below!

Returning to God as we celebrate the holidays

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There is much I hate about this time of year. I hate the snow. I hate the wind. I hate that the days are short and the sky is dark long before I leave work. I hate the traffic. Oh how I hate the traffic. And driving in the snow. And how in Utah drivers don’t slow down which causes accidents and makes bad roads extremely dangerous. I hate the cold. I hate that I can run the heat for hours and still feel cold. I hate the consumerism and how Christmas shopping is so important that Thanksgiving has been washed away. I could go on, as there is much I hate about this time of year.

But there is also much that I love about this time of year. I love the holidays. I love the bustle of the season. I love Christmas Trees and Weihnachtspyramides and Nativities and Christmas lights. I love the shopping and the decorating and the thinking of others. I love brewed cocoa and homemade English toffee and peppermint bark.

And I love how my thoughts, and much of the world surrounding me, pivots, however slightly, towards God.

You see, I feel like there is something special about the time between the end of November and the middle or so of April. Yes, the days are dark and cold, they are not necessarily bleak (except perhaps in late January and February… We should fix that!)

I think these dark days are kind of a blessing. It’s like the cliche The darker the night, the brighter the stars. Christmas is a bright spot in the year, but for me I think it would be lost a little bit in the warmth and business of summer. In fact, it is in the summer that I find the distance between me and Deity grows. There is something about this time of year, and perhaps it is in fact the very cold and dark I so dislike, that pulls me and so many others back towards Heaven.

One of the things I love about my LDS faith is that it teaches than anything that is good comes from God (See Moroni 7:16). So regardless of whether you believe in God or not and regardless of your denomination the Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Christmas/New Year holiday quadrumvirate often causes us to look outside of ourselves and when we look beyond ourselves we look to God.

When we look to God, even when we are not consciously doing it, the world changes, the darkness lifts and the forces of evil are diminished. I think we all can agree that we need more light in our world.