The Christmas season is always inspiring and motivating for me. This year as I’ve studied parts of the New Testament regarding the Savior’s entry into mortality, the story of humble and faithful Mary, the sacred mother of Jesus Christ, has spoken to my heart. Her wisdom and willingness to do hard things inspires me. This year it’s been easier to imagine her as a real person, one with worries and concerns, yet also with great faith and diligence.
Explore for a moment what her reaction might have been to the situation in Bethlehem; the story became very alive and present for me this season: Mary is young, she’s barely married to her husband Joseph and is in the middle of perhaps the most unique marital situation ever. And she knows she is carrying the actual Savior of the World within her. The One. How overwhelming that must have felt at times!
So she’s nearing the end of her pregnancy. Whether she knew this would happen or not, it must have been an upheaval to realize she would be have to travel far from home at this stage. Late pregnancy is uncomfortable enough without having to walk long distances or ride on a bumpy donkey!
Now here comes the part that makes me truly wonder: they arrive in Bethlehem. We’re unsure exactly how long they’re there before labor actually starts, but ultimately it does. And in what place will that Holy Baby be born? He certainly deserves a palace, or at least a hospital or a comfortable home. But no. A stable. He is born in a barn with animals. What was Mary thinking at this point?! Did she already know she would deliver this little One in such humble circumstances? Had she come to terms with that or was it an unwelcome surprise? Was she troubled by the fact that this King of Kings would be born on straw and be laid to sleep in an animal feed bin?
Most importantly, did she know the significance that those very circumstances would have for millions, even billions of people to come? Or was she worried it was too rough, too humble for such an event? I like to think Mary had impressions that it would be needful for her Son to come in humble, even abject, conditions, that this fact itself was important for all of us. Hopefully this soothed any anxiety and brought her peace despite the lowly environment of that holy birth.
In our own lives, I believe our Heavenly Father gives us similar “manger moments.” We may not recognize them as such, but we’re each given trials and struggles that bring us down, low in our hearts and minds. But it is those very moments that give meaning to our lives and that bring us to the heights to which the Lord wants to carry us. Just as the Savior of the World was born in poverty and trial, some of the best parts of ourselves can grow from struggle, heartache and even disaster. Goodness and greatness can literally be born out of lowliness.
I recently reached a critical point in my life where I knew I was being led to do something I did NOT want to do. It came to crisis and in the solitude of my room I agonized with the Lord. I wanted events to go a certain way; it was not clear that my desires would be granted. In fact, it still isn’t. But through study and prayer, I finally was humbled enough to sob to the Lord, “I don’t want to do this. Not at all. But if YOU want me to do it…I will. I will do it.” After I spoke those words, the message rang true to me and was familiar–I instantly remembered learning of Another who asked for a cup to pass away from Him but who responded with faith: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39).
We will have manger moments in our lives. We will struggle and have to endure hard, maybe even horrible or humiliating, things. It is our response to these trials that will determine our level of peace. God wants us to have that peace, and it is He who can give it to us, if we are willing to receive. We can trust Him. We ought to be able to trust Him with our lives–after all, He gave them to us.
“And I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me…; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me.” ~Alma 36:27